The Letterboxd Show 3.15: So Yun Um

Episode notes

[clip Liquor Store Dreams plays]

SO YUN UM Growing up, because my parents worked so much, the television and movies were my babysitter. Watching Justin Lin’s ‘Better Luck Tomorrow’ showed me that I could also become a filmmaker as I saw my angsty, yet sheltered life on screen. But later, discovering Spike Lee movies showed me a completely different world. I loved how he made politically charged films with tons of fun, flare and sincerity. That was probably the first time I was exposed to a Black artist’s POV of his experience. But in movies, I couldn’t escape my reality...

[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]

SLIM Hello and welcome to The Letterboxd Show, our podcast about the movies people love watching from Letterboxd: the social network for people who love watching movies. She’s Gemma, I’m Slim. And as we record this episode, the Tribeca Film Festival is in full swing in New York City and online in the US of America. Speaking of America and Tribeca, our guest today has a film in the festival, about the trials and tribulations of being a small-business owner in this godforsaken land. And bonus points... she is a Letterboxd member.

GEMMA It’s all true—So Yun Um has just premiered her debut feature documentary at sell-out screenings in Tribeca. It is called Liquor Store Dreams. It is a very moving look—I cried—at two Korean American children of liquor-store owners in Los Angeles and So is one of those two children. She also has a YouTube channel, So Reel’s Thoughts. And last year for us, she curated a fantastic list of ten underrated Asian American and Pacific Islander films. We’re going to talk a little bit about Liquor Store Dreams today on the show along with So’s four Letterboxd faves, which are Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow, Federico Fellini’s and the Wachowski Sisters’ The Matrix. So... welcome to The Letterboxd Show.

SO Thank you so much for having me! I love Letterboxd, so this is very exciting for me. [Gemma laughs]

GEMMA We love that you love Letterboxd. And I love that you are now in this select small group of Letterboxd members who have a profile and a filmmaker profile!

SO Yeah, it’s been so surreal to see my name or even see my movies on there. I’m like, who put these in here, for one. But it’s just, it’s been really cool.

SLIM We need a Journal article of filmmakers reviewing their own films on Letterboxd. [Gemma & So laugh] Because they’re usually the happiest reviews you can see. It’s like, “Oh my god, this is my movie! Go see it, please!” And it’s usually the most joyous reviews or Letterboxd logs that you can find on here.

GEMMA Yeah, apart from that Sean—the one about The Florida Project when he’s like, “Ugh, that last scene filmed in digital, yuck!” 

SO Oh yeah. [Gemma & So & Slim laugh] 

GEMMA Sean Baker’s review, that was really funny.

SLIM So, you’ve done a bunch of film programming in LA in the past, how would your four fave stack up when you consider all of your historical selections? Now we have these four, where do they stack up? Could this be a successful night? One long day? One movie marathon?

SO Honestly, I feel like just picking your top four, it’s like picking your top eight MySpace friends. And so I think I was trying to be so selective, but at the same time to be true to myself. And so I really just picked my comfort movies, things that really represented me, kind of showed who I am, my taste. Because also, if you see my Letterboxd it’s everywhere. One day I’ll be watching a Lindsay Lohan movie, and the next day I’ll be watching Hellraiser. [Slim laughs] So it’s kind of—I’m sure people are like, “What is going on here?” I love those four films that I’ll revisit over and over again. And I think, yeah, it truly represents me as a cinephile, as well as a filmmaker.

GEMMA Oh, I’m excited to find out why as we dive into each of them. [Slim laughs]

SLIM So I’ve been doing a ton of research for this conversation, So. And you know that I went—several hours I spent on your YouTube channel to try to get into your mind for this conversation. One of the interviews that I read with you, you talked about how important it is for you, someone who makes stuff, you know, make all sorts of different things, learn what works and learn what doesn’t. And one of those things that I was seeing in your content creation was reaction videos. You did a reaction video to the Avengers: Endgame trailer that was cracking me up. So when is the reaction trailer for Liquor Store Dreams? When is that going to be hitting your YouTube channel?

SO Wooow. Oh my god. I mean, I’ve been working on my—I think it was when I was nineteen, I started my film blog, So’s Reel Thoughts, and I think during the height of trailer reactions, I started my YouTube channel. And I kept, you know, as a cinephile, just watching so many different films, but also being somebody who really wants to engage in the online community. I started this YouTube channel and I’m really always surprised how people are able to find it. Even after the screening of Liquor Store Dreams, somebody came up and was like, “You look so familiar! And I finally realized it was from your trailer reaction to Magic Mike [XXL].” [Gemma & Slim laugh] And I was like, I think the Magic Mike [XXL] trailer reaction is probably the most seen as well as [my] Interstellar [trailer reaction]. And I am always so—because it was such a different time for me and different phase in my life, that I’m always like, wow, I can’t believe I did, I made over like 300 videos on YouTube, and it’s been such a... such a wild journey to get to, okay, I’m gonna have to stop making these reaction videos and reviews and start actually making films. And I’m glad I finally, finally just bit the bullet and started making stuff, because I think for so long, I was just procrastinating on making films by watching so many things and trying to do other things, when in actuality I should have probably been focused on the craft and how to really make, create good stories.

SLIM I mean, if the if the Interstellar trailer doesn’t inspire you to create, what will? [So & Gemma laugh] One of the greatest trailers of all time, let’s be honest here! Movie maybe wasn’t great, but the trailer was.

GEMMA Interstellar is such—I mean, this is completely not on the list of things to talk about today—[Slim & So laugh] But Interstellar is such a weird film in terms of the Letterboxd, you know, galaxy...

SLIM Community?

GEMMA Yeah, I was gonna say community and then I was like, no, something more Interstellar than that. In the Letterboxd galaxy, we have done a thing where we look at the highest-rated films, divided by the pronoun that Letterboxd members have chosen for their profiles. And so we divide it by he/him, she/her and they/them—Interstellar is the one film that shows up in the top ten of all of them. It’s like this kind of pan-gender, beloved favorite... I guess because it’s, I don’t know, about love and... space.

SLIM Love transcends all, Gemma, that’s the key. [So & Gemma laugh]

GEMMA Yeah, well, what would your reaction video be to that fact?

SLIM It would just be weeping, probably. [Gemma laughs]

SO For sure.

SLIM Just like five minutes of weeping in front of the camera, right?

SO I do hope one day I can pull a Shia LaBeouf and watch all my films. [Gemma & So laugh] One day, who knows? Oh, going back to your your question about when I will—I mean, when the trailer comes out, I haven’t made a YouTube video in a year or two. But I think once things roll out, I may go back to my YouTube channel and—

SLIM Out of retirement.

SO Kind of break down what it was like making the film as well as, yeah, the trailer, everything else. So I’m excited.

