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

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 36



[36th of 100]. Tom Hanks' Joe Fox in You've Got Mail makes an interesting point in one of his missives to Meg Ryan's Kathleen Kelly, which he revisits all throughout Nora Ephron's romantic comedy classic: that everything important he has learned in life he learned from this Francis Ford Coppola classic trilogy. And Joe Fox is right. What's not to learn from the greatest gangster epic ever made? Here are a few nuggets of wisdom to live by: "Never discuss the family business." "Always make them an offer they can't refuse." "Go to the mattresses." "Revenge is a dish best served cold." "A friend should always underestimate your virtues and an enemies overestimate your faults." "Never let anyone know what you're thinking." "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." [Knowing these lines also make the likes of Joe Fox the manliest of cinevores.] A lot of these quotes, of course, are cold advise in surviving a rotten, dangerous world -- but you could make the point that the world is exactly like that. And so we watch, and we absorb. I watch this trilogy at least once a year to remind me of that, but of course also other things: that cinematic genius can [often] elevate pulp fiction; that a confluence of masters -- the direction and screenplay of Coppola [with novelist Mario Puzo], the cinematography of Gordon Willis, the music of Nino Rota, the editing by William Reynolds, Peter Zinner, Barry Malkin, Richard Marks, Lisa Fruchtman, and Walter Murch, the powerhouse cast of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, among others -- can indeed create film entertainment of the highest order; and that Coppola's generation of filmmakers was a massive wave that did away with the stodginess of the old studio system, bringing newfound vitality to filmmaking, but also with it the hubris that would create its own end. It's a time capsule, and a fount of wisdom. What's the film trilogy?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Friday, May 29, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 35



[35th of 100]. This movie is the gateway drug to the surreal world of the Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel. I prefer this 1967 classic to his more celebrated 1972 film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie because in the latter film, the usual targets of his withering critique -- the upper class and the clergy -- may still bear the brunt of his harsh allegories but there is a sense of doing so in a deflected form of affection. In this movie, there is no such accommodation: it is harsh, and it is damning, and it is funny. Perhaps it is best to say now that the film is, of course, a comedy. A black comedy if you want to call it that. I mention The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie because the two films are often seen as bookends of the same conceit. In Bourgeoisie, wealthy people sit down to have dinner together, again and again, yet are always interrupted by some circumstances, and the food never comes. In this film, we get the opposite: a wealthy Spanish couple in the time of Franco hosts a dinner party -- but when the meal is over, everyone finds it mysteriously impossible to leave the room, even if there is no physical barrier to their departure. They settle in for the night, realizing only the severity of their predicament by morning. As the days go by, they hang on to the civility expected of their class, only to find it a frayed thing -- they become hungry, and dirty, and hysterical, eventually turning on one another in a kind of Lord of the Flies for the moneyed class. It is a delicious social satire that also delights with its unexplained surreal elements: What to make of the chained bear in the kitchen, or the sheep? Or the chicken claws in a handbag? Or the crawling disembodied hand? Why do the servants except for the majordomo hasten to leave the house even before the dinner guests start arriving? What to make of the fact that things seem to happen twice? Early in the evening of the dinner, the guests enter the house twice. During dinner, the host gives the same toast twice, to different reactions from the guests. Everything seems to beg for an interpretation, and I think that's one of the appeals of this movie: it's an intriguing puzzle you simply wish to solve. It was that inclination that first made me embrace the movie when I first saw it in college -- and I soon came to realize it's just one in the long run of delightful pranks Buñuel peppered his works with. Sure they are allegories, and sure you can read them however you want. My singular pleasure now is just to take them in and laugh at the demented sense of humour of this extraordinary filmmaker. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

entry arrow4:33 PM | Larry Kramer, 1935-2020



I've been holding off giving my usual personal tributes to people I've admired when they pass on simply because there has been too much of these passings on of late. But I couldn't ignore Larry Kramer. When I began studying gay literature with some seriousness in the 2000s, his name was the one name that kept popping up, and quickly I learned who he was: author of the play The Normal Heart and the novel Faggots, angry man of American gay literature, and the activist who led the chorus of angry voices damning the American establishment for turning a blind eye to the ravages wrought by the early waves of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. He is probably the most important figure in gay literature and LGBTQ activism, and for all that he has done, he should be remembered.

Read The New York Times obituary here.

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entry arrow1:27 PM | Hersley's Faces



One fascinating thing about the art of Hersley Casero is his fascination for faces in miniature grouped together to create a kind of mass, a kind of shape, like this whale. Often he starts out his paintings by doing these faces on canvas, and then he paints over them with the final elements of the painting's images. For him it's a kind of ritual with almost magical connotations, the details of which I have promised not to reveal.

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entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 34



[34th of 100]. People who know me well enough know that I have an almost morbid interest in horror films, devouring everything from supernatural horror to the weird, from psychological horror to the slasher, from creature features to body horror, from monster movies to comedy horror -- although I draw the line at the unexcusable sadism of torture porn, and anything dealing with snakes. Around October of every year, I program for myself a monthlong Halloween marathon centering around a theme. In 2018, I did "Women in Peril" films. Why do I do this? I like that horror takes me out of myself, allowing me an experience of utter terror but within the controlled confinement of a fictional story. Horror becomes an exercise of trauma experienced in mithridatism. [It also gives me the absolute pleasure of watching my significant other squirm in his seat with every drip of dread and drop of shock. His response to horror is experiential, he feels every blow and every bite, and he recoils from them. Needless to say, he hates watching horror movies, but I love bringing him to them.] Why do I devour horror movies? I can trace it to my first movie experience: a 1978 disaster film titled The Swarm, which I saw in a movie theater in Bayawan. I must have been only 3 or 4 years old, and the memory of seeing children being attacked onscreen by a wild swarm of bees proved indelible, the menace of the scene magnified by the oversized image pulsing with light from the screen and the embracing darkness of the El Oriente Theater. The Swarm was a singular scare -- although watching the film again so many years later, I was amused by how silly and stultifyingly unscary the movie actually was. But if I have to pinpoint a particular film that first defined for me what unadulterated cinematic horror was -- something visceral that gripped you -- it has to be this demonic horror from 1973. It has not lost its power to disturb even after all these years, and I think it sprang from the sure control the director, William Friedkin, had over the material, shaping it from the pulp fiction of William Peter Blatty. Note that it does not shy away from its backstory, that extensive epilogue in the deserts of Persia where the titular exorcist, Max Von Sydow's Fr. Lankester Merrin, goes through an archaeological dig and finds himself confronting ancient evil. That epilogue sets the tone for the cumulative evil that soon explodes in a Georgetown townhouse -- the kind of evil that eclipses all others because it has a religious dimension, and the weight of the possibly true. All the Regan scenes for me -- from the dehumanizing discomfort of the hospital tests in the beginning to the suffocating demonization that would soon occupy all -- shocked because no one had ever dramatized this kind of horror in such visceral compositions. I have no doubt this film gave me sleepless nights when I first saw it. I re-lived a bit of that trauma years later when I saw The Exorcism of Emily Rose [2005], a film which owes a lot of its existence to the Friedkin masterpiece. After watching it, I found myself waking up at 3 AM sharp every morning [the film's designated evil hour], as well as get the whiff of a burning smell [the film's designated sign for an evil presence]. That went on for six months straight, a tiring extended episode of my own psychology torturing me in light of a horror film. And still I watch, daring myself once and again with this morbid exercise. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

