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First uploaded September 10, 2019
Updated October 2, 2019
PICKS OF THE MONTH
September 2019 Picks of the Month
The Creepshow web TV series' official trailer
Creepshow (the new Shudder series), "Gray Matter", "The House of the Dead". Creepshow, the Shudder original web TV series that picks up from the first two Creepshow anthology films (from 1982 and 1987, respectively), just got out on the American streaming service's website (not available in the Philippines) and then instantly on Amazon Prime (accessible from here). The series shall present six episodes containing two stories each, and the first episode, which premiered on September 26, headlines the stories "Gray Matter" and "The House of the Dead." Guess what? The two pieces are already commendable postmodern openers, offering a promise of how artful the series is going to be.
What can we say? The series (and entire Creepshow franchise) is already inherently Pop art in its overall homage to EC Comics, complete with appropriations here and there of comics art imagery from such works as Tales from the Crypt creeping into the dramaturgy. Makes you wonder how much comics art has influenced the cameras of cinema and vice versa.
Anyway, the grey matter in "Gray Matter" pays homage to John Carpenter's The Thing (in The Thing, also from 1982), while the dollhouse and dolls in "The House of the Dead" make for a creative variation, or expansion, on all those doll-extracted horror stories from the past and recent past.
"Gray Matter" features Creepshow veteran Adrienne Barbeau, and we're amazed at the resultant semi-campiness or the juvenile fun outcome in everyone's acting within the story (based on a Stephen King short; remember that the first two films all promoted King short stories). All that is made possible, of course, by former George Romero special effects man Greg Nicotero's directing, which admirably reeks of a historicist attitude that mixes its quotes/tributes and gothic lighting with Pop art paeans to advertising art. As the curtain closes on the story, "Gray Matter" comes out on the whole not so much as a horror short but as a mock-beer ad, jolting your trembling with a final poke in the ribs.
Oh, everything here is in a faux way, really, even the FX on that mutagen-deriving creature that could also operate as a biological illustration of an organism's exponential growth. Hail, Ed Wood! Even the use of a supposedly Category 4-storm rolling thunder, silence, dialogue pacing, narrative tone, and the past-inspired music by Christopher Drake, all sound self-referencing. Notice, too, that the story starts with a world already horrified at the earth's population's having reached the 3.5 billion mark (we're already at 7 billion as of 2017). Shouldn't that merit a giggle already? Especially if one is aware of certain positions' putting the blame on population growth as the one to blame for climate change.
Finally, this variation on King's story should tell you to steer clear of alcohol when dealing with a loss, because there's no telling what your grey matter will turn you into―a Nicotero with a KNB EFX Group posse? This could also be the thing that would prompt you to google a Harrow's Beer, for it's being signified that this is the sort of can that could lead people to plant the seeds for growing their imaginations, or so the Creepshow mascot seems to say as he drinks his Harrow's and laughs. (This mascot would also end each episode with him holding up a Creepshow comic book while laughing). Is this postmodern camp? That's a redundancy.
But it's "The House of the Dead" (from a story by Josh Malerman) that astounds more tightly. How can you mix the tradition of doll-derived horror with the concept of the classic haunted house and still escape derivativeness? And, still taking inspiration from other works in the past, the parents don't get to know their daughter's object of fear here, as if to tell us the daughter knows she'll be accused of having an overreaching imagination if she tells. We know of course that this is really just one clever way to keep the fear alive. :) But wait, does the child actually know at the end that everything we just saw really has just been a product of her own horror movie-writing imagination, unless she doesn't know that dolls don't change their painted facial expressions whenever they want to? Yes, the art of horror-making once again conscripts the art of toymaking, but there's a point to why the frightened, not-so-frightened child here is more of a thinker than a screamer, and why she would merely say "oh, no" instead of "oh no!!!" towards a significant change in her dollhouse's drama.
Wow. All this is realized via the able hands of another George Romero man in John Harrison, working with the music of Tyler Bates and Timothy Williams and with Malerman's script with all its engaging horror interspersed with black comedy lines popping out here and there (a poke at priests' and rabbis' spirituality in one of the lines, for instance). Hurrah!
DengCoy Miel. Juan Tamod: Masipag Magpakatamad. 2019
Juan Tamod: Masipag Magpakatamad. Love the paradox and rhyme in that title (and consequent avowed intent) for Dengcoy Miel's new painting. The artist sent the piece to Kaida Contemporary as one of his entries to the Yugto group show that opened September 8 at the gallery.
