Black Swan review : so what was the hype all about again?

So it was one of those Saturday nights when I had nowhere to go and decided I’d watch “Black Swan”.

There was me, Irish housemate, single English housemate with ballet/dancing background dying to watch “Black Swan”, English couple, one half of which is the woman with the PhD and is published, the other half of which is the cook and overall houseperson.

See there was much hype about Black Swan, and well, I hate hype and wouldn’t have watched it for that. I did hear about the girl-on-girl scenes so I’d watch it for that.

In a nutshell: mentally stable, repressed, possibly virginal, ballerina (Natalie Portman) gets lead in “Swan Lake”and proceeds to have a very disturbing, gory breakdown which includes hallucinations, fears of splintering fingers and feet, fears of being followed by strangers, fears of losing lead role to hot, sexy alternate (Mila Kunis) with whom she may or may not have a night of drunken, brazen sex with, and imagining herself sprouting wings and what-not.

Let me just say – this is a load of unbelievably pretentious crap that is accidentally funny, unbearably tedious and torturous and overall, a waste of two hours of my life I can never get back. I’m still wondering what Portman won the Oscar for.

Darren Aronofsky – you owe me!

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What’s your comfort film?

So last night, whilst talking to my housemates (a Chinese Canadian guy and a new British Chinese guy – yep, it’s two guys, a gay person and a house) we were talking about homesickness and what whether we have comfort films (like comfort food) that help get us through those dark times.

Housemate number 1 (Canadian) says his comfort films were Se7en, 12 Monkeys and  Fight Club (“Do you have a thing about Brad Pitt?” housemate number 2 asks.).

I remember the first time I was overseas, I was spending a disturbingly inordinate amount of time watching movies and television series (hence the birth of this blog), and I remember watching “Hairspray”and “Stardust”over and over again at the time. I also remember watching a few Filipino films (say that fast, 10 times) as well.

When I was in Canada, for some strange, inexplicable reason, I used to watch D.E.B.S over and over again.

Alright, it's probably the short, plaid skirts, the legs attached to them, and the hotness of two girls making out that probably made this a comfort film for me. 🙂

When I went back home to the Philippines, I used to watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”over and over again, as well as “Battlestar Galactica”, “True Blood” and “Glee”.

When I’m feeling down, I usually turn to light, romantic, usually teen films or comedies. I refuse to watch horror now because they’ll just depress me more.

Right now, it’s “Zoolander” that I love watching over and over again, along with “How to Train a Dragon”. If I could snag “The Producers” and “Team America”, I’m all set.

What about you, what’s your comfort film?

Retro-review: All Over Me

Back from a long absence!

So I’ve been just reading (speculative fiction anthology edited by Ursula K. Le Guin, book by Terry Pratchett), or hunting for books to read (Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” – which was already sold at the bookshop where I normally go to for good bargains. I have book two, but what’s the point of that if I don’t have book one, dammit?!?), or watching (All Over Me, Mulholland Drive, Harry Potter and the Death Hallows Part 1, I Love You Philip Morris, etc.) or looking for ways to get movies without actually spending atrocious amounts of money. Well, I’ve come across a nice friend with a massive external hard drive who’s been kind enough to let me watch the movies in her  drive.

So I’m going to talk about, “All Over Me“.

File:AllOverMeIndieFilm.jpg“All Over Me” (1997) (directed by Alex Sichel, produced by  Dolly Hall and written by Sylvia Sichel)  is a movie about coming out, coming-of-age and coming to terms with the changes without imploding or disintegrating. The movie is less like the big, clean, polished, Hollywood studio produced films about coming out as of late, and more like the hardcore underground indie films where the coming out process is painful, and sometimes downright traumatic, like a bandage being ripped from a wound that hasn’t completely healed yet. Set to the riffs (and sometimes pluckings) of music by Leisha Hailey (The L-Word) and Miki Navazio, the movie effectively captures what’s it like to be 16 and to come out through the eyes of Claude (Alison Folland). Claude has an intensely close, almost unhealthy and increasingly codepedent friendship with bestfriend Ellen (Tara Subkoff), with whom she hopes to start a band with. But Ellen is in love with the abusive, macho Mark (Cole Hauser) and this makes Claude jealous and confused, and eventually realizes that she’s in love with her bestfriend. Ellen’s new relationship with Mark, and with the drugs he supplies her, makes her drift away from Claude and their plans for a rock band, ocassionally appearing only to have Claude make her feel better when she and Mark have fights. Claude meets pink-haired guitarist Lucy (Leisha Hailey), first in a music shop, then in a gay bar, and they start making out after. Claude freaks out though and realizes that she is hopelessly, irrevocably in love with her bestfriend. This is a heartbreaking realization for her, and even more heartbreaking when we see her casually confessing her love to Ellen and having Ellen angrily tell her never to tell her that ever again. Claude struggles to accept  her budding homosexuality, her separation from her bestfriend and a budding relationship with Lucy.