entry arrow12:00 PM | Poetry Wednesday, No. 22.



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entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 33



[33rd of 100]. Food in cinema is one of my favorite things, and there's a feast of it, from Like Water for Chocolate to Babette's Feast, from Mostly Martha to Chef, from Big Night to Ratatouille, from Tampopo to Kailangan Kita, from Julie & Julia to The Hundred-Foot Journey, from Burnt to No Reservations. Not all of them have been made with the requisite delicacy, but even the least of these contain extended food scenes -- either in the preparation or in the consumption -- that simply whet the appetite. I'm talking about films where the culinary occupies a central place in the narrative, not merely movies with memorable food scenes. In these films, food is usually an allegory for the travails of creativity, or a metaphor for what makes us human -- standing in for our consuming desires, our expressions of thanksgiving, our dreams of invention, our notion of community, our attempts at connection. All encapsulated in images of mouth-watering plenty. My favorite of them all is this gem from the early works of the Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee. He does what all these films set out to do, and does it in the vocabulary of Chinese cuisine, where he asks us to follow the domestic drama of an elderly widower -- a retired chef -- and his three daughters all ripe for love and the promise of life beyond the walls of their father's abode. The opening scenes alone, where the father preps a thousand ingredients for what seems to be a banquet of a "simple" Sunday family dinner, prepare us for the abundance of food in this film, and we are immediately rendered ravenous. But in the actual dinner sequence, which comes a bit later, we shockingly learn that all that food we've seen so far being prepared lacks the expected flavors; the father has long since lost his sense of taste -- which then prepares us for the conflict in this story: beneath the surface, something is not right in the dynamics of this family. And then the domestic hijinks unroll -- all the secrets and lies, all the passion and desire, giving us a domestic comedy like no other. It's a beautiful film, one of those that first opened my eyes to the glory of Asian cinema, and of the form that I wish its director would return to once again. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 32



[32nd of 100]. Of all the easy riders and raging bulls that came to prominence in the late 1960s to the 1970s -- Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas, Schrader, Bogdanovich, Beatty, Kubrick, Hopper, Nichols, May, Allen, Fosse, Benton, Penn, Cassavetes, Altman, Ashby, Rafelson, Friedkin, Milius, and Malick -- the one that reminds me most about obsession of all things cinema is, incredibly enough, Brian De Palma. He bends his cinema to be about cinema itself, wearing his influences on his sleeve and treating cinematography in peculiar ways that not only add something concrete to the narrative, they are self-conscious enough for us to take note of his techniques considerably, and yet not be distracted from the elegance of the story he is telling. I guess you could say that De Palma's impact on me is on how to bend my cinevoracity to actually become concrete and real filmmaking. [I'm still getting there.] Take this film. Those in the know can tell you that perhaps the biggest influence on De Palma's filmmaking is the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock [and also Michelangelo Antonioni, Sergei Eisenstein, among many others], hence the propensity to do thrillers: in this film, he cribs without apology the structure of Hitchcock's Psycho, and lets us follow ostensibly the protagonist -- a wealthy but bored New York housewife who succumbs to her desires, and midway in the film, ends up just like Janet Leigh in the shower getting a gruesome end in an elevator. [Is that a spoiler?] And then just like that, we are in an entirely new narrative track. He does Hitchcock, yes, but he goes beyond mere homage and teases out the overt carnality in the story that Hitchcock could never do. And everywhere else, cribbing the manipulated point-of-view insisted on us by Psycho's camera, this film also does sleights of hand with regards camera movement, including the now-famous tracking shots in the long and wordless museum sequence, the camera building up on the action, resulting to sexual tension. What to make of this film? It's difficult enough to describe it. Aside from the horny housewife, we also get her dutiful son, and a woman who's ensnared enough in the housewife's bloody problems to become a Nancy Drew of sorts. And I'm not even mentioning the gentleman in the museum who may or may not have STD, the switchblade-wielding killer, the cross-dresser, the disbelieving cop, and Michael Caine's curious psychologist. I make mention of the film's nod to sexuality because eroticism -- both sensual [which must be succumbed to] and sinful [which must subsequently be punished ] -- is perhaps the key to understanding most of the filmography of this director, from Carrie to Sisters to Scarface to Body Double to Femme Fatale. His camera does not hesitate to undress nubile bodies [usually in showers], and his storytelling does not hesitate to link sexuality to unhinged powers and depraved motivations. I first saw this film in Betamax sometime in the early 1990s when I was in high school, and needless to say, it seduced me: it made me see that cinematic carnality does not necessarily have to have pornographic simple-mindedness, it can be used to plunge deep into a character's psychology. De Palma among his cohorts remain the one director who made this kind of cinema his calling card, and perhaps to his detriment. I like that we live in a world where a film like this exists. I doubt this could be made today. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Monday, May 25, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 31