We think the allegorical narrative in this one painting is worth talking about, outside of the usual art-writing bullshit that would often just state in flowery language what everybody already knows about what's in/on the picture. In plain language, let us talk about what are in this black comedy of a composition that not everyone might readily see. But first, let's acknowledge that everyone would be able to discern the character mainly represented in this very composition, viz., a Makapili. Now, the "Makapili" tag has been popularly used to also refer to people regarded by its user as "traitors" or "collaborators with the enemy". Furthermore, in our time that tag could be applied to certain individuals and organizations in the political spectrum. Here's why:
First, allow us to alert everyone to that obvious image in the picture and what may be its not-so-obvious meaning. We're talking about the fact that the Makapili persona here is not armed solely with the finger that the Makapili of old was for pointing out rebels against the invading force. What the Makapili figure here has is a gun, which would have been shocking to the Imperial Japanese Army if an officer of that time allowed it to happen. So, therefore, this image by Miel must be qualified.
So, okay now. You see, in the post-World War II and post-Philippine Independence period of Philippine history, the "Makapili" or traitor understandably crept, under our noses, to a new privileged role in our society. The traitor-collaborator evolved. The post-Independence comprador or trader/merchant-politician placed in power by new foreign interests sponsoring him became his latent personification. And he, the new Makapili, may or may not be from the same families the Spaniards or the pre-war Americans or the Japanese conscripted to collaborate with them against rebels of the Katipunan or the guerillas of World War II. In the vocabulary that usually pertains to Latin Americans (post-Independence in their respective states), the new Makapili is what would be known as an element of the lumpenbourgeoisie. In Western progressive intellectual circles, he would be referred to as a neocolonial element.
So, the neocolonial persona Miel presents us with in this picture is indeed still hiding behind a woven-bag "mask," but not because he really is (hidden or hiding). That's just a visual slur Miel is using, because we'd like to think that Miel wants to push forward the reality of the situation that has been reversed, namely the reality that while the old Makapili would leave us guessing as to who it is behind that woven-bag mask, the present-day Makapili or lumpenbourgeois element would have us constantly guessing about his true loyalties even as he gallantly shows us his face. This is so, because while the old Makapili would be hiding simply the truth about his identity through the opacity of his woven-bag mask, the new Makapili is hiding a bigger truth, this time via the mask of words (or the mask provided by opaque words). So, it's that mask that Miel is giving us here. It's a mask of half-truths, distractions, and alternative "facts" that would render people blind to any given persona's true personality.
Now, notice that the allegory in this picture may have been made complex by another offer, namely the context that the Makapili here in question is supposedly also a "Juan Tamad" given to the vice of, say, lazy womanizing and boasting around about his sexual prowess (and his semen ["tamod"] supposedly worshipped by a conquered gender). He would be given to machismo and all appearances of strength and achievement, both the real and the imagined. That element regarding the Makapili persona's being both lazy and into endless sex and other luxuries of his conquests is not a complicating element to us. In fact, we think that that serves as a necessary backup support for the central melody of the lumpenbourgeois element's corruption. It pertains to his position as an appointed leader of his people who has merely to laze around as he waits for the next instruction from his superiors regarding what program to next implement that would fatten the institutional interests of his bosses' banks and what-not.
Speaking of background, this time Miel offers us a red wall, which you and I may easily read as alluding to China. This act is to us a welcome facet in Miel's body of paintings that we thought had been putting too much space for the Philippine experience with Spanish and American imperialism and not enough about China's presently burgeoning one.
Now, okay. So this Makapili neocolonial puppet of a foreign power, let's say China, is supposed to be merely playing, lazily, with a gun. We can actually read that to mean: playing us with his gun prowess, playing us to applaud his position with gun power . . . against, say, whatever it is you would like to disappear from our society, never mind if that war against it that he would talk to you about would turn out to be more in your perceiving mind than in data facts.
It would seem that Miel understands the potential emptiness of those power words that the neocolonial element may have for our consumption, for while he here paints the symbol for these macho words as penis bullets for the Makapili element's gun, those bullets―when closely examined―would, after being fired, actually only turn up a barrage without balls. How can that attack have real balls when it is merely coming from a lumpenbourgeois puppet given instructions to lie about the facts for a fear-mongering tactic, especially when the object of that supposed war of his may actually involve himself as one of its targets, as might be alleged by his critics, if that war was real and comprehensive?
Miel doesn't show us the shot penile projectiles without the balls, and that is precisely what allegories do. The allegory in an allegorical picture is not in what you see in the picture's still moment; it is in what you see beyond that moment, moving to the past, the present, and the future. Allow us to say here that anyone can access the allegory in things, lest we be read as trying to be intellectual snobs (while using our plain language). But that access can only happen if one is willing to go beyond the flowery language of art writing (for auction catalogs and the like) often boringly describing the already obvious. Only then will one be able to consume art such as this beyond its comic appearance, and to then realize the darkness of the laughing matter, as well as realize that even the Makapili's mask is itself a metaphor for a metaphor, standing for any given person's filled-in-the-blank identity.
