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Film

'33 Postcards' Is a Classic Coming-of-Age Tale

Chinese orphan Mei-Mei and her Australian sponsor, Dean Randall, have communicated throughout postcards for years. When Mei-Mei visits Australia with the children's choir she helps direct, she discovers the truth about her sponsor and even more about herself.


33 Postcards

Director: Pauline Chan
Cast: Guy Pearce, Zhu Lin, Claudia Karvan, Elaine Jin, Rhys Muldoon, Lincoln Lewis
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
MPAA rating: NR
Year: 2011
US Release Date: 2013-05-17
Website
Trailer

Orphan Mei-Mei (Zhu Lin) thinks she's found the opportunity of a lifetime when she travels to Sydney for a concert with the children's choir from her orphanage. For Mei-Mei, Australia is more than just a foreign country that offers a chance to see something new and learn a little about the wider world. It's also the home of her long-time sponsor, Dean Randall (Guy Pearce). Though Mei-Mei and Dean have never met, they've exchanged dozens of postcards and letters over the course of a decade. Mei-Mei writes to Mr. Randall and tells him that she's eager to see him while visiting from China.

But Mr. Randall doesn't write back. Mei-Mei and her schoolmates arrive in Sydney, excited by the sights of the exotic city. Despite the joy of traveling with the children, Mei-Mei is eager to find Mr. Randall even if Miss Chen (Elaine Jin) expressly forbids her from leaving the hotel to find him. The 16-year-old girl's journey to find her sponsor—and the truth about him—will forever alter the lives of the pair. By contrasting the postcards that Dean Randall wrote Mei-Mei with his actual life, we come to see something about how we construct ourselves in text and how powerfully we dream to be something other than ourselves. While director Pauline Chan's 33 Postcards is predictable at times, it's still a worthwhile movie and great coming-of-age tale.

Mei-Mei's journey to find and understand Mr. Randall is fraught with danger. She befriends young Carl (Lincoln Lewis), who we find likable but not entirely trustworthy. The young orphan doesn't realize that Carl is collecting protection money when she first meets him, nor does she realize that his father runs a car theft ring and chop shop. So much gets lost in translation for Mei-Mei as she makes new friends that it's hard not to sympathize with her all the more. As the movie progresses, action and suspense sequences are blended with the typical coming-of-age fair to interesting effect. The meeting of the two genres helps to broaden the film's audience while updating plotlines that might seem stale otherwise.

An excellent supporting cast lends 33 Postcards the extra push it needs to become a truly enjoyable film. Barbara (Claudia Karvan) and Tommy (Matt Nable) stand out in particular as characters bent on either building up or destroying Dean and, by extension, Mei-Mei. The deep affections that Mei-Mei awakens through these relationships reveal something rather lovely about the innocence of unspoiled youth. Yet despite her innocence, we also come to respect the young woman's sophisticated understanding of the world around her. It's proof that knowledge needn't be paired with corruption. By combining thriller-style suspense with the vulnerabilities and desires of young Mei-Mei, the director manages to create a strong emotional atmosphere that will strike a chord with many viewers. Keep tissues on hand for this one.

* * *

33 Postcards opens in select markets on Friday, May 17, and is available on demand on Vudu and the iTunes store.

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Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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