All posts by michaelhuang16

A Conversation: Pressure, Stereotypes, and Asian Americans

Title: A Conversation: Pressure, Stereotypes, and Asian Americans

Running Time: 5:20 including Titles and Credits (just a little bit over the 5 min mark)

Music: Perfect Circle – Nujabes

Subject: The subject of this film was how Asian Americans were affected by their identity in education. I wanted to make this film because I had read a lot about the rising Asian American student suicide rate, but still didn’t find the statistics and topic as widespread in the news, which I found kind of intriguing. So I really just wanted to interview my peers at Lick-Wilmerding because I think it would be interesting to hear the stories of the people in our very own community while also connecting their stories to a larger context. The style of documentary is mainly interview-based. I tried to use a little bit of the “Expository Documentary” tone in the beginning when I address the audience directly through text.

Reflection: I think one of the strengths of my film is that my interviewees all had interesting things to say, and I was also able to get plenty of footage from them. I think I also attain a wide range of perspectives and insight into my topic. I think one of the challenges is that I wasn’t really able to get much footage outside of interview footage. I think if I were to have more time for this project, I would want to add in more dynamic shots interspersed with my interview shots.

Castro Theatre F2F: Noir Films and Aardman Animations

I really enjoyed our trips to the Castro Theatre because I always love the environment of being around people who all love the film as an art form. The first time we went was to watch a Noir film called the “The Dark Corner.” To me, the film didn’t seem to live very much up to my expectations and it plot seemed to be a little shallow. However, I did very much like the aesthetic of the entire film. Film Noir is a beast of its own, and its visual aesthetic using shadows, contrast, and scenery is an accomplishment in its own right.

Another face-to-face adventure I admired greatly was when we got to listen to fellow Aardman Animations co-founder Peter Lord. I really enjoyed listening to him talk about the success of Aardman and the task of working on big projects, such as Wallace and Gromit films or the recent Shaun the Sheep film. I was especially captivated when he began delving into what it means to have rhythm in a joke. He mentioned that if a joke’s timing is only one or two seconds off, the joke could lost all of its impact. This notion of timing seems to be extremely difficult to articulate and seems more instinctual than anything. When discussing timing, I can’t help but think of Tony Zhou’s (Every Frame a Painting) recent video on the Coen Brothers, talking about the timing of the shot-reverse-shot. Back to Aardman, the theatre gave a film compilation of Aardman’s works. It’s always a pleasure to watch Wallace and Gromit’s “The Wrong Trousers,” and it’s just as hilarious with each new viewing. The train chase scene will always be legendary whatever direction the film medium goes.

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Drawing for “Only Yesterday” Blog Post

This is a sketch that I did for my blog post analyzing the film “Only Yesterday” by Isao Takahata. I wanted to do a sketch because 1. I wanted to something where I was drawing to respect the art form of hand-drawn animations and 2. I feel like a sketch appeals to the theme of “simpleness” that is evident in the film’s form. Moreover, I personally decided to do a sketch because I used to love sketching in the 5th grade and admittedly don’t do much of it anymore, and since the film is about reflecting on your 5th-grade life as an adult, I thought a sketch would be appropriate for me to do.

In terms of the sketch’s content, I decided to draw a teapot because I feel like drinking tea around a table or sharing meals is a common image in many Asian movies, as seen in the film I watched and this film’s tribute to the Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu. There’s something both meditative, nostalgic, and real about watching characters share tea on the movie screen. And watching these moments, I feel like I’m being given access into the “home” lives of the characters I’m watching on screen. So I drew this teapot to highlight all of my particular fondness and curiosity around the subject.


An Autobiography (Motion Picture film) by Michael Huang

This was my motion picture film. I had a fairly difficult time trying to come up with an idea for my film. I was thinking that I wanted to be shooting a ball moving around and have someone then eat the ball, but I still didn’t feel that was enough for the film. Then, I watched a video of Murray Gell-Mann giving a talk to Google employees about creativity. He talked about how in every creative process lies an aspect of randomness and that in order to boost creative, one could simply take the last word in a random New York Times article everyday and think a little bit about that word. So I tried it out and ended up with “Trump.” I was a little skeptical of the concept initially since Trump is literally on every media outlet today. But then I realized that his presence in media did fit my “ball” theme of consumption. So I decided to shoot the movie combining the two ideas and ultimately play with editing to extract the themes of consumption and excess. Moreover, the title comes from the idea that we can tell our own stories. I think it relates to Trump’s presence in the media and how he can shape and manipulate his own narrative being told to others.