Echo in the Canyon's official trailer
Echo in the Canyon. September 10, the documentary was finally released on DVD and Blu-Ray after its limited exposure in US theaters last May (preceded by the soundtrack album's release in April).
What triggered this production? Purportedly, Jakob Dylan and former Capitol Records executive Andrew Slater were watching the 1969 Jacques Demy film Model Shop. They then started to talk about the Laurel Canyon phenomenon that birthed the folk rock genre, The Beach Boys' progressive and psychedelic kind of chamber pop, and The Mamas and the Papas' and The Association's sunshine pop, all of which would be tied together to a mother aesthetic appreciation called the California Sound. They were doing all this and then Slater supposedly thought of producing an album for Dylan wherein Dylan would cover a number of songs from this era, about 1964-1967, the recording for which could maybe haul in guests that might create a duets album. So they called Fiona Apple, Beck, Jade Castrinos (formerly of The Magnetic Zeros), Norah Jones, Cat Power, Regina Spektor, and Eric Clapton to join the project in the vocals department, along with Neil Young (not in the 2017-18 shots of the film) and Josh Homme (not seen in the film). That happened, and the album concept was extended to envision this documentary film that would provide a sort of backgrounder on the scene covered by the album, with interviews with some of the artists from (or were influenced by) the era in question―Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Brian Wilson, Michelle Phillips, producer Lou Adler, Ringo Starr, Graham Nash (who first met Crosby and Stills in LA in '66 during a Hollies US tour), Clapton (who was then attracted to the Laurel Canyon scene after Cream's arrival in the US in early '67), Jackson Browne (who at the time was just starting with the Nitty Gritty Band), and Tom Petty (as a fan of the California Sound and the Rickenbacker 12-string)―to give our era a glimpse of that important page in American pop music that would influence pop music all over the world. The film would also contain snippets of the 2015 Orpheum Theatre concert introducing the album project.
Of course, the documentary's thrust is entirely from the point of view of Slater, Dylan, the album guests, and the interviewees from the period, and is certainly not the sort that might come from a deeply-researching book writer or documentarian treating of the same subject for a comprehensive view of that history. Thus we would see glaring omissions: no touch on the band Love, no scene with The Doors beginning their trek towards that first album of theirs released in January 1967, nary a word about the buzz around Joni Mitchell's arrival in LA in 1967 (with Crosby at the production helm of her first album aiming for an early '68 release), nor anything about Spirit (whose sound, ironically, decorates the soundtrack of Model Shop). Mention of how small and how big this thing actually was in relation to other factors influencing the cultural spirit of the era would also be limited, fleeting, and highly un-academic. There's almost nothing beyond a whisper about the ongoing civil rights tensions at the time, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the hue and cry about the Age of Aquarius. At least near the end there would be hints about the band breakups and the going-solos, for it was this sad development that actually led to the epoch of singer-songwriters in LA, which included solo Young, and the film doesn't say that that was precisely what the unraveling produced.
For comprehensive takes on the California Sound period and scene, read Michael Walker's Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood (2007), Harvey Kubernik's Canyon of Dreams (2009), or even Barney Hoskyns' Waiting for the Sun: A Rock & Roll History of Los Angeles (1996).
But the film's thesis is clear. It opens with text showing a dictionary definition of "echo," as "a close parallel or repetition of an idea, feeling, style, or event." Indeed, that epigram speaks for Laurel Canyon's function as an echo chamber for face-to-face exchanges and mutual influencing that led to a copylefting field for an intellectual commons in the arena of pop music's development during that time, at least among these musician neighbors in this canyon who were then trying to become stars. The film ultimately becomes yet another demonstration of how art (in this case music) develops a revolutionary movement simply through community, with this community of artists focused on their communal artworks and art-making processes instead of on the hype on their individual selves as greedy "competitors". The focus on the creative process resulting from echoing each other, feeding off each other that these artists would find themselves doing . . . would be portrayed by the documentary as attractive enough, at least products-wise, to build a national interest, with followers of the development wanting to come to California to contribute to that production. This phenomenon would also be clarified as an international or trans-Atlantic thing even from the beginning, particularly with The Beatles being part of the exchange.
But it's the mind's pivoting on the art-making as witness to new things produced communally, but communally almost unconsciously (as against one from a contrived communality), over and above the self's ambition, that becomes remarkable in such documentations as this, no matter how narrow and meager a surface treatment it might be. Such communal echoes, after all, whether physical to a canyon or hill or virtual in an Internet community, are universal to the field of art and to artists in general, testified to by the artists exchanging opinions during the fin de siècle era, by the artist community described in Ernest Hemingway's memoir A Moveable Feast, or by the artists involved in the several stages of the "Golden Age of Hollywood." Documentations like this need to come out every now and then, if only to remind us of these processes and to underline the fact that artworks are as much a product of individuals or bands of individuals as much as of a larger community of like-minded eager beavers.