[31st of 100]. This movie shouldn't work. It's set in the early 1960s, in the posh Catskill enclaves for vacationing Jewish-Americans of means -- but it's a movie that cannot shake off its 1987 feels. It stars two actors of fantastic chemistry -- but who detested each other all throughout filming. The dancing, as promised, ain't that dirty -- in fact, Joel Silberg's Lambada, coming three years later, would be "dirtier." And if you have seen the episode of The Movies That Made Us on Netflix devoted to its making, its production was a mess from beginning to end. But for some reason, it worked. It became an unlikely hit, and an unlikely pop cultural fixture that we're still quoting ["Nobody puts Baby in a corner"] and remembering all these years later. I think most of the magic of this film can be attributed to its unlikely director, the late Emile Ardolino, who's mostly unremembered now but was responsible for a string of feel-good hits we've come to love, including Chances Are (1989), Three Men and a Little Lady (1990), Sister Act (1992), and The Nutcracker (1993). [He would pass on at age 50 in 1993 from AIDS complications.] He was the movie's quiet captain, with a great eye for dance [he won the Oscar for his 1983 documentary feature He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin'], and a way of handling gently all the surrounding drama of the production. He had an ability to construct a strong film from a heap of production mess with his uncanny sense of tone. All of his films have that: a light tone that just has a bit of an edge, tinged with a willingness to embrace the exuberance of performance that you could call joy. Think about these moments in his films: that final choral performance in Sister Act, that piano interlude with Robert Downey Jr. playing "After All" in Chances Are, that last dance sequence set to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes' "(I've Had) The Time of My Life"! in this movie. "He could spot something in the moment and just go with it, and capture it," producer Linda Gottlieb would later attest to his genius. I remember watching this film in 1987 [I was 12!] in Ever Theatre, lured in by its poster of a dancing couple in a scandalous clinch -- and it felt so forbidden, and necessary, that I think this must have colored the experience of moviegoing for me in the years to come. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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entry arrow6:48 AM | Marawi Fireflies



I love this, although it’s also quite sad. Artist Brent Sabas remakes Seita and Setsuko from Grave of the Fireflies as Marawi children. Rappler gives us this reminder: “Three years since the gun-toting terrorists besieged the city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur, more than 120,000 residents are still displaced from their homes, leaving them vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.” 

Read the report here.

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Sunday, May 24, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Fillm Meme No. 30



[30th of 100]. I read the novel by Lauren Weisberger in 2003 because it was making headlines as the barely veiled take-down of Vogue editor Anna Wintour. I found the prose excruciating, but it made me laugh. It was precious and glamorous and I was amused by its willing embrace of its sensationalism, but I never saw the appeal. So when they announced the movie adaptation three years later, I was intrigued over what Meryl Streep could bring to a character that was more or less a cardboard cutout. I was in for a surprise, and it proved the rarity: that sometimes, like in The Godfather, the film is so much better than its trashy origins in fiction. It unspooled like the smoothest of pop concoctions -- the music, the knock-out fashion sense of Patricia Field, the performances, with the titular devil given more dimension and nuance without sacrificing the devilishness. Granted there are one or two things that grate, like the worthless friends and boyfriend who are inexplicably made out to be moral compasses, but this movie is an exemplar of commercial filmmaking. There was a time in the very recent past when I'd play the opening credits of this movie every morning, imbibing in the gloriousness of that wake-up-and-let's-get-ready-to-go-to-work sequence to the tune of KT Tunstall's "Suddenly I See." Watching this together with R. J. Cutler's The September Issue, the documentary that was more or less Wintour's response to the book and film, makes for an aspirational combo that delves into the drama of creativity. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 29



[29th of 100]. There is a briskness to this movie that belies its one hour and 45 minute running time: it always feel like it's too short, that there should be more. And perhaps that speaks volumes to the appeal of the movie, which has become a cult classic. What's not to like? It has Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in camp of the highest order, playing narcissistic would-be zombies who have discovered the "fountain of youth" [and paid grimly its price]. It makes us ponder a little bit more the concepts of immortality and beauty and youth, and the lengths people go to to achieve them. And it is extremely, wickedly funny. Nothing is wasted in this black comedy, from broken necks to belly holes -- it is the peak of the director's long streak of imaginative hits that started with Romancing the Stone in 1984 to Cast Away in 2000, including the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, Contact, and What Lies Beneath. [What a streak!] When this movie came out in 1992, it featured special effects of comedic mayhem that was groundbreaking for its time, from the team that would also give us the magic of Jurassic Park the very next year. And the special effects are still remarkable so many years later, more than the CGI monstrosities we get these days. It allowed me to laugh at the macabre, and in beholding Meryl Streep embracing farce gave me permission to embrace the kookiness of things. Comedy can be very serious. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Friday, May 22, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 28



[28th of 100]. I loved this movie when it first came out in 1989. It was one of the first to stir me into the life of the cineaste. And it also awakened the nascent literary creature in me, and ripened me for what I do now, which is teach. So if this list has to be a rundown of films that impacted me, this one contains my origin story. In 1989, I was a high school freshman, just beginning to think of a life in letters, and romanticising that life as I went about penning bad poems and making haphazard attempts at fiction. And so when this movie arrived, I was more than primed for it: it caught me like the explosion of a bomb. What's not to respond to in this film? It follows a group of boys, roughly my age, who are discovering the beauty [and the perils?] of poetry, and finding a mentor in an unconventional teacher who makes them see the world anew from atop a desk, who makes them recite verse while playing football, and who earnestly reminds them to "Carpe diem! Seize the day!" I was in love, or to be more precise: the romantic boy in me fell in love. For the longest time, this movie became the benchmark with which I judged other films -- and while that is no longer true today, I still consider it a "perfect" film, flaws and all, because I remember being moved most by it. Which is why I take issue when later criticism of it has since disregarded it as something sentimental and maudlin. It wears its heart on its sleeve, yes, but I doubt it is maudlin: this is after all a film by Peter Weir who -- in films like The Truman Show, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Mosquito Coast, and Witness -- has demonstrated that he can move us by showing us just enough. Years later, when I found myself teaching, a career I never thought I'd be doing, this was the movie that somehow validated the choice. I still sometimes make my students climb and stand on top of their monobloc chairs to make them see the "world" in a new light, or at least a different angle. I know now that life is more complex than simple declarations of Latin phrases or standing on chairs or tables, but the film is a capsule of a more innocent time, and I'm glad for the reminder once in a while. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 27



[27th of 100]. There is an extended joke at the very beginning of the movie -- which is about the assorted goings on in the production of a French film -- when a television crew visits the shoot and proceeds to individually interview the principal cast members what the movie is all about. The sound bytes that result are a scream: each actor manages to give a summary of the movie with their character as the focal point of the entire drama. It's very much like asking Gus the Mouse what Walt Disney's Cinderella is all about, and the answer you get is something like, "Well, it's about a mouse who gets lost in a big house, and soon finds himself being taken care of by this strange optimistic girl who lives in the attic, is covered in soot, and has terrible family members to attend to." That narcissism is the ties that bind the threads of this comedy classic by one of France's most celebrated filmmakers: the actors are narcissistic, but so are the rest of the denizens of this unlikely community [from the script girl down to the grip]; even the town's police chief who has given them permission to shoot on location has allowed himself access to the set like a godfather of some sort, bringing girls with him hoping they could catch the eye of some producer. The friction of all of these egos clashing together -- buttered by a genuine care for the process of making a collaborative art -- is the drama that makes this movie delicious. In my film production class, I always screen this movie to give my students an idea of what it can be like to make a film, the heartaches and painful logistics that go with it demonstrated in equal measure of parody and love letter. [What's it like to film animals? You'll get a funny demonstration here.] Watching this now and again is always enlightening. And the layers! The director is meta enough to make a film about filmmaking -- parodying it in the process, and meta enough to cast himself as the director of that film within the film. I said that the movie is a love letter to filmmaking, and it is: in the end, after the martini has been taken, and despite all the shenanigans thus far, the crew members pack up their stuff, already missing the weeks spent together in close quarters, a farewell to a creative family meeting its end, and hoping that could be reconstructed elsewhere in another job, in another set of personal dramas to battle with. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

entry arrow4:09 PM | Poetry Wednesday, No. 21.



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entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 26



[26th of 100]. The sheer delight of this political comedy has remained with me ever since it came out in 1993. For the longest time I could not think of anyone positively presidential and first lady-ish except its leads, a pop cultural precursor to the Obamas, if you think about it. It lampoons Washington, D.C. politics but also underlines their gravity, and I think it is that combination that has made this movie more memorable than its makers probably set it out to be. In the film, we meet an every day Joe, the proprietor of a temp agency who moonlights as an impersonator of the American President in their little town simply because -- well, he looks very much like the President. Strange circumstances take him to D.C., and stranger circumstances lead him to actually take on the job of the presidency -- as a puppet of ambitious insiders. This sounds like a grim political drama, but it is a testament to the brilliant alchemy of direction, screenplay, and action that what we get instead is a lampoon of the highest order: intelligent, warm-hearted, incredibly funny. It is also, I think, the pinnacle of the director's signature light touch in filmmaking -- and that's speaking of a filmography that includes the two Ghostbusters movies, Twins, Meatballs, Kindergarten Cop, and Junior. This one towers above them all. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 25



[25th of 100]. At the apex of this film, an adaptation of a play by Christopher Hampton from the deliciously late-18th century scandalous novel by Choderlos de Laclos, the two sexy and amoral predators of this tale take off their masks, and reveal the inner hurt that defines their motivations. The Marquise de Merteuil, indelibly played by Glenn Close, forces us little by little to listen to her shattering confession. Upon being asked by the Vicomte de Valmont how she had managed to "invent" herself, she replies: "I had no choice, did I? I'm a woman. Women are obliged to be far more skilful than men. You can ruin our reputation and our life with a few well-chosen words. So of course I had to invent not only myself but ways of escape no one has ever thought of before. And I've succeeded because I've always known I was born to dominate your sex and avenge my own ... When I came out into society, I was 15. I already knew that the role I was condemned to, namely to keep quiet and do what I was told, gave me the perfect opportunity to listen and observe. Not to what people told me, which was naturally of no interest, but to whatever it was they were trying to hide. I practiced detachment. I learned how to look cheerful while, under the table, I stuck a fork into the back of my hand. I became a virtuoso of deceit. It wasn’t pleasure I was after, it was knowledge. I consulted the strictest moralists to learn how to appear; philosophers to find out what to think; and novelists to see what I could get away with. And in the end I distilled everything to one wonderfully simple principle: Win or die." It is an assessment of human nature that I have come to more or less accept, although I still have some optimism left in me. I've printed out this monologue on a tiny piece of paper, which I have kept in my wallet since 1999, when I graduated from college and when I also saw its contemporized version in Cruel Intentions. I imagined myself then a Valmont if I were more sociopathic, but Merteuil's scathing "win or die" was the thing that shook me to the core. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Monday, May 18, 2020

entry arrow1:14 PM | Monday.



Let's try again with this life on quarantine.

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entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 24



[24th of 100]. Of all this filmmaker's celebrated filmmography, this one is my emotional favorite -- although Fanny and Alexander [1982] is a close second and Persona [1966] a distant third. You cannot look away from this movie: it begins with shots of nature shrouded in fog, and as we enter a bedroom where we spy on the sleeping protagonists, the camera leads us to one sleeping face, which soon wakes, and then grimaces in quiet pain. But you cannot look away. And then the drama starts, and the movie, we see, is splattered with color [especially crimson] and shot with such careful composition, all of which somehow correlate directly with the pain bursting at its seams. Three sisters and a female servant come together in a secluded but sprawling estate to provide companionship to one of the sisters who is dying from cancer -- and from their interactions come charging themes of femininity and faith, and most of all, the meaning of suffering. And yet despite the grim sound of all of that, I found the film stirring with uncanny hopefulness and humanity best encapsulated by its closing sequence: a fantastical image of the four women dressed in white, carrying parasols, enjoying the sun and the trees as spring deepens, untouched by pain. It asks to consider all of life, its delirious ups and excruciating downs, but still come away believing that, “Come what may, this is happiness. I cannot wish for anything better. Now, for a few minutes, I can experience perfection and I feel profoundly grateful to my life, which gives me so much.” This has resonated with me forever. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 23



[23rd of 100]. Talk about impact. The novel by Carl Sagan, the late great romancer of science, was beloved by me. Its prose influenced so much how I imagined the beginnings of my short story "A Strange Map of Time," which won the 1st Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards sponsored by Neil Gaiman in 2006. The film adaptation of the novel came out in 1997, around the time I came back from a year of living in Japan to finish my studies at Silliman -- a time of so much ferment that led to so much productivity in the 2000s. I will forever associate the movie and the novel to that time, and I think I know why: it is a tale of consuming passion when everyone else around you tells you you're looking for the impossible -- only for the possible to happen, taking you on a singular journey that defies´ the understanding of those who didn't go on it. It asks, fundamentally, this: What do you believe in? As a young writer, I grappled with that question as well, and I think an underlying theme to things I've written is really about faith. [Read "Things You Don't Know."] The film is an encapsulation for all of these. I follow the travails of its protagonist as she looks for answers to her questions to the stars, adamant in her search regardless of gigantic, often bureaucratic, roadblocks. And then the answers come from the skies as alien ciphers she [and now the rest of the world] must try to decode, which leads to the construction of a ship, which leads to a leap into the void. The philosophical and scientific fireworks of this story are immense. The movie received less than accommodating responses from critics when it was first released, which I never understood. It is a perfect distillation of an epic scale without sacrificing much of the philosophy that drove the Sagan novel. But I guess the movie, like its protagonist, is always misunderstood, but it pushes ahead anyway, searching for a map through the stars while everyone else is happy being earthbound. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Saturday, May 16, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 22



[22nd of 100]. It took quite a while to see this 2007 movie, years after its release in fact. [The one constant in Philippine cinema is its poor distribution, which has contributed in immeasurable ways to its curious lack of wider appreciation. It is truly ironic that a Filipino cineaste will have more access to ... say, Albanian films than Filipino films. Unless you live in Manila, of course.] In the time that it took to finally reach me, it had evolved to a kind of magical starting point for several things: that this was the calling card to the industry that soon "made" one of its co-directors, leading to such films as Heneral Luna and Goyo; that this essentially jumpstarted the rebirth of Cebuano cinema, leading to the influx to the mainstream the likes of Ara Chawdhury, Remton Zuasola, Christian Linaban, Keith Deligero, Victor Villanueva, Maria Victoria Beltran, Chai Fonacier, and many others; that its powerful reception was an early marker for the eventual cumulative success of the Cinema One Originals. Its reputation was sterling and remote, but sight unseen I couldn't care less -- until I finally saw it, admittedly in bootleg copy, and was soon overwhelmed by its power: it was precise, it was exquisitely told, it was defiant in its message. None of these are diminished by the obviously low budget aesthetics, which adds only to the documentary feel of the thing. What is the story? A young filmmaker goes to Cebu to document the Sinulog Festival, and unwittingly encounters a local politician who taps him to record his confessions of misdeeds while in office. The result is a shock to the system. All told, the movie earns very much all its plaudits, and as a starting point to the new golden age of Cebuano cinema, it also earns our thanks. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

entry arrow1:26 PM | The Film Meme No. 21



[21st of 100]. I have a soft heart for [often] impenetrable movies with very strong, very intoxicating visual styles, and I take to them like they are poems where you have to surrender the need for prosaic logic, and embrace instead the symphony of images and the surreal headiness of the experience. This is why I love Leos Carax's Holy Motors (2012), and Darren Aronofsky's mother! (2017), and the phantasmagoria of Tarsem Singh [2000's The Cell above all] -- which I really think comes from my initial orgasmic responses to Dimitri Kirsanoff's Ménilmontant (1926), Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali's Un Chien Andalou (1929), Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera (1929), and Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), as well as the dazzling documentaries by Godfrey Reggio [the Qatsi trilogy] and Ron Fricke [Baraka and Samsara]. They come off to me as pure cinema, unburdened by a literal story [or at least adhering to the usual demands of narrative], but magnifying the primacy of the image in telling a story. For this list, I could have chosen any of above titles as representative of personal impact in the regard I am discussing them, but one title kept coming back to me: this strange 1969 "biography" of the great 18th century Armenian poet and musician Armenian poet Sayat-Nova. It doesn't waste time telling a straightforward story, opting instead to settle for shots that mimic Armenian miniature paintings and medieval manuscripts, every image an allegory and metaphor. Needless to say, the movie is certainly not for everyone, certainly not those demanding coherence or structure. I would even agree I have not seen this film in the best way possible -- my laptop screen can only do so much, and there is no way to surrender fully to the movie's lushness and idiosyncrasy if it is not magnified majestically on a wide screen. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

entry arrow10:25 AM | The Film Meme No. 20



[20th of 100]. Whenever I see a sprawling adventure epic that has a huge cast and employs small but pivotal segments that take place in countless [often exotic] places, I see the fingerprint of this movie all over them. This movie's breathtaking stitching together of incidents that point to a mystery -- airport controllers noting reports of a UFO, scientists arriving in the deserts of Mexico to examine the sudden appearance of long lost World War II airplanes and being told by an old witness that the "sun sang," the same scientists arriving in India to be told by a mass gathering of people that the fantastical music they heard came from the skies, a mother and her toddler in Indiana suddenly being terrorized by mysterious lights -- made for a sweeping prologue that was breathtaking for its scope. It is such an influential narrative shorthand, we see it now in movies hoping to achieve the same feel for worldwidish scope, including 2012 or The Core or Godzilla. This movie also signalled the filmmaker's thorough handling of its story. And then to have that epic scope suddenly be dialled down to the singular tale of a troubled family man haunted by visions he cannot understand -- that shift was amazing. I never saw anything like this narrative when I first saw it on videotape in the early 1990s. It was my introduction to the filmmaker's work, and it is certainly an excellent primer to his cinematic vision, his conceits of storytelling, his directorial ticks. I was so taken by it, I even devoured the excellent novelization of it. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

entry arrow12:03 PM | Poetry Wednesday, No. 20.



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entry arrow8:23 AM | The Film Meme No. 19



[19th of 100]. The ease with which movie lovers become what they are today impresses me: Netflix and other streaming devices abound, as well as torrents in the more illegal shade of things. You want to see an obscure French silent film from 1926 that apparently is über film critic Pauline Kael's favorite of all the movies that she has seen? Dimitri Kirsanoff's Menilmontant is on YouTube in all its restored glory, readily available in just a few short strokes of the keyboard. I envy, sort of. This is so starkly different from becoming a cineaste in the mid-1990s, which for me was an occupation of diligent passion. It was hard work that entailed three things: hearsay, scholarship, and a kind of archaeology. Hearsay, because someone else could only regale you with descriptions of a great movie you haven't seen, you conjuring images in your head helped along with movie stills printed in books and magazines. [I remember my film classes with Jonah Lim where he would lecture about film history describing specific scenes to illustrate a point about the elements of film. When it was my turn to teach that class many years later, description gave way to the actual clips I got from YouTube.] Scholarship, because the lack of the actual films only spurred you to read film history books, as well as biographies of film artists. [In high school and college, I devoured books about Ingrid Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, Lino Brocka, and so many others, as well as published screenplays.] And archaeology, because the 1990s was the height of the video boom -- Betamax giving way to VHS, and laser disks giving way to VCD and DVD. If you wanted a good film education, you had to have the best suki video store in town which could give you titles swimming in the ocean of commercial films you were not interested in. Finding the masters was a matter of looking, looking, looking, digging in. [I was lucky that a retail store near the Dumaguete marketplace named Good Luck Store kept a video collection of the most surprising cinematic taste: for some reason, it had in its inventory the earliest Ang Lee, Wong Kar Wai, Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, Quentin Tarantino, David O. Russell, Gregg Araki, as well as a plethora of the classics. When Cinema One came around, I learned to record with my first VHS machine their endless array of Filipino classics.] It was really hard work; the 1990s was the decade Dumaguete began losing its movie theaters. I'm writing all of these because it was in this context with which I came to know this film I'm writing about for today's meme. Every single film history book I read declared it "the best film achievement of all time." Sight & Sound Magazine placed it at the top spot for several decades in its once-in-a-decade survey of film artists and scholars. So I read books about its making, books about its influence, books about its director. I never saw the film itself. Until I found, around 1997, a semi-moldy Betamax copy of it in the dusty shelves of Silliman University's School of Communication in Guy Hall. I eagerly borrowed it to FINALLY watch it -- and when I did, I was profoundly ... bored. And the questions came: What was that all about? How is this "the greatest film ever made"? All of my earnest study of film in the 1990s -- which, in hindsight, really was inchoate -- gave way to this unsettling disappointment. But a voice at the back of my head kept insisting: "Give it time. You're not ready." I watched it again sometime later, and still the disappointment remained. And still the voice came: "Give it time. You're not ready." The third time, the fourth time, the fifth time, all disappointments ... but along the way I learned more about film history, film theory, and film production. By the sixth time [this was already in the early 2000s], something clicked. Every thing I had learned thus far about film suddenly became clear in this epic story of a newspaper magnate in the examination of the terrific highs and terrible lows of his large life: the crisp and formal structure of the screenplay, the manipulation of time, the ingenious mise-en-scene and production design, the deep focus photography. I saw the genius, finally, which my contemporary eye had obscured for a long time. This certainly was a film so far ahead of its time, and I had to reckon that it had led a revolution, and that many of the things I love now about cinema started with this one. [This is the mindset with which I have also learned to appreciate the films of Georges Méliès, D.W. Griffith, Edwin S. Porter, and Sergei Eisenstein -- films which would look crude and old to the undiscerning contemporary eye, but are really like the first modest stars that burned brightly after the Big Bang, so to speak.] I love this film now, and I watch it at least once a year, sometimes with a commentary track. [The best is Roger Ebert's.] This film taught me patience, and taught me that the best kind of appreciation comes from study, from being suspicious of boredom, from equipping oneself with the necessary tools to navigate art you sometimes have no map for. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

entry arrow8:54 AM | The Film Meme No. 18



[18th of 100]. The first image we see in this wonderful Iranian film from 1997 is that of a battered pair of pink shoes being repaired, an extensive shot going over the opening credits that soon pulls out to reveal the shop and a boy waiting for the shoeman to finish. Those shoes, which will soon be lost, will be a recurring motif, the McGuffin so to speak, for us to observe the ordinary lives in all their big and small dramas of a poor Tehran family -- the boy's, and his little sister [who owns those shoes] and their mother and father. It is a heartbreaking, heartening film that will immediately remind you of De Sica's Bicycle Thieves or the more recent Capernaum, the Lebanese film by Nadine Labaki. What is it about lost things and the hapless children that look for them that allow us uncompromising peeks into troubled societies but with strong humanist agenda? How do lost shoes upend the lives of ordinary people? Films like this in the hands of a lesser filmmaker would be maudlin and manipulative, but Majid Majidi defies that by insisting on a story so earthbound and so culturally specific. I discovered this film in college, my first Iranian film actually, and was so moved by it that I actually made it the centerpiece of an Asian film festival I immediately programmed for our campus film society then. [I got into trouble with school authorities because I also included Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubinee, which somebody protested as pornographic.] What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Monday, May 11, 2020

entry arrow3:10 PM | Nostalgia Tunes



Listening to the Eraserheads’ Sabado/1995, a two-song album they released in 2014 via Esquire Magazine. Haven’t listened to these tracks in ages because CD. [Buti na lang I still have my CD drive accessory for my Air.]