GEMMA We are going to get to talk about Liquor Store Dreams properly. But one thing I want to say about it is you and Danny who are the two liquor-store babies in the film, such great talent and immediately I was like, “Where’s the narrative feature film that stars So and Danny?” [So laughs] And then I was thinking, you know... In the Mood for Love, the collaborators in that, you know, Tony and Maggie not so much as a romantic couple but as artistic collaborators—maybe a contemporary Los Angeles-based film with So and Danny as collaborators of some sort, a sort of updated In the Mood for Love... you see where I’m going here?

SO Yeah!

GEMMA I’m pitching it, I’ll fund it. I mean, I can’t fund it, but... [So & Slim laugh] I’ll give you five dollars...

SO I think people have asked me about the narrative version, I’m like, wow, I can’t even comprehend who would even play me or what that story would even be like. I would want almost a different version, but a narrative that mostly focused on Danny and my dad so much more. I felt like for me, I was only there to serve their story in a sense and guide us. So in the narrative TV version, possibly, I would like to go way deeper on their stories a little bit more, which I think will be really interesting.

GEMMA Oh, she’s thinking, she’s thinking... [Gemma & So laugh]

SLIM Thoughts are marinating.

GEMMA If there are any studio execs listening—but that does bring us to the first of your four Letterboxd favorites, Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love from the year 2000. Remember the year 2000 when we thought computers would break but instead we just got Wong Kar-wai bringing us this beautiful, melancholy story about a love between a woman and a man who live in the same building and one day find out that their husband and wife had an affair with each other—far out. Everybody needs good neighbors, Maggie and Tony are great ones. This is a 4.4 out of five star average. It is the number 37 of all time film on Letterboxd—37 out of thousands and thousands of films. Obviously, it’s Wong Kar-wai’s most popular and highest-rated film. And the number-one film from Hong Kong and China. There are the stats from Jack’s facts, but what are the emotions that you associate with this film? Why is it your number one?

SO I just think it’s so beautifully shot and told. And I think it was the first time that really like, time stood still for me when I was watching it. And I love stories of... those what-if stories—-what if this were to happen? It’s just so romantic, and yet tragic in so many ways, which kind of captures real life. These one-moment encounters you have with strangers that you think about for a lifetime and it does romanticize these moments, but I do feel like they’re so true to life. And even though it could be one-sided, like I could pass by some guy on the street, and I’ll just have one glance, but I’ll be stuck and thinking about that one glance for the rest of my life. And something about that feels hopeful and you want to continue living life because of that moment. I don’t know. And so the film really—I think as people who watch films, and people who make films, this is like the one film that they’re like, totally, we’re all on the same page, we all get it and it’s just really beautiful.

SLIM The first time I watched it was last year, believe it or not, and your comments on how beautiful it is—this is one of those “Letterboxd movies”, doing air quotes, like Letterboxd members love this movie. But this had so many screenshot-able scenes, maybe more than any movie I’ve ever seen.

SO For sure. I definitely feel like I watched in college and that was like the peak of Tumblr days. And so everybody was reblogging things and getting it out there and yeah, I think every shot is screenshot-able, which is nowadays I feel like you kind of need that.

GEMMA Yeah, yeah, weirdly, don’t you? And thanks to someone in the Letterboxd team—who was it? Ah, Flynn, taught me how to do screenshots of Netflix, how to get around Netflix’s screenshot ban.

SO Oh wow!

SLIM I need to learn that trick too, geeze. Spread the word, Flynn.

GEMMA You need it. There’s a Chrome plugin and I recommend everybody get it because I think honestly, I reckon the reason that Netflix is shedding subscribers is because they’ve, you know, made it impossible to screenshot their stuff and get it out there, idiots. Anyway, there’s a plugin. So...

SLIM We just lost our Netflix sponsorship. [So & Gemma laugh] I just got a DM. They said they want to end the partnership immediately. [Slim laughs]

GEMMA I would say we’ve just gained it for life. They’re gonna pay up because we’ve just brought them back their two million subscribers on account of enabling screenshots again, but anyway... Long story short, Lucy on Letterboxd writes: “This movie invented the color red. Pay up for Taylor Swift.” It is so true. [Gemma & So laugh] I love that. For me this movie invented, I guess alongside Studio Ghibli films, how sexy noodles look on screen. Oh my god!

SLIM We talked about screenshot-able, but I mean, the frickin’ food is screenshot-able in this movie.

GEMMA The same thing happened to me though on Liquor Store Dreams, in the early scene when you and your dad are sitting down to eat that beautiful soup and rice.

SO Oh nice!

GEMMA Who made that? And what’s the recipe?

SO My mom. And also, I feel like food is everything, and so very inspired by Tampopo

GEMMA Ah yes!

SO And In the Mood for Love, I feel like—

GEMMA And Eat Drink Man Woman.

SO Yes, yes. [So laughs] Emotional reactions to people eating, I’m like, “Yes, I need that.”

GEMMA So your mum throughout your film is obsessed with the idea that you might get married one day, which suggests either that it’s a practical and pragmatic outcome for your life that she wants, but also that maybe she’s a bit romantic. So has she seen In the Mood for Love? Have you shown it to her or watched it with her?

SO I haven’t. I wish there was like Korean-translated version—although I would say the movie speaks for itself, I feel like it transcends language, so I could show it to them and have them experience it. I think the soundtrack alone could bring her to tears. That’s a very good idea. I will go do that. [So & Slim laugh]

GEMMA Yeah, yeah. And then show her Everything Everywhere All at Once, right?

SO Yes, oh my god. I am waiting for the Korean subtitles to come through. [Gemma laughs] It’s so popular now that I don’t know why they’re a little bit slow on it, but I know it’ll come to LA soon.

GEMMA Yeah!

SLIM The last time we covered this movie on the pod, well the first and the previous time, was Isabel Sandoval chose this, so you’re in amazing company for having In the Mood for Love in their top four. So great company, really.

SO Yeah I read her blog and that was so well written. I loved every film that she mentioned. And I love your blog, by the way. [So laughs]

GEMMA Aw! Hey, write more for us. [Gemma & Slim laugh] I would love you to write more for us. Do you have a creative collaborator?

SO Well, Christina Sun Kim, who was my editor really challenged me on every aspect and really guided me through the entire process. As somebody who, she grew up in Texas, and also Korea, so she kind of has an understanding, like an outsider’s view of what an LA resident—me—person went through during that time. But also, she was just so helpful in being able to have that outsider view, but also insider view of how to tell this story the right way.

SLIM Yeah, I was curious, I wanted to get more feedback from you on that, because like we mentioned your YouTube and also you produce a ton of stuff elsewhere video-wise, was it kind of like instinctual that you wanted to get an outside view to help put everything together in that process?

SO For sure. I mean, I always think, sure, I could have done it by myself but filmmaking is such a collaborative process that I couldn’t have gotten here without everybody’s input. Nanfu Wang of One Child Nation was my mentor and so she was able to provide so much and so much clarity, so much guidance. And I think it really, it truly, I needed an entire team to help me get to where I am today with a story with every little aspect. And so, I’m so thankful to every single person who helped me.

GEMMA It takes such a community. I actually want to call out your publicist for this Tribeca outing, David Magdael.