Skin's official trailer
Skin. This film, based on a real person's story, had already been released to theaters late July in the US, Belgium, and the Netherlands, but is coming out in UK theaters only this 27 September and in German theaters on 3 October yet. We have an appreciation from the news of the presence of so many neo-Nazi skinheads in the UK and Germany, so it'd be interesting to see how the film might be received by these all-too-present parties there. As for the Philippines, there has been no scheduled screening for the film yet that we know.
Now, just as it's fair to ask what a painting on a wall would serve as and for whom, it's equally fair to ask what (else) a narrative is trying to say with its story and for whom its story's statement may be of (further) value. Because, after all, Skin is really just a simple report of the fact that there has been a number of members of the US neo-Nazi movement who've struggled to get out of the movement and have been aided in their journey by certain groups in the US, no more, no less. Is that "report" bound to get some neo-Nazi members thinking about their current political and/or moral position? Maybe, maybe not. Is it going to get the country angrier toward this presence? That's possible, depending on how far one's imagination and research can fill the gaps for a full understanding of this movement, a filling that cannot be delivered by an almost-two-hour movie alone. But the film can certainly inspire politicians and communities to think of ways to resolve this problem of anti-Other racial nationalism, perhaps to even emulate those people aiding the neo-Nazi membership's slow decline, simply by focusing on each member's individuality instead of on the religion of extreme rightism which may not actually be the bottom root behind someone's membership (as this film suggests).
Now, the film is not one of those perfect sort of oeuvres. In fact, many parts of the film would leave us creating explanations by ourselves for how this or that situation came to be. Although we all know what the scream "Blood and soil!" is all about, and do generally acknowledge the reality of neo-Nazi anger, the film is not a narrative that aims to guide us into the whys and how-did-they-get-heres of this anger, contenting itself with focusing our minds on the story of the film's protagonist, Bryon Widner (Jamie Bell), who has bile that comes from a group culture he has been driven by the fates to join, or manipulated by false charity to be a part of. This taking in of his lost person by the neo-Nazi family called Vinlanders SC, with Fred Krager (Bill Camp) as the father and Shareen (Vera Farmiga) as the mother, is later echoed in the film by the group's leader's hiring of another young poor white runaway named Gavin (Russell Posner) whom Krager and Widner saw by the river with a bunch of other unattended kids. So we deduce that this anger in Widner is from a thinking he had only been trained since childhood to embrace like a child warrior. We assume that this same thinking would only necessarily be pumped further into his testosterone by the manipulators of groupthink that abound in politics, manipulators such as Krager, who has once ran for the state legislature and plans to run again.
The film does help us some with the holes. It gives us the sense that almost everybody knows everybody here in this part of Columbus, Ohio. In a rally, Widner knows the name of a disrespectful-to-the-leader member of an anti-Krager faction of the group. By this sense of small town-ness, we also get to assume that activist Daryle Jenkins (Mike Colter), addressed by Widner as "Jenkins" during the opening riot scene, probably already has a reputation among the Vinlanders as that founder of the One People's Project, one of those groups that help neo-Nazi members jump ship. Is this everybody-knows-everybody regional feel that's been established by the film also the reason why, in that scene where Jenkins is taking a video of the Vinlanders arriving near their outdoor Halloween party, he (Jenkins) is allowed by the gang to continue to film, unharmed, considering we didn't see any police car out there to protect an outsider's presence? Details of how Jenkins goes about his duty for the OPP is also not shown, apart from us seeing him in that Nazi rally counter-rally that we mentioned and, later, while shooting those videos of the neo-Nazis on their way to that Halloween party that we also mentioned. The film also doesn't explain how a family of child singers―the mother of which family, Julie Price (Danielle Macdonald), becomes Widner's love interest, and the eldest daughter of which, Desiree (Zoe Colletti), is suspicious of Widner―got to contact the Vinlanders for a one-time-paycheck gig at one of the gang's political rallies; but, again, it's that part of Columbus where everybody knows everybody, remember? After all, too, Julie used to have a neo-Nazi boyfriend or husband (the father of her three kid singers) and has a father who used to belong to the KKK, so she might actually know some members there. Apparently, however, she is supposedly now trying to distance herself from the movement as much as she can, and trying to forgive herself on behalf of her daughters from taking this route once. Now, at times the film would get prosaic, as when Jenkins tries to explain to a young staff member of OPP the point of what they're doing, but we can also fill in an explanation for this: the kid must be a newbie in the OPP building.