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entry arrow8:36 AM | The Film Meme No. 17



[17th of 100]. Perfection is often both orchestrated and accidental. You can readily see the workman polish exhibited in this film by a director steeped in the culture and aesthetics of the old studio system. But from what we know now of its production, almost nothing seemed ready or certain in the filming, from a contentious script that was being finished while scenes were being filmed, to cardboards and fog that made for a lack of real airplane. But it all somehow came together, winning audiences and accolades in the end -- with the film now very much a testament of Hollywood magic. The lines are still memorable [and endlessly quotable, if often misquoted], the various mise-en-scene still being studied for their genius, the chemistry of its actors still being held up as exemplars of stardom. I love this movie. It grows and glows with each screening. From Morocco to France, we follow a doomed love story that somehow also lends to uplift in the end, while still touching on themes such as patriotism and betrayal, friendships and the consideration of enemies, and love and sacrifice above all else. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Sunday, May 10, 2020

entry arrow9:36 AM | The Film Meme No. 16



[16th of 100]. There are many fantastic films about the heroism of journalism in the face of assorted peril [All The President's Men, The Paper, Spotlight, The Post] and even some about its frailties [Absence of Malice, Shattered Glass, Ace in the Hole, Network] -- but the one that seemed to get under its skin the most is this film. It follows three broadcast journalists working for a major network -- a brilliant but prickly reporter, an ace producer, and a charming but unproven anchor -- and not only give us a kind of love triangle, but also a brilliant observation on the mechanics of the work, and what people would do to get the story and tell it well for the public good. It is also an incisive comedy of manners, and I think the film played a major part in my late teen's new dream to pursue journalism. And taking the film's cue, sometimes I just cry for no reason just to breathe. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Saturday, May 09, 2020

entry arrow6:27 AM | The Film Meme No. 15



[15th of 100]. No one will claim this film to be an exercise in stark realism. Truman Capote, the author of the novella that this film is based on, reportedly threw a hissy fit when the actress he imagined the role of Holly Golightly for -- Marilyn Monroe -- was passed over for Audrey Hepburn, who before she was cast in this film embodied women of youthful innocence and quiet elegance. There is no quiet elegance in a dark comedy about a New York call girl! Nonetheless, the film that subsequently happened has since passed on to popular culture as a high mark in the waning days of Old Hollywood, and yes, also an unlikely primer for quiet elegance, alas. Those opening scenes of Holly Golightly demonstrating the titular morning meal clad in the now iconic little black dress, coupled with the melancholic tune of that everlasting Henry Mancini score, is indeed a cinematic sequence of no equal. This was grit, old Hollywood style, and for some reason it worked. The film is certainly not a commentary on social ills the way Capote probably wanted it to be, but it is a triumph of tone. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Friday, May 08, 2020

entry arrow3:43 AM | The Film Meme No. 14



[14th of 100]. An American remake is never usually a good thing. The cinematic landscape is littered with the carcasses of misbegotten ventures, from The Vanishing [1993] to Vanilla Sky [2001] to The Wicker Man [2006] to Old Boy [2013] to Downhill [2020], give or take some relative success that still pale in comparison to their non-American original. But there's something about this remake that stands equal to its French inspiration. The bright South Beach, Florida colors? The confident direction? The scintillating screenplay by Elaine May? The mainstream visibility of drag queens pre-RuPaul's Drag Race? The glorious cast who embodied their roles and infused them with the magnetism of their individual actorly schtick? I say all of the above. Some of the sexual politics may no longer be as sharp in our contemporary sense of things, but the humor has withstood the withering/weathering demands of time. I still laugh at every joke, every pratfall. In the heart of it all is the dynamism of Robin Williams gilded by the gift that is Nathan Lane. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Thursday, May 07, 2020

entry arrow2:38 PM | Peque Gallaga, 1943-2020

I'm devastated, what a loss this is. Oro Plata Mata meant so much to me as a cineaste in the 1990s. I loved Scorpio Nights, Virgin Forest, Magic Temple, Aswang, and Sonata, too. You know how much regard I had for Peque Gallaga? This is my evidence: having a picture with him, basically fanboying. Look at my face. People who know me know I do not like having pictures taken with me and any celebrity or VIP. [And I've met so many. Not even Pres. Gerald Ford when he came to Dumaguete!] So when I do, that means something.



Philippine cinema has lost a giant today. Peque Gallaga was born in Manila on 25 August 1943 as Maurice Claudio Luis Ruiz de Luzuriaga Gallaga, finishing his elementary and secondary education at De La Salle University. But his roots -- and where he would eventually make his home [as well as muse] -- was Bacolod, Negros Occidental. Here, he earned his bachelor's degree in commerce and liberal arts at the University of St. La Salle. Moving back to Manila after graduation, he found himself working on television musicals, and eventually co-directed the film Binhi with Butch Perez in 1973. He did the production design with Laida Lim-Pérez for Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? in 1976, as well as for Ishmael Bernal’s Manila By Night in 1980, winning the Urian for both. His second film, coming ten years later in 1982, would be acknowledged by many as his masterpiece. Oro Plata Mata, produced by the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, would see him return to Negros to film the saga of two families of sugar aristocracy and their friends as they endure the hellishness of World War II. The film was an ambitious work of singular beauty, and won the 1982 Gawad Urian awards for Best Picture, as well as awards for its direction, cinematography, production design, musical score, and sound. It also won the Luna Awards for production design and for best supporting actress for Liza Lorena. Gallaga quickly proved that the genius he displayed in Oro Plata Mata was not a fluke. In the 1980s, he churned out critically acclaimed films such as Virgin Forest [1985], Scorpio Nights [1985], and Unfaithful Wife [1986], and even helmed episodes of the first three Shake, Rattle & Roll movies. In 1986, he also started co-directing films with Lore Reyes. Of his other films, Magic Temple [1996] would be considered a highlight, including Gangland [1998], Pinoy/Blonde [2005], and Sonata [2013], which was written by his son Wanggo, and which was set in the very same ancestral house that figured prominently in Oro Plata Mata. Making Bacolod his base, he became artist-in-residence of the University of St. La Salle in 2000, and soon mentored a new generation of local filmmaking talents, which would later become Bacollywood. He won the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining in 2004, and was Honorary Awardee for Pioneering Efforts in Independent Cinema at the 8th Cinema One Originals Film Festival 2012.

