Category Archives: Film Review

In defense of Arthur Fleck adv. People

The movie ‘Joker’ has taken the world by storm. The citizens of the four cardinal directions of a compass all seem to flock to the screening of the movie and feel gobsmacked or spellbound even by the stellar performance of actor Joachim Phoenix in his soul-wrenching portrayal of Arthur Fleck before his rebirth as Joker. The aftercome of the movie is a great legion of tweets rhapsodizing about the character and the man behind, which is deemed meritorious, justifiable, and agreeable. However, most of the tweets about this outstanding movie disappoints me because of their opinions that seem to miss the gist of the movie, the logotheraphical nuance of the movie itself that director Todd Phillips tries to express on the screen. Is this movie about a clinically crazy man, a so-called “psychopath” who wallows in killing-sprees? Why do people suddenly seem to care about a man whose existence is constantly slighted and ignored when they unconsciously or consciously do the same to the ilk of Arthur Fleck in everyday life? Will the movie change their attitudes toward those struggling to make their presence amid constant ridicule and estrangement?

As I previously stated in my review of the movie, this is about a man whose efforts to preserve a sense of purpose in the world and a tenacious grip on recognition are ruthlessly vanquished. Everyone from all social strata, including those recognized as underprivileged underlings, not to mention the upper crust of society, indiscriminately ignores him. And the reason for such unanimously consented mistreatment of Arthur Fleck is not so much due to his low social class as due to his unlikeness that manifests itself, so visible that it makes onlookers regard him as a tacitly public domain of disdain and estrangement. He is a public whipping boy, a modern-day equivalent of a cunning man accused of witchcraft or dark magic, bestriding on the verge of madness as a result of concerted social alienation, which forces him to choose none other than being Joker. Hamlet’s existential question of “To be or not to be, that is the question.” seems too pat and gives a fillip to the loneliest, darkest, and saddest moment of Arthur Fleck when he feels pushed into the edge of his conscience. He surrenders himself to the death of his old, bullied, slighted self because it’s better that way than spends his life misunderstood and ignored to the end.

Alas, poor Arthur Fleck! I know him, my dear reader. For however fictional the character may be, an Arthur Fleck is here in our ordinary landscape of everyday life. Workplaces, schools, supermarkets, buses, trains, streets, hospitals, and houses that you go and live are where you see him but not regard him, hear him but not listen to him, speak to him but not talk to him. If you protest, then you are probably feeling guilty of doing the same thing that they did to Arthur Fleck whom writers call a misfit, employers an incompetent, social workers/psychiatrists a basket case, and a detective a psychopath. That whom we call him by any other names will remain the same as neglectful and insignificant.

In sum, those of you who rave about the movie in terms of the outburst of the suppressed shall regard it not as a liberal cause of partisan ideology or a demotic social manifesto but as a visual memoir of a very lonely man who cries inwardly every day for the wounds of his estranged soul. For what Arthur Fleck wanted was very human and basic as appreciated by American philosopher and psychologist William James many years ago: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Praising what is missing and ignored makes the remembrance dear. This is about one man’s struggle against finding a meaning of life, will to meaning, stumbling into a vertigo of his existential horrors of daily life. That is the message.

‘Joker (2019)’, directed by Todd Phillips- review

He’s nobody to whom people neither listen nor talk. He’s alone, alone, alone, all alone on a wide gaping sea of people who continuously berate the person and the dream and the existence of himself ruthlessly. Francis Bacon’s phrase of ‘Magna Civitas magna solitude’ befits no less apposite than the case of Arthur Fleck, a man trying so hard but futilely to preserve a sense of purpose and a tenacious grip on social recognition at the bottom rung of social hierarchy that the goddess Fortuna seems to vent her usual aeonian capricious nature on the fate of this unfortunate man whose Wheel of Fortune is destined to be positioned to True North of Tragedy. If this sounds maudlin enough to frown over that “just a movie” façade, then think of what Charlie Chaplin elegantly sums up thus: “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” This is a life of Arthur Fleck, and it is here where he becomes Joker, the archenemy of Batman and the good citizens of Gotham City. It all begins here in ‘Joker’ magnificently directed by Todd Phillips, who seems to have an eye for the absurdities and hypocrisies in our society.