The film feels a bit raw and would have benefitted from a bit more tweaking, but there is an honesty and accuracy to the film’s depiction of coming out that I liked. Coming out has never been easy, even though Hollywood likes to think it is. In truth, it’s messy, it’s painful, it’s heartwrenching, but as Dan Savage et.al. have said, it gets better. It really does.

I geek out, therefore I do: Jung and Descartes in comic form are much more fun!

So back when I was making my master’s thesis on sci-fi and mythology and motifs, I have had to read a lot of Carl Jung for related literature to support my ideas on the correlation between mythology, sci-fi and the collective unconscious. At that time, I enjoyed reading him, but not being a psych major had its drawbacks, especially since I struggled with some terms he would reference from other materials. However, be that as it may, his ideas were amazing, and certainly a lot more fun than the idea of perpetual repression Sigmund Freud perpetuated.

There was a point in my life as well when I was reading nothing but philosophy all the time, just for fun, and I had a great time reading them, until I got to Descartes.

In my search for worthwhile online comic books, I came across this one from eviltwincomics.com, which has chosen to make Jung and Descartes more intelligible. 🙂

Entitled “Action Philosophers”, this is a comic book series by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, that succeeds in simplifying Jung and Descartes and thus making them more understable for the internet-age millenium.

Their series on Jung chronicles the friendship (and closeness) between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, points out the friendly rivalry between, Carl Jung’s discovery of the collective unconscious, his inevitable break from Freudian ideas, and the falling out and bitter rivalry between them and their followers that resulted. The comic book succeeds in laying out the foundations of Jungian psychology as followsin making Descartes more comprehensible,  able to condense his ideas from his Meditations on Philosophy to bitesize form:

Jung discovers the collective unconscious

Jung discovers the collective conscious 🙂

 

“I think, there I am”: Descartes in comic form



Geek discovers: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the dangers of a single story

There are advantages to being in Africa.

One is that it expands your world further.

Another is that stereotypes you’ve had, misconceptions you’ve had, expectations you’ve had go completely out of the window, when you come and you realize that the things you’ve read about Africa are not all necessarily true.

For another, you may discover how different you are from them, but more often than not, you’ll discover how similar your lives are, how you think and feel and dream and wish for the same things, that at the end of the day, we’re all just living under the same sun afterall.

Another advantage you have: you discover a wholly different world, of books and music and movies and artists and writers that you wouldn’t have discovered had you stayed home. 🙂

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story (speech at Oxford, England)

A few days ago the housemate downloaded a video of a speech from a writer I had never heard of, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is my literary ignorance, and the fact that back home, it is mostly world literature is eclipsed by either self-help books or books by Stephanie Meyer.

I listened to the speech, whilst watching an episode of a Filipino telenovela badly dubbed in English. As the speech began, with Adichie talking about childhood reading memories filled in blonde-blue eyed children, white people talking about the weather, people eating apples, and producing the exact same stories later on, not realizing that these were removed from a country where it was always hot, and people ate mangoes, and there weren’t any blonde-blue eyed children, I found myself listening to her speech.As her speech progressed, talking about the time when, as a student in America, she had an American roommate who irritated her with her ignorance about Africa and its people, I couldn’t help but listen. By the time she was talking about the dangers of a single story, how that creates stereotypes, how stereotypes are dangerous because they are stories that are incomplete, and must needs be completed, I had turned the volume on the tv down, completely engrossed in her speech.

I have, since then, been looking for the complete  text of her speech. What I have found though is an excerpt of her speech at cnn.com:

“It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo (Nigerian language) word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power. Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story, and to start with, “secondly.” Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have and entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story. I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called “American Psycho”—(Laughter)—and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers. (Laughter) (Applause) Now, obviously I said this in a fit of mild irritation. (Laughter)”

I remember my own childhood then, of stories about Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and of Beauty and the Beast, of white-skinned, beautiful young women who always seemed to need to be in danger and the tall, handsome, dashing young princely men who always rescued them. I never wanted to be these white young women, I was shorter, I had brown skin, I knew I could never be as pretty as they were…but I did want to be those young men – they always seemed to have more fun. 🙂 (but that will be a story reserved for another day).

As I grew, I was able to read books by Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and contemporary authors like James Michener, Leon Uris and popular authors like John Grisham and Sidney Sheldon. I’ve moved a step up, maybe, but maybe not. They were white, most times male, and they wrote about realities that were far removed from mine. Sure there were universal themes that I could relate to, love and honor and courage and all that, but at the end of the day, it was a different perspective still. This is probably why when I started writing, my stories were set in the Philippines, but they could just as well be set somewhere else – in some white, middle class suburb somewhere, with snow and maple trees and blue-eyed people talking about the weather. 🙂

I’ve since not written any story. There was a period of working and just looking for myself and wondering if writing fiction was what I really wanted. It’s a question I haven’t answered, since my years of journalism has made me want to write real stories, not fictional ones.

As I listened to Adichie, it made me want to write again. But barely. Maybe this time I might just write. 🙂

This just in: New York Times Suggests a Fill-in-The-Blank-Constitution..wonder if that would work in the Philippines?!?

Got wind of this article at New York Times:

AS the Senate awaits the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice, a frank discussion is needed on the proper role of judges in our constitutional system. For 30 years, conservative commentators have persuaded the public that conservative judges apply the law, whereas liberal judges make up the law. According to Chief Justice John Roberts, his job is just to “call balls and strikes.” According to Justice Antonin Scalia, conservative jurists merely carry out the “original meaning” of the framers. These are appealing but wholly disingenuous descriptions of what judges — liberal or conservative — actually do.

To see why this is so, we need only look to the text of the Constitution. It defines our most fundamental rights and protections in open-ended terms: “freedom of speech,” for example, and “equal protection of the laws,” “due process of law,” “unreasonable searches and seizures,” “free exercise” of religion and “cruel and unusual punishment.” These terms are not self-defining; they did not have clear meanings even to the people who drafted them. The framers fully understood that they were leaving it to future generations to use their intelligence, judgment and experience to give concrete meaning to the expressed aspirations.

For more, click here.

Buffy Studies 101: All the things I know about break-ups I learned from Buffy

So, in the previous post I said that I thought there was a romantic prospect on the horizon. Well, that was a bust! It came and went in the space of a week and thus I must needs go to the “Gospel of Buffy” to find some measure of comfort and truth in Buffy. I think maybe Buffy can help me get over this heartbreak.

1. Did your groom just leave you at the altar? No problem. Go back to being a demon!

2. Is your girlfriend the emotionally unavailable Chosen One? No problem. Go pay vampires to suck your blood then rejoin the Initiative.

3. Did your girlfriend dump you because you are using way too much magic? No problem. Use more magic.

4. Did your friends bring you back from the dead not knowing you were in Heaven because you are The Chosen One? Sleep with the vampire you hate the most and have earth shattering sex.

5. Did your girlfriend stab you through the chest and send you through a demon portal because your evil alter ego was about to bring the apocalypse? Come back, leave town and establish your own private investigation agency.

6. Did your girlfriend die from a gunshot wound because The Chosen Ones nemesesis (grin) accidentally shot her whilst trying to kill The Slayer? Go bad, suck the magic out of everything, skin your enemies alive and destroy the world.

7. Did you just propose to your girlfriend thinking it’s the end of the world but suddenly change your mind because you’re not ready? Wish for a musical demon to make everyone burst out into song. Then after, right before you get married, abandon your bride at the altar, disappear and appear again demanding that the ex-bride you just abandoned at the altar take you back again. And watch as she tries to eviscerate you.

Hmmm….I don’t have a lot of choices from the above, do I? What I want to do now though is become a vengeance demon. But since that can’t happen, I think I shall go for just randomly bursting out into song and joining an organization that will make me travel to other places. Wish me luck!

Discovering Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”

So as I mentioned before, I’ve got so much books at home I’ve got books coming out of my ears.

