The July episode of Incluvie Movie Highlights provides 4 exciting films that have polarizing reviews! Special guest and Incluvie movie critic Daleyna joins in to discuss Mr Malcolm's List, a regency-era film set in England, starring leads of Indian and African heritage (Freida Pinto and Sope Dirisu), which is a first! Don't Make Me Go, starring an Asian and Blasian lead (John Cho and Mia Isaac), is a sincere film with a controversial ending! Don't worry, no spoilers. 1Up, about a team of female gamers led by Paris Berelc, who's half Asian, receives acclaim on Incluvie, but much hate everywhere else on the internet. And the feature film... is Nope ! One cohost thinks the film was imaginative, while the other cohost insists it was boring (but with good social commentary)! Who thought what? Tune in with your hosts: Cathy Yee and Hazel Bolivar!
Lighthearted but Shallow: 1Up's Take on Women in Gaming - Melanie Ojwang
The Power of Looking in 'Nope' - Daleyna
Trauma Profiteering in Jordan Peele's 'Nope' - Leon Morgan
CATHY: Welcome to the Incluvie Movie Highlights - for July movies in 2022. This is the show where we shine a spotlight on our favorite new movies that stand out for diversity and identity. From Incluvie.com, I’m Cathy Yee!
HAZEL: And I am Hazel Bolivar, on today’s episode we will showcase a guest highlight by Incluvie writer Daleyna on the film Mr. Malcolm’s List. Then we will cover three more newly released films that have all been met with rather polarizing opinions. Those films include Don’t Make Me Go, 1up, and our featured highlight for the month, Nope.
CATHY: We also have a bonus piece today, announcing the winners and highly anticipated honorable mention for the Incluvie Short Film Festival! But, before we get into all of that, we’re going to take a quick look at some notable new releases in theaters.
NEW IN THEATERS
CATHY: Fans everywhere of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were excited about Thor Love and Thunder! Jane, played by Natalie Portman, came back… and as female Thor! She fought alongside Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, humorous as always!
HAZEL: Also in theaters is a new film distributed by A24, Marcel The Shell with Shoes On. The mockumentary-style film follows a one-inch shell named Marcel, known from a beloved viral 2010 youtube video, and his interactions with a filmmaker Dean who found him in an Airbnb.
CATHY: That sounds so cute!
HAZEL: It is incredibly cute, but also has a lot of heart. The story mostly follows Marcel’s journey trying to find his long-lost family of shells and dealing with the loneliness he’s felt without them. I cried like three times watching this, and I’m not one to really cry during movies but, they really make you fall in love with that shell.
CATHY: Aww, I love that! Moving on from what’s new in theaters, let’s get into our Highlights for the month of July.
CATHY: First on our list of highlights is Mr. Malcolm’s List. The film is written by Suzanne Allain and directed by Emma Holly Jones. It focuses on Mr. Jeremy Malcolm, played by Sope Dirisu who is in search of a bride who meets his specific list of requirements. His list gives him an excuse to reject Miss Julia Thistlewaite, played by Zawe Ashton, the subtext being that he really just didn’t like her. Feeling jilted and publicly humiliated, Ms Thistlewait recruits her childhood friend Selina Dalton, played by Frieda Pinto, in a ploy to get revenge. Incluvie movie critic Daleyna saw the movie, and we’re happy to bring her onto the show!
DALEYNA: Hello, my name is Daleyna, and I’m a writer and editor for Incluvie.
CATHY: Hi Daleyna! I’d love to start by asking you what you think makes Mr. Malcolm’s List unique from other films in the genre.
DALEYNA: What is truly unique about Mr. Malcolm’s List is how inclusive and diverse it is. There are people of color at every level of society in this film, from servants to lords, just as there are white people in every position. It’s definitely reminiscent of Bridgerton’s diverse version of Regency-era England, but it has a much lighter tone for those of us tired of seeing people of color constantly suffer. The colorblind casting and bubbly tone also reminds me of the 1997 version of Cinderella with Brandy. But what’s most unique about this movie is that the two romantic leads are both people of color, which isn’t something we see as often of in mainstream American and European media. Usually, a diverse romantic pairing is between a white person and person of color. What’s more, the two leads are in an interracial relationship between a brown woman and a Black man, which felt very special to see.
HAZEL: It is so awesome to see this level of diverse casting in a genre of film that is pretty much always exclusively white. Who were some of the characters in the film that for you really stood out?