Above all this, we are given the impression by the film's director, Guy Nattiv, of how confident the Vinlanders are towards policemen's and FBI agents' presence (ignored by the group during their neo-Nazi march at the film's beginning, and, during an interrogation scene, were shown by Widner, who stripped himself naked, his anti-snitching tattoo on his inner thighs that he seemed to have placed there for a possible future interrogation like this one). It all makes us wonder if there are people higher than police commissioners and FBI agents who have these neo-Nazis' backs. For while there are indeed those loose ends in the script that would endlessly instigate us to ask questions about the possibility of this or that, these finally lead us in the end to ask the ultimate question: "who are funding these 'social clubs' and why?" In one scene, Krager refers to his club as "this business". It seems that the film's ultimate achievement is not so much in its dramatization of a skinhead's emigration into the mainstream nation (from the global alt-right team he had been fated to be a part of) as in its challenge to make us ask that very important question from beneath the film's presentation, a presentation that's been accused of being melodramatic toward its subject.
[Speaking of melodrama, we could also debate as to whether the film's reenactment of certain violent acts committed by the skinhead group should have been given more light and perhaps zoom-ins and maybe even slo-mos, just to make those deeds more sensational and horrific the way Saving Private Ryan did its share of gore visuals for German Nazi firepower. We wonder, too, if that downplaying was intended to lower an age rating in order to get to a wider educable audience (we don't know much about this).]
But perhaps the reason why a sense of melodrama has been a constant criticism thrown at the film is because there have been expectations toward it as a redemption film concerning belief. The ultimate point of the film, we think, is that there are members of these social clubs who've only been thrown into this religion of beliefs, one not of their own choosing, as against other members who may have joined after experiencing pain from the Other that triggered a sustained anger in them and a consequent philosophizing capacity. The contrivance of the former situation, when mis-applied to a man by manipulating leaders (and co-members) whose manipulations and possessiveness would churn out fake rituals and a business-like approach to the group's operations, may begin to surface more clearly to the man. This can only lead that man to doubt his "religion," as it has in many cases. In the dramatization of this kind of case in the person of Bryon Widner, then, there would be no need for a reeducation from without, say from a Jenkins, only one from within the man himself and from his human heart. In short, the film is saying: perhaps many neo-Nazis' beliefs are only skin-deep and thus uncomplicatedly remediable.
David Makes Man episode 7's "first look" video
"Son of Man". David Makes Man's seventh episode, officially titled "Son of Man," was promptly added to Amazon Prime's DMM (season 1) package on September 26, and we dare say it finally delivered statements we've been waiting for this series to push forward.
So, what are these cases that this episode seems to have finally subtly put on the table? (WARNING: THE FOLLOWING TEXT CONTAINS SPOILERS)
Secrets and bullying are one. For one, the episode presents us with a profile of Shinobi as a drug dealer who's always coming forward as "a lion to lambs" in the pink-painted housing project main setting of the series. The Shinobi lamb that the first seven episodes would like us to focus on is the series' protagonist itself, coming-of-age DJ (or Dave, or Dae), a smart kid who goes to a magnet school while struggling with the state of poverty his family is in. He is protected from Nobi's bullying by Raynan, the project's top bagman and son of the deceased former top candy man of the neighborhood, Sky. When he was alive, Sky regarded DJ as the son he preferred to have had, which Raynan seems to be aware of. Sky, protective of DJ, used to tell Nobi to "find some calm" every time the latter felt like bullying somebody, and girl-less Nobi would seem to find that calm alone in Ms. (or Mx.) Elijah, an influential genderqueer person in the project. To some this secret would look like a funny twist in the plot or narration of DMM. To others it's just totally logical.
Of course, later, near the episode's end, we see that Nobi is actually also threatened by Dave's smartness. His secret revealed, Raynan tells Nobi (aptly further nicknamed Bi) to find some calm. And, at Mx. Elijah's, he is revealed again to be not so erudite even with his own business ideas, even if he can actually read (he mentions reading Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power, which incidentally has been criticized for its contradictory "laws").