SO Yeah!

GEMMA He is an absolute legend, isn’t he? I roped him in to do a session on publicity for a group of minority filmmakers in New Zealand last year, because I just thought he comes through our inbox so often representing films and filmmakers in the most heartfelt way, you know? Like professional but also heartfelt. And he’s also part of the LA Asian American Film Festival, right? So he’s a bit of a legend too. And I just think it’s fantastic to see this sort of strength of community around a piece of art. I guess, in a way, it’s a segue into your second of your four favorites, which is Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow, which he made in 2002. So it’s his second feature film, but the first that he directed solo. And there’s such rich threads leading into and out of this movie, right? John Cho’s in it, there’s Fast and Furious links all the way through this film. There’s an incredible story that we’ll get to about MC Hammer’s involvement in Better Luck Tomorrow. But I guess we kick off by going: Liquor Store Dreams references a whole bunch of films, in terms of portrayals of Asian Americans on screen, and how that impacted you growing up. And the first film we see is Better Luck Tomorrow. And so it’s obviously an important film.

SO I watched it in my teens. So I was in high school, and I didn’t really know that much about Sundance. So for me to be able to even hear that it got really big at Sundance, we were like, me and my friends were like, “Oh, apparently it got a lot of noise at this festival called Sundance. That’s great. Hopefully, we can see it soon.” And then it was like 2am and my friend’s brother loved to bootleg a lot of stuff. And he’s like, “Actually, I have a copy.” And we were like, “Well, okay, let’s watch it now,” middle of the night. And I think when we were both watching it, us two Asian Americans, I think we just grew up in a very typical, living in the suburbs. And so we watched when we watched it, we finished it, we were like, “So what was that about?” I think we couldn’t see the significance of us being represented on screen because it felt so normal to our life, that I was like, “That’s exactly what it is. So I don’t know what they’re raving about.” But obviously now in retrospect, looking back at that time, it was such a big deal just because it was so similarly to how we were living. Honestly I was like the worst student. [Gemma & Slim laugh] And I’m really thankful that I’m like the second child, because a lot of the focus went to my sister. But like there was very less pressure on me, my parents didn’t expect me to do well at school, which I really didn’t. And me and my friends just messed around a lot. And we just got into a lot of trouble and that’s something that I think I resonated with Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow that I—there was one scene where in the very beginning, they bought stuff and then they returned it so they can get the money back. Yeah. And that’s something that my guy-friends actually did a lot. [Gemma laughs] And so I was like, “Wow! This is very... very similar to what is going on.” And I think there was just so many aspects where I think besides the overachieving aspect of it, everything else I really understood where they’re coming from. And I always feel like being Asian American in high school, you can kind of get by without doing anything, because nobody—in a sense, you’re slightly invisible, but at the same time, as long as you get good grades, that is your hall-pass to everything with your parents and your teachers. And I think that was like the moment in the film, it was like my ’aha’ moment. Wow, it makes so much sense!

GEMMA Yeah, right. We should probably for those who haven’t seen it, talk a little bit about what Better Luck Tomorrow is about, because it was not about what I thought it would be about based on this very slim synopsis. The tagline is “NEVER UNDERESTIMATE AN OVERACHIEVER.” The synopsis: “A group of over-achieving Asian American high-school seniors enjoy a power trip when they dip into extra-curricular criminal activities.” And, you know, like you say, when the film starts, they’re buying a bunch of stuff from a department store on someone else’s credit card and then returning it to make more money. And it seems like a small-time scam, we’ve known loads of people who get away with that stuff—like never take the tag off anything, right? But then it just...

SO Escalates. [So laughs]

GEMMA Escalates. Then they’re doing cheat-sheets for fifty dollars a time, for you know, for other kids to pass exams—fine, that’s another small-time scam. But then it escalates some more and then... yeah, and then there’s this dude Daric, who is like the ultimate overachiever, who’s the president of every single extracurricular club in the high school, but turns out to be an absolute mastermind douchebag. [Gemma laughs] He’s amazing. What is—so Roger Fan who plays him, Roger Fan.

SLIM What I cracked up at is in this movie, he’s on the tennis team and he has like that varsity jacket, but everyone at the school still talks down to him like, “What are you doing wearing that jacket? You play tennis.” I felt very seen by that—full disclosure, my bravery, I played tennis in high school and that kind of thing is real. That’s real. [So laughs]

GEMMA Yeah, I got my high-school pin for debating. [Gemma & Slim laugh]

SO Nice.

SLIM Were you wearing a varsity jacket for debating in high school? Did you get any flack for that?

GEMMA We got a blazer.

SLIM A blazer, oh!

GEMMA When you’re in debating, you got to wear the blazer, no one else got to wear the blazer. [Gemma laughs]

SLIM One of my other notes, this is the first time viewing for me, but I remember the poster for eons. I think this was around the time where I worked at the video store. And this poster felt like iconic to me without even knowing what the movie was about. So I just recognized this blue poster forever. John Cho in this...

GEMMA Oh my god.

SLIM So this is like my first experience with kind of like, richie-rich elite, Jon Cho’s character. Man, he felt, he unsettled me in this movie.

SO I felt like he was so suave and I feel like if I encountered him in real life, he could probably get me to do anything. And he does in the film, technically. [Gemma & So & Slim laugh]

GEMMA He really does. That scene—I’m gonna call it out, because I want Slim to play a bit of it, right here. The baseball monologue...

SO Oh yeah.

[clip of Better Luck Tomorrow plays]

STEVE Are you happy?

BEN I don’t know.

STEVE That’s the most truthful thing I’ve ever heard. At least you have a choice.

BEN You’re not happy?

STEVE I’m very happy. Isn’t it obvious? I have everything. Loving parents. Top grades. Ivy League scholarships. Of course, Stephanie. Right there. That’s it. So fucking happy, I can’t stop it.

BEN Why not?

STEVE It’s a never-ending cycle. When you got everything you want, what’s left?

GEMMA He’s amazing—I mean, I hate him. But I love him. Which of these guys would you have dated at high school? Virgil?

SO Oh my god. Oh my god, yeah! [Gemma laughs]

GEMMA Or Ben, or Daric...

SO So I never thought I would ever answer this question. I really like Jason Tobin in real life as an actor, who plays Virgil. And looks-wise, definitely Virgil because I have a very—I really liked—I have very weird taste in men. Don’t get me started. [So & Gemma laugh] I think Roger Fan’s character is somebody I think I would have wanted to be with, just somebody who was very sophisticated—or even John Cho’s character, but I probably would be like, “Oh, they’re too out-of-my-league.”

GEMMA I would’ve been all about Han because he was the quiet one.

SO Oh, yeah!

GEMMA The quiet one with the sunglasses who never really talked a lot and, yeah, sort of brooding. I would have been like, “Oh, what’s going on there?” And then discovered that he was just boring or something?

SLIM He has a great car too. You can’t pass up the car, really.

SO So good.