DALEYNA: Zawe Ashton, who plays Julia Thistlewaite, was a real scene-stealer for me. She plays kind of a privileged, mean character at times, but Ashton’s natural charisma really made the character likable for me. She brings a lot of fun to the film with her romantic schemes, and her own romantic subplot is pretty saucy. Freida Pinto as Selina Dalton looks absolutely gorgeous. She’s so kind and independent and well-spoken; it felt like I was watching a live-action Disney princess, which meant all the more because this is a brown South Asian woman. Of course, I loved Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù as Mr. Malcolm, who comes off as arrogant and aloof in the beginning, but he’s truly so gentle and sweet. Dìrísù does a great job of taking the audience on a journey with that character over the course of the film.
CATHY: In your full movie review, you mention that there are a number of cultural nods in the film to the real-life identities of the actors. Could you go into what some of those are?
DALEYNA: Yeah, the cast and director did want to include subtle references to the characters’ cultures to acknowledge and respect their identities while still focusing on the whimsical romance of the movie. Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù is of Nigerian descent, and he speaks Yoruba in one scene with Selina. This was a respectful little nod to his ethnic identity that felt totally organic in the moment and didn’t, as Dìrísù said in an interview with Vanity Fair, “make him feel like a white character played by a person of color.” Freida Pinto also asked the costume designer to work paisley print into her dresses, a print that originally comes from India, where Pinto is from. The production crew also did research into Indian and African artwork for some of the setting’s elements, which was really great.
HAZEL: It sounds like there was a lot of care and intention in the casting of this film, and not stopping there allowing the casting to influence elements of the film to bring it to life. Thank you so much to Daleyna for joining us to talk about the film. If you would like to read her full review, be sure to check it out on Incluvie.com. Mr. Malcolm’s List is currently available on Video On Demand.
CATHY: Next on our list of highlights is Don’t Make Me Go, starring John Cho and Mia Isaac. John Cho plays Max, a single father who learns that he has a terminal bone tumor near his brain. He has 2 options - undergo surgery with a 20% chance of survival due to the complex procedure, or don’t get surgery and die in about a year. He hides this troubling prognosis and d dilemma from his teenage daughter Wally, while trying to fix their relationship and prepare her for a future without him. The very first line of the movie is “You’re not going to like the ending”.
HAZEL: Which is true for me because I absolutely hated it. We won’t spoil the ending here, but the director Hannah Marks went to bat for it in an interview with Decider, saying that she wanted to do something “jarring and bold” even as studios asked for the team to change it. I personally wish they took the studio’s note because the ending for me, and many critics like Brian Tallerico writing for RogerEbert.com, was not earned and was “cheap in ways the first hour never is.”
CATHY: The ending was sad for sure, but disagree that it ruined the movie. I think it was very meaningful for the story overall and think the creators achieved what they were going for well. Other than the ending, what did you think of the film?
HAZEL: That’s the disappointing thing. Ending aside I think this is a really great film. It does a traditional road movie well, and the film’s casting and performances are excellent. John Cho and Mia Issac’s work together on screen is especially moving. Cho discusses how great the casting decision was in an interview with Slash film, where he notes that Mia Issac really felt like his daughter, and he felt like her father. Funnily enough, He recounts a time that he “met her father and [noticed that] he does feel very familiar to [him].” With that, Cho emphasizes that there was “a lot of instant familiarity” and that it was “not difficult for [them] to just dive into that relationship.”
CATHY: Their relationship on screen was amazing. I personally was intrigued by the film due its story, but also its identity. It’s pretty rare, and possibly even unprecedented, to see a Blasian protagonist in Wally with a strong Asian father. Beyond that, there is also the element of Cho playing a single parent. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, cho points out that “you rarely see Asian single parents” on screen, which is true. He also talks about how that aspect influences the relationship between Max and Wally, pointing out that “When you’re the only parent in the house, the traditional roles get messy, and there’s a clear reversal. [Wally] sometimes acts like [Max’s] parent and vice versa.” In so many ways, this film presents the father-daughter relationship with a lot of depth.
HAZEL: Absolutely. The father-daughter relationship comes off the screen magically and is where the film shines very brightly. Incluvie writer Melissa Gould also loved the relationship between the characters in her review. She enjoyed the film for having “silly shenanigans, a teenager exploring her rapidly expanding world, and a stubborn dad just trying to keep up.” She ultimately saw it as “really cute and pulls on all of the right heartstrings while ripping a few out along the way.” I personally agree, if I could only judge the film for how well they present a father-daughter relationship, this is one of the best I’ve seen.