The sins of Halloween and of church-going hypocrisy are way different. Two, the episode is placed on a Halloween, and the script quickly has us listening to DJ's mother, Gloria, declare that it's a sin to go to church on a Sunday if it's Halloween. This is clearly a mockery, intended or not on Gloria's part, of Protestant preachers' sermons against the celebration of Halloween by America's proper Christians. From there, the "sinful" Halloween celebrations in the housing project that would be dramatized by the episode would function as a demonstration of the close-knit family that the project neighborhood can be outside of its reputation (hyped by media and the arts) as a breeding ground for illegal drug dealers and users. In contrast, there would be the scenes with the church-going well-off family of DJ's best friend Seren; that family attends church during this Halloween Sunday, but note that the episodes up to this point have been making it clear to us that beneath Seren's parents' reputation as a sweet, happy, neighborly, and successful couple lurks secret evil presences, those of a physically abusive perfectionist mother and a sexual abuser stepdad. Look who's sinful now. . . . DJ goes with Seren's family to witness Seren sing his first solo, and it's clear that this is DJ's first experience of being in a church. When the church pastor mentions the "Son of Man" in heaven who came down to Earth with morality lessons, DJ is instantly transported to memories of his slain mentor, Sky, who wanted him to pursue dreams in order not to end up like him, a drug dealer. The "Man" akin to the moralizing Jesus that DJ knows is not Jesus himself but aspirational Sky. Sky also acted as DJ's father of sorts in the neighborhood, his Man; his biological father had long been absent. Sky had been DJ's only idea of guidance towards salvation from the nightmare and ennui of housing project poverty, and the preacher's introduction of Jesus seems to be confusing DJ now, especially when the preacher comes to the line, ". . . until, one day, he was crucified by the very ones that were supposed to love him the most." That line seems to fit as a description of both Sky's assassination and Seren's present situation. Sky was crucified, too, wasn't he? But the nail he got went to the back of his head. As for Seren, it would seem that he's the one who needs more saving, especially during that moment when he starts to sing about forgiveness for sins committed; DJ knows that those sins would be committed again by Seren's parents.
After Church, Seren's mother Jessica is put on the spot and agrees with Seren to take back DJ to the project in their car. Seren's father Ray, who is stunned, says it's "practically on the way." Jessica also backs up Seren's suggestion by saying that that route would actually save time for their drive home. The couple seems surprised by their acquiescence to Seren and to each other, perhaps even by their instant realization of their usual route's hypocrisy. Who knows, maybe it was this realization that led them to later allow Seren to join DJ at the housing project for the neighborhood Halloween celebrations, this after Jessica was put on the spot again by the insistent invitations from DJ's mom Gloria for Seren to stay and join them.
Successful drug dealing and smartness go together. Three, we now realize why Raynan had been so eager to hire DJ to be part of his drug-dealing team. Forced to temporarily join Raynan for urgent financial needs, the younger David lectures the older Raynan on safe and unsafe Xanax or Benzos dosages and the ramifications of both overdoses and underdoses. This is quite a statement, pushing the card that says successful drug dealers are those with the smarts, and that includes poetry-loving Sky, smarts that may have only been forced to deal drugs by the vicious cycle of rare job opportunities and rare (good) schooling opportunities applied to a racial minority.
True freedom of choice comes with the freedom to scream. Four, Seren is exposed to a bit of the project's LGBTQ scene and the drag art of Mx. Elijah. Logically, it has to be non-closet gay Mx. Elijah who would talk to Seren about freedom of choice and the freedom to scream corollary to it, a clear contrast to Seren's snobbish (neoliberal) stepdad's imposition of a non-choice upon those "below" him. In a landscape that constantly preaches about the freedom to dream big and achieve one's dreams (classical liberalism's often secretly self-centered aspirations), the freedoms that come with social justice and the rights of women, children, the poor, and minorities (from social liberalism's moral rationalizations), are too often forgotten. That blindness to those freedoms may be seen in the yearnings of both upwardly mobile yuppies and struggling drug dealers who both bully those below them to submit to the strong among them under the alibi of training.
Homophobia is a sickness worse than AIDS. There's a sequence that seems to hint at that axiom.
The happy poor aren't necessarily stupid. "I am very aware of our financial reality," says Gloria to DJ. "Like I said before, I have everything under control. Tomorrow we can go back to struggling and crying about it. Tonight we are going to have fun. Understand?" Even crazy rich Asians will tell you that there's a passage in the I Ching book that tells you the same thing.
"You can't save everyone, Dae. Sometimes you got to give people they problems right back to them". Sometimes, yes. To train them. But better than that perhaps is what the last shot of the episode seems to be saying:
Maybe you can be the king you want to be, but first you need to choose what kind of king. One of the best lyrical shots on ambition we've seen.
The Parting Glass' official trailer
The Parting Glass. We don't know if this film ever got a distributor for theatrical release after its premiere in June last year at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, or following its July 2018 showing at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival or its October 2018 one at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Either way, we're glad it was launched this September 10 on Amazon Prime.