GEMMA You cannot pass-off a car when you live in the suburbs. Always go for the guy with the car.

SLIM Very suave in my opinion. He barely even said anything in this movie. I mean, just him on screen—

GEMMA Slim, who would you—which one would you have dated?

SLIM It would probably be Han. [Gemma laughs] I mean, he had the car, he barely said anything. He looked cool when he walked around doing nothing. Like I probably would’ve be like, “Let’s hang out, I’ll go for milkshakes with you if you want.” The one thing that I do want to point out about this movie, like maybe Fast and Furious fans have heard about this movie tangentially from Justin Lin. But I feel like every time there’s a Fast movie that comes out this comes up, like “Oh, you know, actually, this is sort of a prequel...” And it is a fun, you know, little nugget of trivia where Han is in this movie, and you could say that—I think even Justin has said, it’s the same character as the Fast movies.

SO I’m gonna put this out there for Justin Lin to hear or whoever, I was like, you know what, if I ever see Justin Lin, I want to make a prequel to [The] Fast and the Furious that touches on Johnny Tran a little bit as the villain. [So laughs]

SLIM Oh yes!

GEMMA Ohhh.

SO The villain in the first film. I’m putting it out there. I really like car movies. I love car chases, scenes and yeah, it’s an iconic—

SLIM Oh my god, Johnny Tran. What a character.

GEMMA It’s not a car chase, but the scene in the car on the way from the party, when they’re riding along slowly next to that car full of gangsters... Wow.

SO Oh my god, chills. And Virgil’s like—in Better Luck Tomorrow—Virgil’s talking about his dad. And it brought so much dimension to his character, that I’ve known guys like that. I’ve seen guys like that. And for him, that was like his moment and there was just so much complexity—

GEMMA When he sort of goes from the manic laughing into the manic crying.

SLIM My god.

GEMMA And meanwhile, he’s not aware of what’s happening next to them and the other guys are all looking over there and they’re just silent and it’s tense and the lighting is stunning...

SO There’s so much in that one scene just because there are so many different—I think for my high school, there were so many Asians too, that there were different cliques of Asians and I think that scene really just showed how different a lot of our groups are. And even when they think that they’re so badass, they’re like doing and beating people up, there’s actually really bad guys that—it’s such a good moment.

GEMMA Yeah, totally. And the deeper you go into all of these schemes and scams, the closer you get to the actually bad guys.

SLIM I used to work in a video-game store, and one of those scams was people stealing friend’s DVDs and turning those in for cash.

SO Wow!

SLIM Instead of store credit.

SO Wow.

SLIM Don’t get any ideas. I don’t even know if you can trade DVDs anymore, so... [Gemma & So laugh]

GEMMA One of the notes I wrote down here was, “Where the parents?”

SO Mostly working. I think most of us, we were able to just do anything we wanted because our parents just came home super late. And then the grades were our paths to everything—as long as you got good grades, they will let you do anything. Whereas for me, it was like I didn’t get good grades or... [So & Gemma & Slim laugh] My parents really struggled with like, “Why are you out all the time, but also like you’re not even getting good grades... like what’s happening here?” [So laughs]

GEMMA I want to read you this review on Letterboxd from Eric D. Snider. There is a accompanying video of this moment on YouTube. “I hadn’t seen this since Sundance 2002, where it was a big hit, and where Roger Ebert famously shouted down an audience member who, during the Q&A, scolded Lin for making a movie about Asian Americans that didn’t show them in a wholly positive light. Ebert was NOT HAVING IT. I wish I had been at that screening (and then for some reason ignored common sense and stayed for the Q&A).” I love that Ebert in his wisdom was like, “No, shut it down.”

SO That video is out there on YouTube and I watched it every so often. Makes me feel better. [So & Gemma laugh]

[clip of Roger Ebert at Sundance plays]

ROGER EBERT What find very offensive and condescending about your statement is nobody would say to a bunch of white filmmakers, how could you do this to your people? This film has the right to be about these people and Asian American characters have the right to be whoever the hell they want to be! They do not have to…

SLIM The one review too that I want to spotlight from Willy: “Damn it would appear the solution to overcoming American genre tropes may just be to make more movies with less white people.” That could be true, could be very true. [Gemma laughs] As I was reading your list on Journal of ten underrated Asian American and Pacific Islander films set in the backdrop of America, and as I watched this, I thought to myself, this might be the only movie that I’ve seen, or heard of, with this kind of cast in this setting. And that just speaks to, exactly that review, kind of like jokingly pointed out, but you know, there needs to be more representation.

SO For sure.

SLIM More movies like this. And this was, I think this was an MTV film, right?

SO Yeah!

SLIM We need more MTV, taking chances. Like, let’s wake up.

SO Let’s do it.

GEMMA Do you like the Fast and Furious movies?

SO I love them. I mean, my friends talk about [Furious 7]... iconic. [Slim & Gemma laugh] It is so insane. Yeah, I revisited it maybe a month ago, just because there’s some scenes that are—I really like action movies and car chases. And so it’s one that keeps topping itself. And I’m always in disbelief like, “Wow, how did they even think about this?” But...

SLIM Gemma, what do you think about the Fast [and Furious] franchise? [Gemma laughs]

GEMMA I haven’t seen them all! I haven’t seen them all. I’m very, very behind. I failed to do the catch-up before the most recent one. But I promise I will do it.

SO It’s a lot. [So laughs]

GEMMA It’s a lot.

SLIM It’s like 40 hours of work, two days you gotta set aside.

GEMMA I’m one hundred percent on-board with ridiculous action. I mean, I even enjoyed Michael Bay’s Ambu-LA-nce.

SO Oh my god, I loved it. [Gemma laughs] I thought I was like, on drugs. I loved every single moment. [So laughs]

SLIM How do we get Michael Bay doing a Fast movie?

SO Right? Yeah!

SLIM Could you imagine the drone work in those kinds of car chases? Holy smokes!

SO I’m put it out there, yeah, we need Michael Bay on that.

SLIM If not directing, maybe he can produce your Johnny Tran prequel series.

SO Oh my god. Amazing. [So & Slim laugh]

GEMMA I’m so looking forward to that. I mean, you know, cinema needs more So Yun Um directing Johnny Tran prequels. Maybe MC Hammer would be up for funding it—

SO Right, yeah.

GEMMA Given his history of of funding filmmakers starting out in their careers. There’s this amazing story. So I was watching the credits, I’m like, wow, MC—no it was, who was it? Yeah, DJ Shadow is thanked in these credits and then MC Hammer is thanked in these credits. I’m like, I don’t remember hearing an MC Hammer song, what’s that about? So I looked it up—obviously, it’s a well-known story for anyone who cares about Justin Lin and Better Luck Tomorrow—but so he’s making Better Luck Tomorrow, he’s maxed out his credit cards, he’s run out of money. Two years in, he’s going to have to trash the entire project unless he can get money from somewhere. And then he’s like, looks at this piece of paper that has MC Hammer’s contact details on them, from when a couple of years earlier, he’d been in Vegas, he was in the studio looking at DV cameras, MC Hammer comes walking past, he’s like, “Hey, does anyone here know anything about DV cameras?” So they start having a chat, and he asks him what he’s doing. And he’s like, “Well, hey, if you ever need my help, for anything, hit me up.” And so then at the last possible minute, Justin Lin hits him up, calls him up, who knows if MC Hammer remembers him, but he wires him the money, he didn’t have to sign a piece of paper, a contract, anything. He wired him the money. Justin Lin finishes this film. We have nine Fast and Furious movies.

