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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

entry arrow9:06 PM | How to Write the Big Issue

"The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don't write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid's burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and you work off the resonance." 

 ~ Richard Price

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Monday, April 13, 2015

entry arrow1:58 PM | Pentimento

This is Hendrick Van Anthonissen’s Beach Scene, before and after the uncovering of its pentimento. I've always loved the idea of pentimento, which means "to repent" -- and in art encompasses painterly corrections or a changing of the mind in the creative process, which expose previous versions of the design. I remember this quote from Pentimento by Lillian Hellman: “Old paint on a canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. When that happens it is possible, in some pictures, to see the original lines: a tree will show through a woman's dress, a child makes way for a dog, a large boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento because the painter 'repented,' changed his mind. Perhaps it would be as well to say that the old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing and then seeing again. That is all I mean about the people in this book. The paint has aged and I wanted to see what was there for me once, what is there for me now.”

People come and go in our lives, leaving traces.

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entry arrow1:48 AM | Alone is Not Lonely

Hiromasa Yonebayashi's When Marnie Was There (2014) -- which might be the last offering we get from legendary Studio Ghibli, which has announced a "temporary" stoppage to film production -- is a wonderful, albeit small, film. It is a dialling back from the epic reaches of Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises (2013) and Isao Takahata's The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013), and which actually has much in common, spiritually speaking, with Takahata's Only Yesterday (1991).

Like that film, we follow a female protagonist in an almost accidental search for self in serene, laid-back Japanese countryside. In Marnie's case, however, we get not a mature woman but a socially awkward pubescent orphan named Anna, who would rather be alone and draw in her sketch book than deal with the curious interactions of other people. Life for Anna is compromised and painful, but then she meets Marnie in a seemingly abandoned mansion by the marsh. The blond young girl is gregarious and enchanting, and becomes Anna's first real friend -- but is she real, or is she a ghost? Or worse, is she merely the imagined projection of Anna's tortured wishes for a connection?

There are all these twists in the plot, borrowed from the book by Joan G. Robinson, but the whimsy of their unfolding, while interesting and beautifully rendered in animation in that signature Studio Ghibli eye for sparkling detail and minute movements, is not what hooked me. I was prepared to pronounce this as Studio Ghibli's subtle nod towards queer representation -- the relationship between Anna and Marnie skirts towards levels of intimacy that cannot be just friendship -- but its final turn somehow nullifies that possible reading, much to my disappointment. As is, the film's choices and conclusion become too much of a comfortable cliche in terms of a narrative twist. But then again we cannot fault a film for not becoming what it does not set out to be.

But I like the film. I like its quiet moments, those scenes where Anna longs to get lost in the woods or in the middle of a lake, with only herself as company. It reminded me of my own childhood, where my nightmares were all about having to deal with other people, and the true antidote to all that sociable connecteness was being alone, entertaining myself with my little games, or reading, or sketching the afternoons away in a kind of daydream. Being alone was less lonely than being in the middle of a crowd. I was Anna.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

entry arrow8:21 PM | Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976)

The thing about iconic films is that the best of their images are burned so deeply into our collective pop cultural memory that to choose a "best shot" to define our appreciation of them is an exercise fraught with peril, because the shots we do love -- Janet Leigh's dead eyes segueing from the shower drainage in Psycho, Julie Andrews making that first twirl in the hills in The Sound of Music, Tom Cruise hanging from that wire in the first Mission: Impossible -- make the very act of choosing them an exercise in cliche.

Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), lensed with pulsating savagery by Michael Chapman, is one of those films. Think about it. There's Travis Bickle preening before a mirror, asking "Are you talking to me?" There's Travis in a mohawk with fingers laced with blood. There's Travis taking Betsy out on a date in a porn theatre. There's Travis and Iris in that suffocating room where she takes her tricks. There's Travis and Sport in that final orgy of killings. All these in a burst of concentrated energy weaved together with slithering skill by Tom Rolf and Melvin Shapiro. (Thelma Schoonmaker would officially become Scorsese's go-to film editor starting in 1980 with Raging Bull.)

But the film above all is an examination of New York as the very embodiment of hell on earth, with Robert de Niro's character being a psychotic and self-righteous adventurer through the city's fiery highways, essentially playing Charon to its sinful denizens.

Which is why the film's first image serves well as the perfect introduction (and short hand) to its themes: here's a taxi weaving through hellish city smoke, itself tinged with the fiery red of the city's neon lights. It says, "Welcome to hell, and this is your ride."

It is my best shot for a film that is replete with so many best shots.

This post is part of Nathaniel Rogers' Hit Me With Your Best Shot series over at The Film Experience blog.


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entry arrow10:00 AM | A Studio Ghibli's Completist List


[First posted on 11 April 2014.] The first Studio Ghibli film I saw was Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies, and I’ve been hooked to the wonderful films of this Japanese animation studio ever since. Here is a rundown of what I have seen, and what I have yet to see...

[✓] Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

[✓] Castle in the Sky (1986), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

[✓] Grave of the Fireflies (1988), directed by Isao Takahata

[✓] My Neighbor Totoro (1988), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

[✓] Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

[✓] Only Yesterday (1991), directed by Isao Takahata

[✓] Porco Rosso (1992), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

[✓] Pom Poko (1994), directed by Isao Takahata

[✓] Whisper of the Heart (1995), directed by Yoshifumi Kondō

[✓] Princess Mononoke (1997), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

[✓] My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999), directed by Isao Takahata

[✓] Spirited Away (2001), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

[✓] The Cat Returns (2002), directed by Hiroyuki Morita

[✓] Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

[✓] Tales From Earthsea (2006), directed by Gorō Miyazaki

[✓] Ponyo (2008), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

[✓] Arriety (2010), directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi

[✓] From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), directed by Gorō Miyazaki

[✓] The Wind Rises (2013), directed by Hayao Miyazaki

[✓] The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013), directed by Isao Takahata

[✓] When Marnie Was There (2014), directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi

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Friday, April 10, 2015

entry arrow3:17 AM | "Now is the Envy of the Dead"

Don Hertzfeldt's latest animated effort, World of Tomorrow (2015), is a surprising curiosity: a short but thematically rambunctious meditation on life, the future and the possibilities of being human, and the imperative of living the best life you can right now. Catch it however you can.

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