Directed by English actor Stephen Moyer, this B-movie gathers fine actors Ed Asner, Rhys Ifans, Melissa Leo, Cynthia Nixon, and Denis O'Hare to tell the story about a family who came together in Missouri to retrieve the belongings of the youngest member of their family who has recently died, thereafter to collect her ashes and have her funeral. Coleen, the deceased sister, daughter to Asner's role, wife to Ifans', is played in flashbacks by Anna Paquin (who doesn't really show her whole face or for long, perhaps for reasons of actor's agent's cost). The story and screenplay is written by O'Hare, based on his own real life experience with his sister's death by suicide.
The film journeys through the family's grief within a couple of days, but finally comes out as a treatment on the elusive mystery of depression contrasted with the beauty of life that victims enjoyed prior to the onset of, or alternately with the attacks of, their disease. The film hints at a search for the cause of the sister/daughter/wife's depression, but ultimately would self-frustrate any progress at it. In other words, in the film's attempts to "solve" a mystery (the cause of the depression and/or death and who or what to blame), it ends up leaving the mystery alone, choosing finally to remember instead the opposite facet of Coleen's wonderful person and to have a good cry of gratitude at its having been here at all, even if only for a brief time.
As well, to remember everyone else's wonderful person, to have a good laugh with them―thankful for their being here at all―as we all consume our common brief time on earth.
the album cover
At the Party With My Brown Friends. Swinomish/Iñupiaq singer-songwriter Katherine Paul (aka Black Belt Eagle Scout) declares that much of her songwriting derives from this "radical indigenous queer feminist" social/political position she describes her person to be situated in, and that "indigenous music is the foundation for all of my music." We get that indigenous-political artistic springboard she's peddling, given that much that is in pop music today actually largely derives from something that an ethnomusicologist or anthropologist can better trace for us and that a Marxist critic can locate the political and apolitical contexts of in the present.
However, not everyone in pop music can also claim what she claims, that "Singing in our language is a spiritual process and it carries on through me in how I create music today." Thus, when BBES says she's also been influenced by the music of Nirvana, we could surmise that her approach to music-making, even her political-lyrics writing, might perhaps be closer to the Hindu context of that band's name than Kurt Cobain's, even as both artists' vague lyrics have political as well as religious allusions in them.
But politics and spirituality have always walked together, hand in hand through time, more than we've been willing to accept we see daily in our industrialized and electronic and satellite-enveloped age. This combo cannot be said to be exclusive to certain "tribes" or "nations" and cannot be deemed extinct in even the most materialist of cultures. Poetry has always been aware of that combo operating within various loci and times, even when expressed in the most Ferlinghetti-ish of verses.
So, in BBES' poetry of spiritual/political/erotic metaphors in this, her plucked strings- and arpeggios-laden second album titled At the Party With My Brown Friends (released August 30), we are led to look at the world as a "party," with her "conscious self" watching/witnessing this unconscious human event in progress in this life. And, mind you, she does not walk through this party, she "walks" throughout it, very much like air. Read:
In her album press release, BBES says of the lines "How is it real? / We will always sing," from the album's very political opening track titled "At the Party": "(Those lines) came out of me one evening when I was crafting the song in my bedroom. Within my conscious self, there is always a sense of questioning the legitimacy of the world when you grow up on an Indian reservation. We are all at the party (the world), trying to navigate ourselves within a good or bad situation. I happen to be at the party with my brown friends―Indigenous, Black, POC―who always have my back while we walk throughout this event called life."
Oh, the politics in those words, especially with that track's closing verse that goes, "How is it you've suffered through this kind of love? / It puts you in a dark place, dark place. / Even when you look at me, / Your heart so full, / I'll think of you from a nice place, nice place." And oh the spirituality in that, even in this age of MMIW, delivered in hushed vocals typical of Pacific Northwest indie rock.
Now, putting aside the fact that "Going to the Beach with Haley" is actually a paean of a song to BBES' fellow Pacific Northwest singer-songwriter and friend Haley Heynderickx, it does actually also come out like a track expressing BBES' queerness, wherein she seems to describe an erotic oneness with a love interest by saying "Even over here, I feel your voice coming through. / I feel what I'm like with you." That makes that love interest both a shell from nature and an alter ego. After brushing through other symbols that look erotic, the song becomes a haiku-like thing with another human being and with nature when she suggestively sings, "And I know / How it sounds / Under waves / Through the dark night skies." There's spirituality, indeed, in Two-Spirit politics.
That recurrent Taoist-like oneness with nature is further expressed in "Real Lovin'," which starts with a sad dreaming of some "real lovin'" trying to realize itself inside one's head. This dreaming soon turns into a "bull's shit" in the pretty realism of going outside to a sun "shining through the trees on your face."
In another obviously erotic song, "Run It To Ya," there is the puzzle as to what "running it" would constitute, what "running" would mean, and what that "it" could be.