SO Wow.

GEMMA The rest is history. [Gemma & So & Slim laugh]

SLIM Geeze.

SO It’s such an incredible story, like what are the chances?

SLIM It’s also pretty insane that you just said it that way, like is MC Hammer responsible for the Fast franchise?

GEMMA Ohhh.

SO Wow. We need a cameo. [Gemma laughs]

SLIM My god!

GEMMA We totally do. Did MC Hammer put money into Liquor Store Dreams?

SO Maybe, maybe... I have no idea. [Slim & Gemma & So laugh] I wish!

SLIM Did he give to the crowdfunding effort, maybe anonymously somehow?

SO I can only hope... I can only hope... [Gemma & So laugh]

GEMMA Look up, see if the name “Stanley” is in the Kickstarter contributors, if it is...

SLIM Liquor Store Dreams, premiering Tribeca. We both watched it this week. Both loved it. And my first thought is, how’s Danny doing? Danny... I love Danny.

SO Danny is amazing.

SLIM Right? Let’s all hang out with Danny. I want to hang out at that store. Let’s eat some food. Let’s have a great night together. How’s he doing these days?

SO He’s doing well. I think because he’s obviously a real person, who has a real job and he’s on the ground doing so much community work—

GEMMA Incredible.

SO He’s so busy all the time, of course. And I think just to be able to highlight his story is so meaningful in this way. And I’m really thankful that he allowed me to share his story and his family’s story along with mine. And he’s just a really great person. I always feel like when you meet people like that, and they say so many inspirational things all the time, you’re like, “What is this person? Who is this person?” It could sound so corny, but he’s genuinely like that. And so it always gives me a lot of hope and just inspires me to be a good person. Because there’s so much bad stuff in the world, that just to see somebody who is always has his head up, and has so much clarity and so much good heart, it really warms me.

GEMMA Danny and his love of quotes is the backbone, the glue of your … film.

SO Yes. So many quotes.

GEMMA So many quotes. So many quotes, and you know, not to dive deep into the hardest stuff, but—trigger warning—there is content about suicide in Liquor Store Dreams, and when Danny finds that quote, that’s about sort of choosing to end your life versus, you know, versus death when it comes to you... I was in tears. Oh my god.

SO It’s my favorite moment.

GEMMA Yeah. Was he too busy to go to New York with you? Did you take him to the premiere?

SO No, he came. He came to the first and second screening. I think, because all three screenings were sold out, I definitely wanted him, at least at the first two. And I am glad—I think he enjoyed it. He went obviously, came right back to LA to go back to work. But I hope I can have more screenings and bring him along for the ride.

GEMMA There’s something so magnetic about him, that I sort of love that the work he’s doing is so crucial for his Skid Row neighborhood. But I wish he was in movies. [So & Gemma laugh]

SO Yeah, yeah, yeah.

GEMMA I just want to look at that beautiful face and listen to that gorgeous wisdom all day long.

SO I learned something new—at his store Skid Row People’s Market in Skid Row, LA, they put up a quote every single day, like a new quote. I’m like, wow... Every day, I’m just inspired. [So laughs]

GEMMA The other thing that came through really clearly, and this is, you know, part of Danny’s work. And especially, you see a lot of celebrations, or—you filmed a lot of celebrations happening around his store and sort of the importance of neighborhood corner shops, which my family, my husband, had a neighborhood corner café for twelve years in Brooklyn. And it wasn’t really until we were very suddenly closed by the pandemic, that we truly became aware of what a gift to the community it had been. Because it’s really hard work running a small business. It’s just incredibly hard work. But you sort of don’t realize that you’re public property, even though it’s a private business. And yeah, I was just thinking about the—thinking a lot actually about that and the importance of ritual and celebration, in the way that Danny and his family particularly do that for the community and it comes across so strongly in your film.

[clip of Liquor Store Dreams plays]

DANNY Growing up as a man in this society and thinking that so much of the responsibility lies on my shoulders and mine only... to take care of your family, take care of your people, take care of your community. To survive, to make that money. I was trying to cope and look for relief by drinking a lot. And I saw the same behaviors that I saw in my father and other men I know, other men in my family. I relate to my father, I did feel similarly about having the weight all on my shoulders.

GEMMA And I miss my dad. And I wanted to ask, have you paid your telephone bill yet? [So laughs]

SO I did. I did. My parents are... yeah, they’re constantly, like my dad just called me. And it’s every day. [Gemma & Slim laugh] It’s every day. I’m glad that he was able to experience the world premiere at Tribeca with me, but I also feel like he’ll never be satisfied until I probably get married. [Gemma & So laugh] Just, you know, I guess it is the way it is. But I’m sure he’s also enjoying this newfound “fame”, quote unquote.

GEMMA Your dad? Enjoying it for you? Yeah.

SO For himself as well. [Gemma laugh] I think he’s just been experiencing so many new things. He just can’t processes. He’s like, oh, we went to the Tribeca photo shoot and then we found ourselves in Entertainment Weekly, which for me, Entertainment Weekly, I was so blown away by. [Gemma laughs] Yeah, so I think—and we were in the Korean newspaper, so I think for him he’s just trying to just soak it up all in, and understand what’s happening and how important this film is.

SLIM It was cool to see, I saw the video online of you I think seeing the Entertainment Weekly article, like on your phone and reacting to it. [Slim laughs] That was so cool.

SO It was so cool. Because I was like freaking out. My friend’s like, “What’s wrong?” I was like, “I don’t know. I’m trying to read this text that my friend sent me.” And then she recorded immediately, which I’m so thankful for. And it was probably the biggest shock, because we were just—you know, I think for us, we never intended, we just really wanted the film out for our community to watch and be seen. We never anticipated that we would reach different audiences. This guy I from Germany was visiting New York and he kind of stumbled upon our film. And I’m like, what are the chances? Like you just coming—you literally live in Germany and you come to Tribeca for the first time, and then you watch the film. It was just, it’s been really beautiful to hear everybody’s stories and how much they resonate with it from so many different backgrounds. So it’s been really wonderful. [So & Gemma laugh]

GEMMA One of the things I absolutely love about your film is the way in which you—and I love when filmmakers do this—you show the seams of the garment of filmmaking. And you do that at the beginning of the film by handing the camera to your dad and showing him, you know, getting up with him in the shop, in the shelves and filming into mirrors and showing him what you’re doing, even though he doesn’t understand and he just wants you to get married and he’s worried that filmmaking is not a sensible career. He’s still—yeah, you’re in there showing seams, showing the threads. And then even right up towards the end, part of the film, is you showing your dad the almost-completed film that you’ve had translated into Korean for him and then finishing the film, in grand Asian-filmmaking tradition, with a dance montage, which is so great. And I guess, in a way that is the perfect segue into Federico Fellini’s , which is also one of the, if not the, great film about the seams of filmmaking.

SLIM What a transition. That might be the all-time greatest Gemma transition. I’ve never experienced anything like that, my god. , 1963, 4.3 average on Letterboxd. My god. 4.6 thousand fans. “A picture that goes beyond what men think about, because no man ever thought about it in quite this way!”

GEMMA Really? I question that tagline. But anyway... [Gemma & Slim laugh]

SLIM This is what gets people in the door to see this movie. “A film director, finds himself creatively barren at the peak of his career. Urged by his doctors to rest, Anselmi heads for a luxurious resort, but a sorry group gathers—his producer, staff, actors, wife, mistress, and relatives—each one begging him to get on with the show. In retreat from their dependency, he fantasizes about past women and dreams of his childhood.” And this is one of those like cinephile films, I feel like , there’s a reason why it’s 4.3. Do you remember the first time you saw this movie? And what was the impact that it had on you?

SO I took a neo-realism Italian class in college. And it was my favorite class ever. I realized, we took a New Wave French cinema class, as well as a neo-realism class. And I think I really understood and kind of preferred neo-realism just because there were so many more—I think it’s the first time, obviously, I saw and so discovered so many different types of filmmaking and the kind of subjects that I wanted to tackle. And so I think it really opened my eyes. And a little behind the scenes of Liquor Store Dreams, actually, it was instead of Better Luck Tomorrow that was in the film, that started.

SLIM Wow.

SO I ran—I think it was, like technical stuff, a lot of fair-use stuff that I ran into that was a little bit harder, because it was a European movie production. SoI switched it to Better Luck Tomorrow because obviously, it still worked. But I think I was always initially inspired by when making my film. I think because it was a filmmaker that was struggling with the filmmaking process. And even I was inspired by the dance scenes in , which you can see at the end of my film and things like that. So I think like In the Mood for Love, is one of those films that are so romantic to watch. And it really—I don’t know, there’s something about especially it being black-and-white, and it being very surreal. That ending moment where it takes place in a circus, I think whenever I got to that scene, I was just like, “What is going on?” [Gemma laugh] But also I don’t care because I love everything up until this moment. Yeah, I think it just encapsulated so much of the filmmaker struggle, as well as real life.

SLIM Justmiaslife left a review that probably correlates to your own: “I had no clue what this was even about, but I knew it was art.” [Gemma laughs] What a class. So you’ve programmed films. Is this a movie that you try to get your friends to watch or maybe non-cinephiles? How do you test the waters with this film with friends that you have?

SO I feel it because it’s so popular with movie lovers that I don’t think I need to introduce them to it. It’s like In the Mood for Love, they already know it. And it’s already so iconic in the film scene. So it always feels, even those four, it feels like so generic to say like, these are my favorite, because it’s everyone’s favorite. But at the same time—

GEMMA Not everyone’s... [So laughs] We’ll get into that in a minute. [Gemma laughs]

SO So I think it was just one of those films that are like, ah, iconic enough. And also I love it so much that, yeah, it should go in the four.

SLIM Where else.

GEMMA I think this might be the moment that Slim and I need to resign en masse from hosting The Letterboxd Show and maybe hand it over to you. [Slim laughs] Because neither of us finished this film this week.

SO Ohhh! [Gemma & So laugh] So you don’t know what I’m talking about, the ending circus scene?

GEMMA I got, I got there.

SLIM I have seen the ending scene before. And so full disclosure, you know, I’m on a film-loving journey. So with Isabel’s, we mentioned In the Mood for Love, her choices were like sensual cinema French New Wave, so that opened my eyes similarly to this movie when I had watched it, this is a whole different kind of filmmaking that I wasn’t ready for or knew about at the time. And this one, I think I’m just not quite ready yet for this kind of filmmaking. It’s so different. It’s so... I don’t want to sound, like I don’t want to say strange because I sound like dullard when I say that. But it’s so different than the kinds of films that you’re normally used to. And if you’re not on board, it might not be all for you. But if you’re ready for the ride, like it’s gonna blow your mind, this kind of filmmaking. So most of my friends have the same reaction that you do with this film. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing on screen, like this journey of this creator, through the film and in real life on the film, you know, that kind of like triple-meaning, it speaks to so many creators. And Jack who put our facts together each week, he had a theory—that Gemma might not like this one because of a previous movie that we covered. Gemma, do you remember that movie that we talked about a couple months ago? [Gemma laughs]

GEMMA We’re not talking about All That Jazz because I do love All That Jazz.

SLIM Right, right.

GEMMA Um, I think we’re talking about... is it Synecdoche, New York? [Gemma & So & Slim laugh]

SLIM Synecdoche, yeah.

GEMM Yeah, Jack writes, who does our facts for the show, a heavyweight classic, a seminal influence, this is Fellini’s most popular and second-highest-rated film. As you say it comes up again and again and again in people’s top lists. How many fans has it got? Like four and a half thousand people have it and their four favorites alongside you. But he writes: “curious whether you liked this one, Gemma, since you’re not a fan of the tortured-male-artist films it influenced. But it was the first to do it. Or does that make it worse?” [Gemma laughs]

SO For sure.

GEMMA Or does it make it worse? And it’s funny because every one-star review of this film on Letterboxd is inevitably followed in the comments on those reviews by Fellini-splainers writing, “You know that this was the inspiration for Birdman/​Pulp Fiction/​All That Jazz, blah blah blah...” and we’re all like, yeah, yeah, we know but it’s still okay to not enjoy watching this film, as Ella Kemp wrote in her one-line review: “Ohhhh I get it it’s about a fuckboy.” [So & Slim laugh]

SO The original fuckboy though, so...

GEMMA Yes! Exactly.

SLIM That’s a great tagline to put on the box art.

GEMMA Exactly. Hundred percent. Or as torusoryu wrote: “art is a selfish reconfiguration of the past into what we think it ought to be, and it’s also wanting to fuck other broads that aren’t your wife.” And Sam, who in giving it a five-star review also writes: “You can really tell what kind of asshole Fellini was by watching this movie.” [So & Slim laugh] So I get it. I get it. It’s like whether you’re one star or you’re five star, everybody understands that this is somebody working in partnership with an extraordinary actor, by the way, Mastroianni is just, you know, one of the best. I could look at his face all day long.

SO Same.

GEMMA Although, why Guido wore his sunglasses in the sauna, I won’t ever understand. But I do, I did love—I wrote it down—I did love that one monologue of his, when he’s saying, “I thought my ideas were so clear. I wanted to make an honest film. No lies whatsoever. I thought I had something so simple to say, something useful to everybody. A film that can help bury forever all those dead things we carry within ourselves. Instead, I’m the one without the courage to bury anything at all.” All whilst he’s being surrounded by beautiful women and sycophants and people who want a piece of him. Totally get it. I just don’t have to watch it again.

