The 18th Asian American Showcase continues through Thursday, May 30, at Gene Siskel Film Center; tickets are $11, $7 for students, and $6 for Film Center members. Following are reviews of selected features; for a full schedule see siskelfilmcenter.org.
The Crumbles Akira Boch's first feature has the breezy appeal of an early sound comedy, the inconsequential story providing an opportunity for lively, affectionate characterization. A shy young woman in the bohemian Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles agrees to put up her party-girl best friend, who's out of work; they form a rock band and start playing clubs, but personal differences strain their partnership. It's refreshing to see a movie about creative types in LA that isn't obsessed with the idea of getting ahead in show business; the film, like its characters, takes pleasure in music for its own sake. —Ben Sachs Boch attends the Friday screening. 73 min. Fri 5/24, 8 PM, and Mon 5/27, 3 PM.
Someone I Used to Know This Los Angeles-set melodrama feels like a spoiled teenager's fantasy of adult life. The plot kicks into gear when a movie star improbably invites a man and two women he's met at a bar to hang out at his house; after a long night of drinking, drugs, and teary confessions, each of them resolves all his personal problems. The movie communicates an unholy worship of celebrity privilege: the only character with a normal job—a childhood friend of the movie star who's become a high school teacher—attempts suicide because he considers himself a nothing. Ultimately this is embarrassing as opposed to flat-out disgusting, because it's clearly an amateur production by Hollywood outsiders looking in. Nadine Truong directed. —Ben Sachs Truong attends the Saturday screening. 80 min. Sat 5/25, 8 PM, and Wed 5/29, 6 PM.
Sunset Stories A high-strung nurse loses a cooler full of bone marrow she's supposed to transport across the country, and the only person she can find to help her recover it is the laid-back musician she jilted at the altar a year earlier. That's a promising setup for a contemporary screwball comedy, but screenwriters Ernesto Foronda and Valerie Stadler fail to deliver on its potential. Most of the repartee falls flat, and their attempts to bring dramatic weight to the central relationship come off as mawkish. The cast doesn't lack for energy, though. Foronda and Silas Howard directed. —Ben Sachs 83 min. Sun 5/26, 5:15 PM, and Thu 5/30, 6 PM.
Xmas Without China In this documentary, producer Tom Xia, a Chinese-born man living in the U.S. challenges a middle-class family to survive the month of December without using anything made in China. This proves difficult for the family members, who must give up silverware, lightbulbs, and electronics—everything from the toaster to the father's beloved Xbox—and celebrate Christmas without Chinese products. The gimmicky premise raises interesting questions about American consumerism and cultural identity, yet Xia and director Alicia Dwyer subscribe to an amorphous political agenda, presenting half-baked ideas about materialism and global economics without ever addressing the roots of these subjects. Many of the scenes are obviously staged, which makes the content seem even more paltry. In English and subtitled Mandarin. —Drew Hunt 63 min. Also on the program is Tatsu Aoki's 30-minute The Escape; Aoki attends the screenings. Sun 5/26, 3 PM, and Tue 5/28, 6 PM.