I really like this idea of combining two concept together and making something work out of it. I think I first heard this method from Charlie Kaufman talking about “Being John Malkovich.” He talked about how he had this idea of traveling inside a tube and being in someone’s head and this other idea of being John Malkovich, so he took these two ideas and mashed them together. I found this a really interesting and kind of random way of doing things, but I hope to use this creative process again in future projects.

Only Yesterday

   I was not able to attend the CAAM Film Festival, so the film that I chose to watch was the 1991 Studio Ghibli animation Only Yesterday directed by Isao Takahata, whose work includes other classic animations such as Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Takahata is one of the pioneers of Studio Ghibli along with Hayao Miyazaki. Takahata’s films are characterized as completely unconventional to the Japan’s anime genre. Films such as Only Yesterday and Grave of the Fireflies are marked by their stoic nature of imitating reality and society rather than the typical fantasy and world building of animation. However, Only Yesterday still remained a public success in Japan’s box office and a critic’s favorite worldwide. The film follows a woman named Taeko who is nearing the end of her youth and opportunity to find marriage. Taking a break from her work and daily urban life, Taeko decides to work on the countryside for a week and recollect her roots. While this narrative is going on, Takahata simultaneously introduces a series of anecdotes to when Taeko was in the 5th grade.    While most movies and TV shows tend to use flashbacks to try build character arcs or blatantly calls for the audience to sympathize with a character’s past, Taeko’s 5th grade self feels more as if it was its own character who remains separate from the older Taeko and must overcome her own struggles throughout the movie. Takahata does his part to make sure that kid Taeko’s presence is firmly stamped in the movie as well. For instance, as most of the film takes place in a believable Japanese society where people are subject under societal and familial structure, there is a moment where Taeko solely breaks the film’s contrived reality. As she begins to crush for the first time on the school’s star baseball player, Taeko begins to fly through the skies, exploring all of her newfound emotions, similar to Aladdin’s flying scene. It’s in these minute moments that I’m truly in awe of Takahata’s mastery over his own story and his ability to purposefully break his film’s suspense of disbelief to fully evoke the emotions of his characters.Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.15.04 PM

Another thing that  caught my eye from the beginning of the film was its opening credits scene. With the text on the screen being placed over a background picture of a woven mat, Takahata was paying tribute to the classic Japanese director, Yasujiro Ozu. After catching onto this bit, I began to notice what cinematic techniques Takahata directly took from Ozu, i.e. the “pillow shot” and shooting a “frame within a frame.” The “pillow shot” is a short filler shot that transitions one scene to the next by shooting tScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.19.33 PMhe scenery of the location before focusing on the characters. Ozu popularized this shot as he never believed in using cross fades or any editing in post that detracted from the believability of the film’s environment and portrayal of Japanese society. Moreover, the “frame within a frame” shot was also commonly used in Ozu’s films where his characters are placed within a frame in the film’s environment, typically a boxed room or window. These shots often emphasized Ozu’s thScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.20.26 PMemes of characters living within Japan’s familial and societal roles. These various cinematic techniques fit within Only Yesterday’s overarching themes as well, as both young and adult Taeko are learning how to find meaning and individual worth within Japan’s rigid societal structures.

   Though Takahata takes on many different relevant themes in his film, one of his most prominent topics is gender. In one scene, 5th grade Taeko struggles with growing up in a family where she is constantly being passed down clothes and accessories by her two older sisters. When Taeko is offered a hand-me down purse by her older sister, she refuses to stand her ground as her own individual. But when her whole family goesScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.25.03 PM out for dinner, Taeko is frustrated with her image and decides to stay home even though she wants to go. In this scene, Taeko is shown chasing her parents and begging them to let her go with them. However, the father slaps her face as he becomes frustrated with her acting unlady-like, running outside without her shoes. This subtle and complex scene explores what it means to mature as a girl in a society where image and propriety are the societal standards of women. As Taeko desires be an individual within her familial system, this wish is contradicted by herScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.25.14 PM other desire to mature into Japanese society as a woman. When Taeko becomes flustered by which position she should choose, her indecisiveness is immediately cut off by the domineering presence of her father. Her father in many ways embodies the strictness of Japan’s patriarchal society, caring more about Taeko fitting into society’s gScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.26.02 PMender roles rather than her personal struggles as a girl. To me, as a male viewer, this scene was eye-opening. I felt that this scene complicated my notion of what it’s like to grow up as a woman that must constantly fit society’s standards. And it helped me realize that I should always strive to act with awareness and empathy as even the struggles of a 5th grade girl growing up may be endlessly complex.

My Artwork:

For my artwork, I wanted to draw something that was aesthetically simple and beautiful and also felt close to home. So I did a sketch of what was on my dining table


My Storyboard:

Official Film Link: