[ed. note: my apologies for my on-and-off absences for the past week or so. I’m dealing with a sick bean at home, a new CIO at work, and trying to format one huge, multi-part article for reposting here and get enough work done on writing a new one–one that, posting one piece per week, will likely take us all the way into 2014–and it’s all taking up way too much time. Bear with me, we’ll get back on track soon…]
The Killing of a Chinese Cookie (Derek Shimoda, 2008)
The Killing of a Chinese Cookie, which is not to be confused with the 1976 John Cassavettes drama, is a documentary about the history of the fortune cookie, which was actually invented in New York City.
…or was it San Francisco?
You’ve obviously got the makings of a good documentary as soon as you ask that question—you’ve got two cities (neither of which, obviously, is in China) competing for the title of Inventor of the Fortune Cookie, and, as is often the case with docos of this stripe, any number of weird and wonderful personalities connected to the fortune cookie industry in each. And when the movie focuses on this aspect, and some of the related amusement (fortune cookies, apparently, were unknown in China until recently), it’s well worth your time and a good deal of fun.
The problem is that Shimoda, normally a TV series researcher working on his first feature-length production as a director, didn’t seem to think he could mine that vein for any more than he did, and so started throwing in… randomness. And these parts of the movie are where it kind of falls off the cliff; they simply didn’t need to be there. If staying on topic would have left you with a documentary short, then, well, you should have given the world a documentary short. It would have been better than this.
Not to say the parts where it is actually about what it purports to be about are not worth watching. They are indeed, and you may well find them worth sitting through the rest of it. I did, albeit barely. ** ½