SLIM It’s the number-two highest-rated movie in 1963 behind High and Low. It’s the sixteenth-highest-rated of the ’60s and the number-two most popular of ’63, behind The Birds. So it’s in amazing company. And I was thinking of this, you know, you had done a podcast appearance, talking about how you had, you know, wanted to get to this point, and you thought that maybe the steps to get there would be kind of like online criticism, YouTube videos, programming, and then eventually, my road would lead to filmmaking. So I’m curious, when you think of these movies that have run the gamut of creativity, and the documentary is out now, what’s a checkbox after this? Is there another level that reminds you of these films that you want to accomplish? Are you thinking about that yet? I know you’re so in a whirlwind now with this, but like, as a creative, what’s remaining on your list when you think about these movies?

SO Initially, before this documentary, I thought I’d be making a narrative feature about like a K-town girl movie. And I realized this story was, Liquor Store Dreams was so much more urgent. And I’m also really good with real life people. So that was part of it. And I think it was just the right time, right place, everything just came together. And so that’s the story I’m going back to. I think after watching Hustlers, I was very inspired by just the way that it was filmed. It was placed in the backdrop of the 2008 economic crisis, which I’m also very much interested in. I think the topic of money is always fun. And I think after the success of Parasite, I think this kept notion of, okay, money, class, everything. What does it mean to be Asian American women trying to grapple with, like... work, work in America, but also have it be a coming-of-age story, but also, you know, explore this—I think, also after Atlanta, the Atlanta shooting, it made me think, what does it mean to be an Asian American woman, growing up in America when America doesn’t really value you as much as they should. And so I think that I always want to tell very difficult stories, but in a fun and palpable way. But also, I think I have tons of range also, because I watch so many films—I would love to make a horror film, I would love to make a car movie. I’m really flexible. I do have sorts of films and stories that I really want to tell that I feel like, are really vital for me as a storyteller, as a Korean American filmmaker. But beyond that, I’m open to exploring any type of medium. I would like love to direct television as well. So I’m pretty game for anything at this point!

SLIM Korean American version of , starring you.

SO Well, technically, Liquor Store Dreams was in a very, very loosely way...

GEMMA I was going to say, you know, you can see the same—and I think, you know, it’s not that I... it’s not that I don’t like films about the male artist obsessing about being a male artist, but it’s that I would like to see more films by and about female artists, and I’m really connected to Liquor Store Dreams in a way that I did not connect to and Synecdoche [New York] and—yeah, I guess there’s just a real personality and deep emotional connection. And speaking of the Atlanta shooting, when your dad says, “that’s why I don’t own a gun, humans make mistakes.” I thought that man is the wisest man in America right now.

SO Wow.

GEMMA Like you had a real argument about that. It’s an amazing argument. It’s an incredible moment in the film. It’s sort of really stuck with me since I watched it, because you’re saying, “But dad, you know, humans just shouldn’t shoot guns.” And he’s saying, “No, humans shouldn’t have guns because humans make mistakes.” And you’re both right. And it’s just an incredible moment to sort of record and then to put on screen for others to be let into—especially, you know, I was gonna say “at this point in time”, but hey, any week in America is this point in time.

SO There’s so many moments where we were arguing on screen that he would come back to me, and I couldn’t say anything, because he was completely right. And it really just shut me up very quickly. [Slim laughs] Especially the line when he says, “You don’t know because you’ve never lost what is yours.” And I’m like, oh god, like that really hit me. I was like, I have no comeback for that at all. I can only accept it because it is the truth. I haven’t lost anything to the extent of what our parents might have lost. And I think what was interesting, even throughout this whole filming process—[drilling sounds in the background]

GEMMA I love the drilling. It’s all good. That’s your dad, that’s your dad. He’s knocking on the door... [So & Slim laugh] Now he’s undrilling the hinges, he wants to get in and be on the show. He’s had a taste of fame, and now... [Gemma laughs]

SO Yeah, it’s been so interesting to hear and have these conversations with him. And a lot of the response, which I didn’t anticipate, was that a lot of people say, “Oh, you’re both right. I can both relate to what you’re saying,” which I never really anticipated, because I always felt like, you know, when we’re arguing, it always seems like I’m right, you’re wrong. It’s my way or the highway. But also, the whole film, the whole point of the film is how do we create understanding? How do we create and find a middle-ground where we are willing to hear each other out? And I think that the answer is obviously love. If it wasn’t for love, we wouldn’t sit and have these conversations that are really, really tough to have.

GEMMA Love and empathy. You know, that brings us back to Everything Everywhere All at Once. And films that you’re talking about where, you know, how can we take quite difficult material and make it a really fun time, as well. Which I just, I’m really excited for your future career. Has your father seen The Matrix and what did he rate it?

SO Oh man... I got to ask him. It’s been so long. Because when it came out in fifth grade, we watched it several times in theaters. At least I did. [Gemma & So laugh] And I think it goes without saying for everybody that watched it, it really opened our eyes. We’re like, “What? There’s another dimension? There’s another reality? The reality that we’re in is not ours?” I think—and it was probably the first time, I think every school I went to was pretty cliquey and there was a kid that was sitting next to me in English class. And he turns to me, he’s like, “Oh my god, have you seen The Matrix this weekend?” And in my head, I was like, ‘I did. And I loved it so much. And I didn’t expect you to like it.’ [Gemma laughs] It really brought like a common ground up, because we were like totally different and we barely talked even though we sat next to each other and it really opened my eyes like, wow, this movie is so universal, so powerful. Like this person that I thought I never had anything in common with, has the same movie taste as me!

SLIM The ultimate unifier, The Matrix from 1999. I mean, or the ultimate love story, really! If you want to think about it that way. Lily and Lana Wachowski, 4.2 average, 17,000 fans on Letterboxd. I don’t even really think we need to give a synopsis. If you’re listening to this and you haven’t watched The Matrix... shut it off... come back...

SO Yeah, what are you doing?

SLIM What are you doing with your life? You need to be that classmate turning to your friends saying, “Did you watch The Matrix this weekend? Let’s talk about it.” I remember The Matrix was probably my most iconic DVD case. It had that like little case, the like cardboard case, and it always was a pain-in-the-ass but had tape on it, it would like destroy the whole front of the DVD. But I remember this was probably, I mean, this was probably like my Star Wars as a kid.

SO Yes!

SLIM Seeing this movie, this opened my eyes to what filmmaking could be, really, on screen. And also just had like the most fun ending, that was like a cliffhanger, now you kind of see cliffhangers all the time in the MCU. But at the end of this movie, you’re like, where do we go from here? Is this the pinnacle of filmmaking? And like what is the sequel going to be? Is he going to fly around in the sequel? So that was my experience seeing The Matrix as a kid too. Gemma, what what was yours?