CATHY: I also loved the way they showed the common phenomenon of the parent trying to “connect” via lecturing and teaching, which only ends up annoying the teenager to a large degree. Wally’s a good kid though, and together Max and Wally manage to add some fun and humor to the mix, having some great adventures along the ride. It also skillfully weaves together some recurring themes such as The Passenger song, the theme of the lottery and risktaking, and what healthy love means. Wally has a crush on a classmate who doesn’t treat her very well. While Max pushes himself to be vulnerable with a woman he’s seeing, given that he doesn’t have that much time to live and be passive anymore. Moving into ratings. For Don’t Make Me Go, I give it a 5, of course, for the Incluvie Score, and a full 5 out of 5 for the Movie score. I like the death element.
CATHY: They say thinking about death makes you feel and be more alive. I think this story really jolted me, in a good way, as movies can do.
HAZEL: I guess I can see that. And also wow, a full five?
CATHY: Yeah! I really loved it!
HAZEL: I’m glad to hear that this story resonated like that for you, and honestly, it makes sense. There is a lot that the film does great that makes it worth watching in my view. The performances are excellent, the road trip adventure is very fun, and it tells the story of an interracial family, which is not represented enough in film. Obviously, the film gets a full five out of five for its Incluvie Score, but for me. I just can’t get past the ending. It really did not make sense for the way I was experiencing the film. I’m glad I wasn’t watching this in a theater because I don’t know if I could keep myself from booing the final act, as I did while watching it at home. For that reason, my Movie Score for Don’t Make Me Go is sadly two out of five stars. If you’d like to read Melissa’s full review we mentioned, be sure to check it out on Incluvie.com. Don’t Make Me Go is currently available to be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.
CATHY: After a quick break, we’ll move on to our last two highlights, 1Up and Nope.
HAZEL: Next is 1Up, an eSports comedy directed by Kyle Newman and written by Julia Yorks. The film follows V, played by Paris Berelc, who quits her sexist esports team along with her friend Sloan to start her own ragtag esports team of girl gamers called the 8-bits. She then realizes that her school only has the money to keep one esports team, and must defeat the team she originally left in order to prove herself and keep her scholarship. It also has a 2.8 on IMDb.
CATHY: I liked this movie! I think all the negativity in other film reviews was unwarranted. I feel that many reviewers felt peer pressured to dislike the film, with a lot of cognitive dissonance. Or maybe I have the cognitive dissonance, I don’t know. Either way, I think it was fantastic seeing an Asian female protagonist be a badass in the male-dominated and toxic anti-femme gaming industry. Did Valerie make mistakes? Yes. Was she a bit self-centered? Yes. Does everyone do that sometimes? Also yes. Plus she redeemed herself.
HAZEL: I also think the negative reviews are unwarranted, and also, probably not even from people who’ve seen the movie. The director Kyle Newman in an interview on the podcast The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith, reflects on the fact that the film had been review bombed by Reddit trolls before the film had even come out, I figure because it’s a quote-unquote “woke” movie that says boys are bad and girls rule or something. Which, isn’t what this film is at all, to be honest.
CATHY: It really isn’t, and all of these trolls are haters. Ironically, this is exactly what the film is about. Boys thinking that girls, and pretty girls additionally, can’t game.
HAZEL: Right? Newman says that that’s why he made this movie because he believes that the gaming community should be open to everyone and inclusive, which also influences the decisions made for casting. Included in the lineup of team members we have women such as V who is an Asian woman as we mentioned. Sloan is played by Hari Nef, who is trans but treated throughout the film as one of the girls. Jenna is played by Lolita Milena, who is a paraplegic actress whose character has a large social media following. The teacher/mentor/coach role is played by nonbinary actor Ruby Rose.
CATHY: Ruby Rose is hot. And I’m straight. I think.
HAZEL: So you have a crush on Ruby Rose?
CATHY: I think I do, yes.
HAZEL: Welcome to the club. Point is, that the group is very diverse and they create a cast of fun characters who play well off of each other and are a team that, ultimately I rooted for. The film for me was an enjoyable and fun comedy, which if you’re looking for something light, I think it’s a perfectly good film. Regardless of if you like the film as a whole or not, I think that most people after watching the film can agree that it is not deserving of the pile of one-star reviews it received. Incluvie writer Melanie Ojwang didn’t particularly like the film and was critical of it, but concluded that though “It's not the greatest… it certainly isn't the worst thing out. And honestly? Women deserve corny movies too.”