Thus I have been reading like mad, reading my way through all the unread books and continuning with this, I have discovered how interesting Aldous Huxley‘s “Brave New World” is. Since I like books like George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, Ayn Rand‘s Anthem, and the mother of all novels utopian or dystopian, Sir Thomas More‘s Utopia, Aldous Huxley’s novel is right up my alley.

Now, I’ve read my share of utopian/dystopian visions of the world gone awry. In fact, these literary novels have been adapted for the screen or have enjoyed post-modern incarnations in popular blockbusters as “The Matrix”, “Gattaca”, and any number of Steven Spielberg-inspired films, but this novel, written in the 1930s, makes it all the more refreshing. In fact, as I was reading it, I was surprised at how eeriely it captures the kind of (post)modern, (post)industrial, global, consumerist/capitalist life that we have.  The scary thing about this 1930s’ novel is that humans are engineered, brainwashed and deliberately conditioned to form castes, lifestyles, attitudes, behaviors, perceptions and so on in order for them to function as useful members of society. People share each other (physically, sexually)  in a communal, off-hand, casual way, the idea of property, ownership, spirituality and relationships are abolished, and the idea of freedom and individuality extinguished. What makes this book so interesting is that it effectively describes what we are going through now, except that we have been conditioned even without having been brainwashed or engineered to have these kinds of lifestyles, attitudes, behaviors, perceptions and prejudices.

Pretty riveting stuff. I recommend it.

Thursday, Schmursday: Umberto Eco rocks, Goethe rules!

Breezed through another day at work with Goethe on my mind.

Enjoyed Umberto Eco’s “How to Travel with Salmon” immensely. I agree with the critical review of this book: Eco expertly balances the profound and the profane in a seamless group of really amusing, hilarious, sarcastic essays.

Among the essays I enjoyed:

1. How to Travel with Salmon – talks about what happens when you bring salmon with you on a business trip and what happens when you check in a hotel in London with it (begs the question, what the hell are you doing with salmon in the first place?!?).

2. How to Replace a Driver’s License – talks about navigating the wonderfully murky waters of bureaucracy and red tape when you lose your driver’s license in Italy.

3. How to Eat in Flight – talks about those little things we travelers have always wondered about: why is the food on flights always the kind that manage to spill on your shirt, or slide on the makeshift portable table or tastes really strange. 🙂

4. How to go through Customs – talks about how to survive going through customs when you land in airports. I wonder what Umberto Eco would say about the recent spate of paranoid security measures countries have made in their airports after 9/11?

5. How to take Intelligent Vacations – Actually talks about what books to bring during vacations. What books would you bring during flights? I usually bring the no-brainer ones. I don’t bring profound ones for vacations. They take too much work.

6. How to use the Taxi Driver – talks about how one talks to a taxi driver. My beef? Airport taxi drivers are rip-offs. Manila airport taxi drivers are the worst.

7. How not to know the Time – just don’t a watch.

8. How to buy Gadgets – talks about the growing obsession with gadgets. This was written either in the late 80s or early 90s, so I wonder what Umberto Eco would say about the technological advances we have made since then in gadgets? MP3s, USBs, laptops, digital cameras, mobile phones with cameras and radios and wi-fi, and so on. 😉

9. How to Follow Instructions – talks about that age-old problem we have always had with instructions: they’re decipherable and intelligible only to those who wrote it.

10. How not to Use a Fax Machine

11. Three Owls on a Chest of Drawers – probably one of my favorites. Reminds me of the time I was doing my master’s thesis. Talks about how one little ditty can churn out so much (over) analyses from scholars.

12. Sequels – because originals are always better.

13. How to Write an Introduction

14. How to Play Indians – funniest essay I’ve read.

15. How to Recognize a Porn Movie – great advice so you don’t waste your time.

16. The Miracle of San Baudolino – a great essay to end the book. Beautiful description of Umberto Eco’s hometown, Alessandria. 🙂

If you haven’t read Umberto Eco, go buy a book now.

DVD Junkie: Found “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” Season 2 (yay!)

So last year, in search of interesting things to watch and entertain myself with while I was in London, I came across a little-known anime show entitled “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, which is about a girl who one day, in a fit existential depression, realizes how insignificant she is  and how she must change the world to make herself matter and thus inadvertently, by conscious evolution, changes the world. Is she a god? An alien? A powerful being? It’s anyone’s guess. But this is one of the best shows I have ever watched so far. Plus, it’s really funny.

If you haven’t watched it, get thee to a DVD shop and buy yourself one of these!