Another puzzle is offered in "Half Colored Hair," with the lines "I never knew I'd like half colored hair so much. / But in the light . . .". Is the object of this chorus one with hair naturally half-black and half-colored; one with black hair half-colored with dye; or one with black hair only getting some color in the light, from the light? She outros: "But I knew I'd like you. / I knew I'd like you. / I knew I'd like you. / So I didn't care / 'Cause I care for you."
Finally, despite the fact that "You're Me and I'm You" is a song simply about her mother, it also transports us to a Gao Xingjian novel-like atmosphere where the "I" also looks at herself as "You", her mother becomes her and everyone's mother, she becomes her mother, and so on. Oh, the spirituality in that, even without Sedna. And oh the potential politics, too.
Succession's season 2 official trailer
Succession's season 2 episodes 4 to 8. In episode 2 of Succession's second season, Stewy (Arian Moayed), of the party hoping to consummate the hostile takeover of Logan Roy's Waystar Royco, is interviewed over at WR's competing network, PGM. PGM is owned by the blue-blood Pierces with the Democrat-leaning politics, headed by Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones). Stewy starts talking shit about WR's state and heir apparent Kendall Roy's psychological one on the PGM channel, and this gets mogul Logan Roy's ire. Later on in the episode, Logan (Brian Cox) floats to his daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) the idea of buying out PGM, which is a "crocodile" of a company compared to WR's "snake" size (as per a Shiv line in the episode-3 script by black comedy writer Tony Roche). The intent of the buyout, or management buy-in, is to bloat the Roys' share in WR so as to make it impossible for the takeover to occur. In episode three, we get to know that Logan had sent an investigator to have a look at PGM's status, and that investigator comes back with a "maybe" report (implying that the target has a not-so-good outlook financially), and Logan promptly announces his plan to the WR board and expresses in more ways than one (thanks to Roche's writing) how much he wants everyone to be in on this with him now, regardless of its potentially being the biggest gamble of his and his family's life.
So, you see, the season just became quite a thriller with that direction/decision, liberating it from being merely a satisfying set of episodes that would carry the doldrums of seeing the Murdochs-like Roys' downfall. Now a battle is on, with episode 4 (directed by the American filmmaking team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini) spearheading the start of the buyout process. And, boy, was everything a funk, giving us a picture of a family struggling to keep itself together as its elements battle with each other oh so subtly as they also fight an oncoming sexual coercion exposé concerning a former head of WR's cruise ships.
The biggest mystery amidst all the problems that occur in these episodes is not what's running in Logan's mind in terms of a successor (which bears fruit in episode 8, anyway, with his announcement of PGM's former CEO, Rhea Jarrell [Holly Hunter], as WR's new CEO); nor the psyche of Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) navigating an insecurity towards his elder brother's erudition, a fear of his father, a veiled righteous (though naive) ambition to be the successor, an underestimation of Shiv, and a nagging paraphilia (and what that brought into the picture of his ambition in the person of Gerri [J. Smith-Cameron], general counsel to WR and board member, as his proxy mom); nor Shiv's open marriage (to equally ambitious Tom Wambsgans [Matthew Macfadyen] whom she clearly is on an opposite pole with, politically) and where this relationship of convenience might lead to. There are other mysteries in this season of the series, Logan's wife, slighted Lebanese-American Marcia (Hiam Abbass), being one of them, along with witness-to-it-all cousin-to-the-Roy-children Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun), being another; but the biggest mystery of all for now, apart from scheming Logan Roy himself, is Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), whose previous well-meaning attempts to take over (or rescue) the company from his Dad led to a final fateful night that left him in his Dad's embrace ironically as his (Kendall's) rescuer, leaving him in a state of shocked, almost robotic submissiveness kowtowing to all of his father's wishes moving forward. His business acumen still intact, even as he dips into his penchant for inhaling coke, there is no telling what Kendall will do next when he wakes up from his remorse (which may have already started in episode 7 under the helm of comedy director Becky Martin working with the script by Jonathan Glatzer). Kendall seems to be unaffected by the announcement of Jarrell's appointment as WR's new CEO in episode 8, but at that point (after quickly seeing how dumb his new actress fling partner seems to be) has been reminded of one of PGM's shareholders, Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), a fellow rebounder from cocaine addiction with something between her ears, whom the fates (again!) led Kendall to a sexual (perhaps also romantic) relationship with in episode 5 (directed by Mark Mylod of Game of Thrones fame). Is WR a Westeros, with tainted Kendall there to be its waylaid bastard Jon Snow turned king (and sacrifice) of the North, notwithstanding that royal Logan of America's plutocracy is not exactly a Ned Stark? [d]
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