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entry arrow6:11 AM | The Film Meme No. 13



[13th of 100]. My first introduction to Italian neorealism was this wrenching drama about a father and a son in the margins of post-war Italy, trying to make ends meet and finding luck that they could bear the burden of manual work because of a bicycle. And then of course that bicycle gets stolen. This sets off the story as the melancholy pair searches all over the city for the bicycle, each encounter a gradual descent into hell. The social message is stark but incredibly not heavy handed. No pitying speeches here about class inequality -- just the eloquence of eyes deepening in despair. This is the film to break your heart. This is the film to teach you that art must mean something, must be a commentary on the society it comes from, and this is the film to teach you that you can attain that with restraint, with an eye for beauty, with a knowing quiet rage about the unfair world we live in. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2020

entry arrow10:35 AM | Poetry Wednesday, No. 19.



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entry arrow7:01 AM | The Film Meme No. 12



[12th of 100]. The second film from this popular trilogy spoke most to me. And why not? It is a golden hour stroll through the lovely byways of Paris while the two protagonists trip through the trilogy's signature conversation fest, talking about books, art, philosophy, love, life, recriminations, memory, longing. I'm of an age that is well within the neighborhood of Celine's and Jesse's ages, and I've always thought of these films as corollaries to my own life, mirroring my own generation's hopes and frustrations, and of course the kind of love we try to pursue. When they were in Vienna, I was also young and naive and exuberant with my own unfettered youth, thinking of the future as this grand adventure without a map that feels so exciting and endless. [That's the only explanation I can muster why two people in love would not even bother getting each other's last names and contact information before their leavetaking, tossing it all to fate and the future.] When they were in Pylos, Greece, they were no longer so young, and the harsh realities of a lived-in life together have taken their toll on the romance of so long ago. And while I felt their disappointments and recriminations, for the first time in my own relationship with this trilogy, I felt a little distance: unlike them, I am not married, and have no idea what it means to have a relationship when you occupy the same domestic space, with children. When they were in Paris then is my most emotional link to these films: it is a film of the quarter-life years, when youth is at its last bloom, and we have been tempered by life but are still hopeful enough to embark on another grand adventure, even love with the one that got away. The second film strips down the braggadocio of youth in the first film, and without yet the stewing bitterness of the third. If this series was a dance, this film is the glorious ballerina on pointe, reaching out to the lights, standing on tiptoes -- beautifully, precariously. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2020

entry arrow8:23 PM | Despair

I’ve never felt this much despair. And knowing full well that it is not just me, it’s also coming from so many people. It’s a world heaving in hopelessness. We are stewing in the sweat and stir craziness of our quarantine, but the world—inept leaders mostly—still manages to make us scream. The raging summer heat we feel now is no longer just weather, it feels like the suffocation of an existential pressure cooker—and any minute now we will burst.

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entry arrow7:04 AM | The Film Meme No. 11



[11th of 100]. This film has to be the peak of the filmmaker's singular vision -- before that vision became a tick, sometimes working [Batman Returns and Edward Scissorhands], and often not [Big Eyes and Alice in Wonderland]. But you cannot deny the personality behind it: idiosyncratic, macabre, humorous. This is my favorite of the bunch, a perfect explosion of hijinks told in the story of a goth girl smothered by a family who are not in her wavelength, and finding family among the ghosts that haunt their countryside mansion. [And I haven't even tackled the title character!] Still, it is so much more than that drab description can encapsulate. I loved this film for its quirk and for its loving embrace of the weird and the strange: it taught me that not all that is lovely comes with bright sunshine and blooming flowers. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Monday, May 04, 2020

entry arrow9:20 AM | The Film Meme No. 10



[10th of 100]. I tend to stay away from combat films, the blood and machismo of war cinema never really my cup of tea. Which is to say it took me a while to be convinced to watch this film, finally compelled only by the argument of its reputation: that its documentary approach to depicting urban warfare is so spot-on it is even used as a training film of sorts for soldiers [and rebels]. I needed to know why -- and did not expect to be immediately sucked in into its narrative, its action set pieces, its sense of outrage. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Sunday, May 03, 2020

entry arrow6:54 AM | The Film Meme No. 9



[9th of 100]. Japanese horror gained an instant classic in this truly unsettling, truly terrifying film that also blindsides us by being a completely different movie in its first hour. It starts off as a domestic drama about a TV executive putting on a fake audition in an actual search for a mate, and then, and then... And then there are suddenly bodies in boxes and bags wrigggling to get out. Then there are strange mutilations and dismemberments. And then there is that eternally horrifying sound of "Kriii-kriii-kriiii..." you will never ever get out of your head. The less said about the plot the better the shock. And the shock is delicious and unforgettable. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Saturday, May 02, 2020

entry arrow8:34 AM | The Film Meme No. 8



[8th of 100]. Comedy got a major transformation in this film, something that gobsmacked me with its possibilities and conceits: time jumps, subtitles underlining the unsaid, neurotic New York intellectuals, fourth wall breaking, reimagined Snow White cartoons. I never saw anything like it before, and as an introduction to the filmmaker's work, this was quite an education. It also gave us the most iconic Diane Keaton in cinema. "La-dee-daa. La-dee-daa. La-laa." What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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Friday, May 01, 2020

entry arrow6:04 AM | The Film Meme No. 7



[7th of 100]. Stylistic audacity in film can be a make-or-break matter not even cinematic geniuses can always pull off. When it works, it works, like Jacques Tati's Playtime (1967) or Jerry Lewis's The Ladies Man (1961) or Lars von Trier's Dogville (2003). When it doesn't quite work -- think Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Querelle (1982) or Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart (also 1982) -- you can admire the filmmaker's chutzpah while also marvelling over the ruins of the disaster. Then here comes this 2012 adaptation of one of the most complex classic of Russian literature with a style that blows away all the rest of the them. A straight-forward adaptation would have been the normal approach considering the original novel's thematic demands and epic breadth. But what we get instead is a complete reimagining of the story as an endless stage piece, all set in a theatre, with incidents and scenes unfolding as if we are spectator to a long, very involving play. And it works! It taught me the value of going for broke with regards a singular vision, and tells me all creative pursuits are risks you have to be willing to make. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.


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