Youtube Reviews: Funemployed, Away We Happened, and Strangers, Again

I know I’m years late to the party, but I am just now getting into youtube content and the various web series on there.  Some of these are quite dated, but I don’t care – they are NEW to ME.

Of late, I’ve been watching videos from Nigahiga, Kevjumba, and the Wong Fu Productions troupe.

Preface: I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: West Chester in the 80s. The only Asian American (or Asian anything) in my class, most of the time – was me.  There weren’t a whole lot of minorities, nonetheless Asian Americans – on the shows I watched while growing up: Full House, Boy Meets World, Saved By The Bell, Dawson’s Creek. (Exceptions: The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.)

Hello, new generation of whipper snappers: Asian Americans are producing stuff ALL OVER THE WEB! Look, Asian American actors! Writers! Directors! Producers!  I can’t help but feel the little kid in me triumph these huge leaps in minority talent that have become megastars in their own right.  Hollywood is eroding; Youtube is the new Hollywood – and its doors are wide open.

Mostly, what I get from these series, shorts, and music videos is a raw and pure form of inspiration: these guys are producing their own original content, and did not get in line to knock on doors in Hollywood to see who would open one for them.  They started gaining their own massive fanbase with their online video creations, and then Hollywood came calling.

FUNEMPLOYED (2010)

Written + produced by: Wong Fu Productions, Kevin Wu.
Cast: Kevin Wu, Philip Wang, Kina Grannis, David Choi, Ryan Higa, Chester See, Natalie Duran, Matt Koval. Extended cast.
11 episodes, comedy.

Synopsis: Jason (Philip Wang) and Kyle (Kevin Wu) are newly unemployed. While Jason hits the pavement, Kyle proceeds to veg out, before encouraging Jason to join him in producing online videos (after being inspired by Ryan Higa in a dream). Jason is unsure of himself, trying to find security, stability, after his life plan (and confidence) takes a hit from getting fired. Kyle becomes the beacon of hope, the confident friend who,  although a slacker by disposition, shows passion in venturing into producing online videos. Judy (Kina Grannis) is the love interest/supportive friend of Jason’s.  The series, after getting past a few shudder-worthy scenes in the first ep, is an enjoyable one, which can’t help but echo true-to-life for its real-life online video stars.

Kevin Wu’s acting feels more comfortably delivered in this series, in contrast to his costar’s, Philip Wang.  (Perhaps Kevin is playing a role more closely to himself?) Judy’s character a bit one-note: she is only seen as the romantic ingenue.

Fun fact: The 6-episode web series plotlines were determined by viewers’ comments and votes – direct, new media interaction – poetic, given the fact that these multi-talented online producers only exist because of their supportive fanbase.

AWAY WE HAPPENED (2012)

Written + Directed By: Wong Fu Productions
Cast: Victor Kim, Jen Chae, Amy Okuda, Ki Hong Lee, Chris Dinh.
6 Episodes, drama.

Synopsis: Daniel (Victor Kim) and Jean (Jen Chae) meet by chance after a bag mix-up in NYC. Jean, still hung up on her ex-boyfriend, heads back to LA for a job interview, and subsequently, her ex. Daniel heads to LA for a gig (he’s a location scout) , and meets with her for the bag exchange, they hit it off, et cetera, et cetera, he finds out about her ex lurking around in her life, misadventures in romance ensue.

Props for decent visual quality (thanks to AT&T, I presume).

The writing: Okay – it was a charming enough premise, however, there are certain lines I HAD to say something about.

“I’d like that.” Women (and men) in the real world do not say that! It doesn’t happen. EVER. Trust me; it rings false. It is a piece of stinky cheese.

I had a beef with the fact that Daniel and Jean were supposed to be “Oh my God I’m crazy about him/her” after one day of hanging out. ONE DAY? Their feelings for each other didn’t feel developed enough to catalyze their emotional reactions which subsequently followed.

Also: that scene where Daniel is following Jean’s ex into her apartment building? Daniel’s disposition and the way he moves through the hallways are so restrained and feel so unnatural, couldn’t help but notice. Sigh.

The acting: The camera loves the two leads, Victor Kim (of dance group QuestAmerica’s Best Dance Crew fame) and Jen Chae (acting debut?), however, both felt green.  Some lines were dripping with performance, as if still settling into their characters. I have to say – there were some cringe-inducing scenes.

Ki Hong Lee (above) was the standout as Ben, Daniel’s colleague and friend, determined to get a tan. His character offered some lighthearted moments – and, everything about his performance didn’t feel like one – he was the character, not the actor. (But why was he sunburnt all over his arms and face, but not on his legs during the post-baking session? Continuity?)

STRANGERS, AGAIN (2011)

Cast: Philip Wang, Cathy Nguyen. Also: David Choi, Chris Dinh.
Running time: 16 mins., drama (short).

Synopsis: Story traces the ups and downs of Josh and Marissa’s  relationship, from its charming inception through its doldrums and tumult to its fading existence between the emotionally (and relationally) drained counterparts.

Philip Wang takes more ownership of his performance of his role as loving (albeit pallid) boyfriend Josh here, and one can’t help but get the vibe that this character and this story resonate within him on a personal level.  A love story tracing the ups and downs – brings to mind (500) Days of Summer.   Josh narrates as he walks the audience through the various stages of his romantic relationship with Marissa, until they reach the crossroads that so many couples face: do they get married, or break up?  Also, like (500) Days, the story is one-sided: we never see Marissa’s side of the story, or who she is as a person outside of how Josh sees her.

Other questions:

Where are the LADIES of the online video-producing, Asian American juggernauts? Must look into this. [‘(Wo)man in the mirror’ time?]

Keep producing, guys. You’ve got one more fan here.

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