CATHY: 1Up wasn’t meant to be a thriller or suspense film. It was made to be a pop film. I feel it was lighthearted and motivational, like any other type of sports story, since gaming is considered a sport now. The girls were the underdogs. It’s hard being overlooked and underestimated, with everyone betting on you to lose. It takes a lot of bravery and mental fortitude to step up to the plate, or the console, in this case, rise above the trolling, maybe even give back the trolling, get a grip, and kick ass. So yes, it’s girl power, but I think that’s a win, not something to be anti about.
HAZEL: I agree, as a trans gamer, I had a lot of fun watching this movie. It felt cool to see a film that pokes some fun at the toxic culture of gaming while hitting the beats of a sports comedy and paying homage to video game history both past and present. Moving into ratings for 1Up, for its Incluvie score I would give the film a five out of five for creating a story about a diverse cast of women. For its Movie Score, I give it a solid four out of five, because I think it’s a solid, fun film.
CATHY: I give 1Up a 5 for the Incluvie Score, because these are the films we choose for this show! But also for the Movie Score, I give it a 4.5. If you’d like to read Melanie’s full review, be sure to check it out on Incluvie.com. 1Up is currently available to be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.
CATHY: Our featured highlight is Jordan Peele’s third feature film, the highly anticipated Nope. Siblings OJ and Em are forced to investigate the UFO that killed their father and is currently attacking them and their town. OJ is played by Daniel Kaluuya, from Jordan Peele’s first horror film Get Out, and Em is played by Keke Palmer, from Alice, which we highlighted in May. The story follows them seeking proof and also fame by capturing evidence of the mysterious flying object.
HAZEL: The idea for the film came to Peele during the beginning of the COVID pandemic. In an interview with GQ he talks about how, quote, “‘We were going through so much… So much of what this world was experiencing was this overload of spectacle, and kind of a low point of our addiction to spectacle.’” Spectacle is the topic that grounds the film, And beyond the mere existence of spectacle, Incluvie writer Leon Morgan sees the film as being about “More specifically, profiteering off the trauma of others or yourself and capitalizing on people's natural curiosity and gravitation toward tragedy.” For me, the film is thought-provoking and timely and shows Peele’s talent as a true auteur filmmaker.
CATHY: I have to say, the social commentary was great. But, I really did not like the film, much to the chagrin of some of my movie critics,
HAZEL: Tag yourself, I’m movie critics.
CATHY: Haha. But really, I would like my time back. I honestly thought the movie was mostly boring, somewhat nauseating with the camerawork, and thoroughly disjointed. I know some say that disjointed was the point, but like some pieces of modern art - I honestly think it’s incompetence disguised as Avante Garde and thought-provoking work. Much like the emperor’s new clothes. I personally agree with Mick LaSalle review of the film for The San Francisco Chronicle when he says that Nope “lacks the solid story spine to play off of. The audience wants substance, and all he can give is filler.”
HAZEL: It isn’t the most approachable movie, but I will say that given the discourse that this film has inspired, there is definitely a lot to it to think about and explore. One of my favorite articles exploring the politics and meaning of the film is actually by our own Daleyna here at Incluvie, whose article I urge everyone who’s seen Nope to read for themselves. She analyzes how the film “addresses the power of looking.” She argues that “It’s about who has the right to look, and who is being looked upon. It’s about how that gaze can be manipulated to profit some at the expense of others. And it’s about reclaiming the right to look for people who historically haven’t been allowed to do so.” These are the sorts of big topics I love seeing art explore, especially a film that is doing well at the box office. To be honest, the more I am able to sit with the experience of seeing the film, and thinking about it, the deeper my appreciation for it becomes.
CATHY: I do think all of the discussion around the film is interesting and the social commentary significant, but I do think they could’ve been done in a short film. With about 50 minutes of clouds, horses, and fearful expressions cut out. But looking at it on its own for what it is… Take the chimpanzee element with Steven Yeun’s character Jupe. That was so random in contrast with the rest of the film. I thought they were going to tie that theme back, but that piece just trailed off unceremoniously. Like I know they were trying to talk about the “other” and how those who are subject to “othering” and fear will reach their limit and attack you, like the UFO, but come on, at least put in the effort to blend it in more artfully. I feel like a lot of this film was just laziness. I don’t think it was Jordan Peele’s best work, in fact, it’s definitely the worst one of his three.
HAZEL: I wouldn’t call it lazy, but this film not being Peele’s best work is where most critics will agree with you. Most reviews that I read do note that they don’t think that Nope is up to par with Get Out or Us. Peele even felt scared of not being able to create the same sort of film again. In an interview with Hypebeast, he remembers talking to Jay-Z and pondering “What if I can’t do it again?” To which Jay-Z responded, “Doesn’t even matter.” So for Peele, he concludes that, quote “So, Jay-Z said it: doesn’t even matter. I don’t feel the pressure anymore, Jay-Z says I’m fine, all I have to do is put my head down and make the best damn movie I can.” So I guess at the end of the day it doesn’t even matter, and I’d rather see something radically different than something that plays it safe.
