Raya and the Renaissance of Awkwafina


By: Isaac P. Ale
June 23, 2021

raya-sisu Raya and the Last Dragon [2021]

Film

Of course I waited until this movie was free on Disney+ before watching it/writing about it. Did you expect me to pay the absurd $20 I don't have nor make from this site to watch it?? No way.

Although I will say if I did so happen to use my beer money on some premium Disney+ access to see Raya and the Last Dragon, I would not be disappointed. Because this movie is just flat out delightful. The combination of humor, action, drama, and heartfelt family message are staples in the Disney concoction for a film and this one plays them out with incredible prowess. Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is just an absolute badass, Sisu (Awkwafina) is hilarious but also very profound, and Tuk Tuk (lmao of course voiced by Alan Tudyk) is the cutest Disney side kick since... well whichever one was the last one. Probably the adorable little fire lizard from Frozen II, that little guy was totes adorbs. Basically Disney dominates the cute sidekick game and Tuk Tuk is up there in the hierarchy of cuteness.

There's also some insane real-world relevance to the story where this ancient plague called the Druun reemerges after humans fuck everything up. Leading to selfishness and a lack of trust destroying the world within the film. And if you're not getting the real-world relevance here I'm not quite sure what else to say.

Druun = COVID-19

However in the real world, we don't have to find a magical dragon to save everything, you can just get a vaccine. So that's pretty convenient in comparison.

Anywho, this film really does an excellent job managing all the internal elements of the story along with the classic Disney style and touch. But I'm not here to talk about how good Disney is at being Disney. I'm here to talk about how good Awkwafina has become at everything.

A true renaissance of the highest order.

She started out with a variety of short films to pair along with her music, as a rapper, most prominently the hit classics My Vag and NYC Bitche$. It wasn't until 2016 in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising that we saw the big screen version of Awkwafina, where she plays one of Shelby's (Chloƫ Grace Moretz) sorority sisters. She has a few lines and does well within the confines of her role.

oceans-8 Ocean's 8 [2018]

But then in 2018 she had an insane year, and I mean insane. She starred in Ocean's 8 alongside some phenomenal women such as Rihanna (she's always first, always), Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, and Sarah Paulson (seriously that is a ridiculous ensemble of A+ people to be associated with let alone starring in a movie alongside). But on top of Ocean's 8 (which was pretty okay), Awkwafina also had a supporting role in the smash hit Crazy Rich Asians, which was truly great. Movie success aside, Awkwafina had similar-ish characters in both of these, a whimsical type that offers a certain level of humor while contributing to the central plot. Nothing too crazy.

the-farewell The Farewell [2019]

However, with the 2019 film The Farewell, that all changed (huge shoutout to director Lulu Wang because this movie is incredible). Awkwafina turned in her greatest performance to date and solidified herself as a bonafide star. If you have not seen this one then you are realllly missing out; this is a revelation in terms of Awkwafina's performance. It's gripping, moving, heartwrenching but not without her signature humor and style that is persistent (and wonderfully so). In terms of Oscar snubs, she was egregiously ignored for Best Actress. Thank goodness the Golden Globes gave her a nomination, tHeY'rE sO sMArT oVeR tHErE!! That was as sarcastic as I could have possibly typed.

Awkwafina knocked The Farewell out of the park, probably even off the planet. She was impeccable.

Which brings us to the titular film of this piece, Raya and the Last Dragon where she voices the lovable and powerful Sisu (the last dr...ah you get it). If there is one thing that reigns supreme about Awkwafina, it's the expressive abilities of her voice. The way she can manuever and shift tone and articulation is incredible, let alone seeing it come out of a water dragon's mouth.

To think she can continue to adapt and build upon her talents in such a way is truly remarkable. Starting with video shorts, being in a Seth Rogen movie, to a Globe nomination (Oscar snub, still upset), and voice acting in a Disney film and doing them all at the highest level - and continuing to get better and better - is astounding.

But it's not all about what she's done in the past, its also what she's doing in the future, which is joining the MCU in the upcoming film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Love it or hate it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a massive undertaking for any acting professional. These are worldwide explosions of viewings and fanfare, they quite literally are meaningful to even be remotely attached to. And while we're at it let's also mention she's doing this on top of her own sitcom show called Awkwafina is Nora from Queens. Needless to say, we'll be seeing a lot more of her very soon.

It's definitely time to give Awkwafina the respect and the credit she deserves, because she's kicking ass and taking names. Just like Raya.

Froth

Watching a movie with a mythical creature its really only appropriate to consume a beverage from a mythical creature. No I'm not talking about Dragon's Milk, the bourbon barrel aged stout from New Holland Brewing. I'm also not talking about the Batsquatch hazy IPA from Rogue Ales.

What I'm referring to here is the mythical Liam Neeson lion, Aslan.

Yes you heard me right. Aslan as in Aslan Brewing Company which has some phenomenal drinks to choose from. However I picked something simple yet elegant, much like the Disney formula, it just does everything right. You know what you're getting and you are not disappointed. That would be Batch 15 IPA from them, which is a gem of a Northwestern IPA. Hoppy elegance combined with a little pine and a nice bit of citrus to complete a juicy finish.

Also Liam Neeson as a lion? Yeah that's dope.

Batch 15
Aslan Brewing Company
IPA - American | 6.7% ABV
@aslanbrewing

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