GEMMA I love Keanu Reeves. I adore him. But I’m very much a Bill and Ted’s [Excellent Adventure] Keanu, definitely a Speed and Point Break Keanu. And I think that The Matrix for me was a Keanu too far back then. [Slim & So laugh]

SLIM What a title.

GEMMA Now of course, it’s completely iconic.

SLIM A Keanu too far.

GEMMA I don’t know. I was looking at recent reviews. I was trying to think who has seen The Matrix for the first time on Letterboxd lately, but it’s all rewatches. The latest review that just landed today from Annabelle, five stars: “Every time I see it I become more transgendered.” [So & Slim & Gemma laugh] That’s so good.

SLIM This movie and probably this franchise is also maybe the first mainstream movie that when I was a kid that opened my eyes to like the background of filmmaking, because when the second one had come out, I remember so many stories about them building their own highway, you know, running out of money to pay for the CGI. And maybe the movie wasn’t going to come out, maybe they blew it. So this was probably also the first one for me that, you know, you almost kind of learn the ins and outs and the background of making movies just from the making-of’s.

SO Well, I think when I first heard about it, they created that technology where they were able to capture the slow-motion. I think that was the thing I remember the most, that they literally created this. And I think at the same time, Crouching Tiger [Hidden Dragon] also came out. So everybody at school was always doing kind of that move... [So & Slim laugh] That slow-motion move. And we’re trying to like really master it. So I think that’s how I learned more about filmmaking and wow, in your mind, how do you know how to execute this and how to capture it? Because if the technology isn’t built now, like, in my head, I was like, I just couldn’t compute how they were able to—I truly think they’re visionaries, the Wachowski sisters, and they reimagine and revolutionize cinema in a lot of ways and it started with—I love Bound. I think it was truly The Matrix that I was like, wow, this is on a different level of reality.

GEMMA The technology in this is incredible. I did, I have found a review from someone who’s never seen it before. Three stars writes frostyhatesfilm: “I thought it was a little boring, had too much weird technical dialogue. Even the fight scenes were a little dragged out, even if they were cool at first.” It’s really interesting because someone else, Kevin, with four stars points out the exposition dialogues, but he says none of them felt out of place or slow. And I thought, yeah, really there’s a lot of—because it’s such a new world, because it’s a new world for Neo, there is a lot of explaining that needs to be done in this film.

SO Yeah, so much world-building, yeah.

GEMMA Oh my god, yeah. And you’re either on-board or you’re not, but...

SLIM I just banned both those members right now, during this conversation. [Gemma & So laugh]

GEMMA Okay, but follow Spooky, who gives it five stars and writes: “Keanu Reeves isn’t hot until he’s shot eight times in the chest and is killing a transphobe.” [So & Slim laugh] How many Keanu films do you think you’ve seen and which one is your favorite? And can we just talk about Keanu for the…?

SO Right? Ah, I feel like I had a—still a Keanu phase. So I feel like I’ve mostly, almost all of his films, The Matrix is number one for me. Constantine...

SLIM Wow. Okay.

SO And... man! I don’t know, he has such such range. I think when I was younger, I didn’t—I thought he had no range, like he plays the same person. But also that movie he did with Diane Keaton...

GEMMA Ah...

SLIM Jacks’ typing...

SO It’s a rom-com.

SLIM Something’s Gotta Give.

SO Something’s Gotta Give, maybe, yeah. [So laughs] He’s amazing. And I think as a person, he’s amazing and... I would have liked to be with him... [So & Gemma laugh]

SLIM Is this the marriage we’ve been waiting for? The ultimate unification with Keanu Reeves.

GEMMA So’s mum’s dream is about to come true. Sorry to Keanu’s current partner... [So & Gemma laugh] Slim, what about you? What is your favorite?

SLIM I was thinking about that. One of my favorite recent memories is watching his accent work in The Devil’s Advocate. Do you remember that movie? [Gemma laughs]

SO Yeah!

SLIM His accent in that one is pretty wild. Fantastic actor.

GEMMA Is anyone gonna ask me?

SLIM No, we’re not asking you, Gemma. [Gemma laughs]

SO Gemma, what is your favorite Keanu?

GEMMA I mean, my favorite Keanu in uniform is Much Ado About Nothing. My favorite Keanu in comedy is all of the Bill and Ted films. My favorite Keanu romance is The Lake House, I know it’s a terrible film, but it’s Keanu and Sandra, so who cares? I love it. Guilty pleasure. Absolutely. Sweet November too with Charlize—man he has hooked up with a lot of hot broads on film. Even A Walk in the Clouds I would happily rewatch. I’m just gonna read his entire filmography...

SLIM Gemma rattling off twenty—[Gemma & So laugh] Gemma just rattled off twenty favorite Keanu movies after her [The] Matrix comments. Almost a kind of make-good or recompense. [Slim laughs]

GEMMA I’m looking through because I’m trying to remember, he is an Dangerous Liaisons, isn’t he? Is he in Dangerous Liaisons? Jack’s facts come in...

SLIM Can we confirm this? Sort by alphabetical, is that on there?

GEMMA Ah yep, he’s in Dangerous Liaisons. He’s outrageously cute in that as Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny.

SLIM Oh my god, what a name.

GEMMA And also, just a quick shout out to Always Be My Maybe...

SO Oh yes. Oh my god.

GEMMA In which he plays Keanu Reeves.

SO Iconic.

GEMMA And the best entrance in a film in the last five years, I think.

SO I could talk about Keanu all day...

GEMMA Yeah, shall we just do that? [Slim & So laugh] Should we just finish the show and stay online and talk about Keanu all day.

SLIM We’re gonna go record our not-public Keanu Reeves podcast, that will never be released, it’ll just be recorded weekly and deleted immediately.

[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]

GEMMA So Yun Um was our guest today. You can follow So on Letterboxd and YouTube as So’s Reel Thoughts—that’s R-E-E-L. But all the links to her accounts and all the other lists and reviews we mentioned today will be in the episode notes, so have a look. Thanks to our crew, Linda Moulton for booking and looking after our guests, Jack as always for the facts, Sophie Shin for the episode transcript, and to Moniker for the theme music.

SLIM Remember to tune into Weekend Watchlist in this very feed, every Thursday me, Mitchell and Mia explore the latest releases in cinemas and on streaming. If you’re feeling inspired right now, please drop a review or rating for the podcast wherever all good reviews and ratings can be found. And you can send feedback directly to us by emailing . The Letterboxd Show was a Tapedeck production. Thank you for listening.

GEMMA All there’s left to do is be happy...

SLIM Beautiful.

[clip of Always Be My Maybe plays]

SASHA Um... these are my friends. This is Marcus and this is Jenny.

KEANU Hi Jenny.

JENNY Wow. Now I know what it feels like to be completely star-struck.

KEANU The only stars that matter are the ones you look at when you dream...

[Tapedeck bumper plays] This is a Tapedeck podcast.