CATHY: I honestly much prefer his comedy in Key and Peele. That’s groundbreaking in its commentary on race, and the humor is ingenious.
HAZEL: That show was excellent, but I do love seeing Peele get the ability to experiment and have the budget to make something over the top or risky, and I am really excited to see what sort of work he makes in the future.
CATHY: It is good that he has the opportunity to take chances. For the Incluvie Score, this is of course a 5 out of 5, hands down. And for the movie score - sorry to Jordan Peele and fans of the movie, but yeah for the movie score, I give it a 0.5 / 5. Listen, social commentary - great. What this film does for black representation - amazing. But for me, I was just bored while watching it. I would’ve rather done my taxes.
HAZEL: Brutal. Would you rather have hot dog fingers too?
CATHY: Maybe. But not that bad.
HAZEL: Well. I have the complete opposite view. I really enjoyed Peele creating a film with a full summer blockbuster film feel. It’s imaginative and I think inspires very fascinating discussions about the current state of media. And I personally wasn’t bored by it. Peele concluded his interview with GQ by expressing how so much of the film is about bringing Black voices and creators to make a blockbuster film. For him “It's about taking up that space. It's about existing. It's about acknowledging the people who were erased in the journey to get here.” All of that taken into consideration, I think that this film obviously gets a full five out of five for its Incluvie Score, but also a full five out of five for its Movie Score too. If you would like to read Daleyna or Leon’s full reviews of Nope, which I highly recommend you do, be sure to check them out on Incluvie.com. Nope is currently in theaters.
CATHY: That’s the last of our highlights, but we do have one more order of business to get to, which is announcing the winners and an honorable mention for our recent Incluvie Short Film Festival!
CATHY: This past month we proudly held our Incluvie Short Film Festival. If you follow us on Instagram, you will have seen our announcement for the 1st 2nd and 3rd place winners. If you don’t follow us on Instagram, first, join us @incluvie to keep up to date with announcements and new articles. In third place, we have Warmth by Nathania Zaini. In second place, Gender Outlaw: a body surfing story, by Peter Williams. And coming in first place, Is He? By Simon Santos! Congratulations to all of the films for being awesomely diverse short films, and for being a part of our little film festival. We also have an honorable mention award to announce here on the show. The winner of the honorable mention award is…
CATHY: Agni Kai: Hsu vs Liang (Avatar the Last Airbender) Remastered! Congratulations, and thank you to everyone who was a part of the Film Festival. Well, that’s our show for…
HAZEL: But that’s not all!
HAZEL: We still have a very special surprise award to give, the official staff pick for the festival. To do the honors I will now give the mic to Incluvie editor, Bianca Sbrocchi.
BIANCA: The authors and editors at Incluvie would like to acknowledge “Friendship to you” as our official staff pick.
CATHY: Oh my gosh, what? You guys.
BIANCA: This film by our very own founder, Cathy Yee is not only a heartfelt addition to our festival lineup but the filmmaker is also very near and dear to our hearts. “Friendship to You” demonstrates how important it is to surround yourself with good-hearted people who enrich your life – and that putting strong human connections on film can be a beautiful thing. Cathy has poured so much dedication into this film festival and into Incluvie as a whole. By recognizing this film as a staff favorite, we would like to say thank you, Cathy, for everything you’ve done! Congratulations to all of the filmmakers and thank you everyone for your submissions and votes. We hope to see you all next year!
CATHY: Oh my gosh Bianca. I feel very appreciated. You guys didn’t have to. But I do feel the love. I’m amazed by you, the movie critics, the dev team, and UX, and Hazel of course - for all that you do, and for being so awesome. I truly love working with you all, and think you’re all so cute! I really love you guys.
Award Show Music
HAZEL: Well, that’s our show for July, thanks so much as always for listening, and be sure to join us next time for more, Incluvie Movie Highlights.
CATHY: This episode was hosted and executive produced by me, Cathy Yee, and co-hosted, produced, and edited by Hazel Bolivar.
You can visit Incluvie.com to see the incluvie score for a movie, and read reviews focused on diversity and identity in media. You can also follow us on Instagram and Twitter, or support us on Patreon @incluvie, that’s I-N-C-L-U-V-I-E.