A prequel to the Batman series, this film introduces the audience with a neorealist approach as seen in documentary films about the man behind the famous grinning clown mask and his rebirth as Joker in Gotham City, where he was born, raised, and bullied horridly every single day of his very thin life. Arthur Fleck is said to be mentally insecure, seeing a social worker every week who only cares about her civic duty to talk but not listen, so that he can get his usual five different psychotic medications. He is conditioned to be mad, said to be mad, and believed to be mad amid the licensed incivilities of the city by which this existence seems to be no regard for anybody unless he is a victim of harrowing bullying and taunting for his bouts of uncontrollable laughers and gawkish rail thin appearance in which his pierce blue eyes are the only resilient torches of his soul that defy the injustice and humiliation by society. It is in fact the society that slowly maddens Arthur with those multiple chemical prescriptions, willful neglect of his presence, and manifest disrespect of his social status as a hardscrabble, social-service dependent eking out his living as a part-time sandwich man and a carpe diem comedian whose livelihood depends on the whims and caprice of an inconsiderate employer and a knavish co-worker who uses Arthur for his advantages. Must I chant his litany of woes further?

The clown mask of Arthur Fleck becomes his persona that gives him a new personality with a sense of empowerment by freeing him from conscience in the heat of passion. According to the ancient Greek thespian idea of drama, the tragic actors were heavily disguised with a religious purpose in honor of Dionysus, the god of ecstasy, for the actor was to give up his identity to let another (i.e., the mask character) speak and act through him. In this regard, Arthur’s clown face betokens his suppressed self, drenched in vindication against the tyranny of societal conformity that allows no place for anyone like him. It’s certainly a tragedy in a sense that the painted mask becomes paradoxically his real character that imbues people with fearful attention to him not the real bare face of the man. The Joker face is now an ‘Eat this’ defiance to the hypocrisies and absurdities of so-called equalitarian society that slights his existence as a person. As Melphomene, the muse of tragedy, is portrayed as wearing a mask of sadness and a buskin, Arthur Fleck wears a clown mask with a buskin hiding his tears from his heart. The uncontrollable bouts of his laughter are in fact a cry of his wretched soul.

At the heart of this film lies a heartfelt performance of actor Joachim Phoenix, who is said to have lost about fifty-two pounds in response to the director’s request to portray the linchpin as a very thin man to render his vulnerability and alienation from people. The dedication to the character that is never easy to play shines through Phoenix’s stellar performance on the screen that looks so realistically touching that it pains my heart to follow through the life of Arthur Fleck oozing out insurmountable pathos, and that even his chain smoking is deemed less toxic and vice-signaling. We see him alone in his apartment, on the bus, and on the street even among the crowd. We see him slowly abandoning himself to a bottomless pit of despondency as the world around him, including his mother, shuns him from the humanity. Surely, his crime is to be condemned, but as in the cases of Raskolnikov and Silas Marner, is this not a man who is more sinned against than sinning? Joker is a kind of movie that makes you go thinking after the lights are on.

‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ by Hayao Miyazaki (1989 film) – review

kikidoyouloveme-c537c2fbe895a651b76179c8b7a4f23bBeing a witch can be this fun. She can fly on a broomstick anywhere faster, higher and further and see the world in her own eyes, which takes her to a higher plane of existence. Perish the titular image of a spooky hag with an equally evil looking black cat flying together on a hackneyed broomstick on Witches Sabbath as a medieval invention of a woman laden with sexual and spiritual depravity. For a witch can be young, innocent, good-hearted and hard-working into the bargain who tries to live purposefully and meaningfully with what’s given to her as a result of responding genuinely and humanly to life’s challenges.  Such is a growing tale of Kiki’s Delivery Service, aka Witch’s Delivery Service.

Kiki, a thirteen-year old witch, leaves her mother and father for an independent one-year training of witchcraft at a faraway place where no other witch lives. Her companion is a witty and trusty talking black cat named Jiji that is more of kin than pet. When Kiki finds a place in the port city of Koriko that has the outlook of San Francisco, Marseilles and Nice beautifully combined, she sets up a delivery service as a messenger flying on a broomstick passed down to her in a long line of witchery by her witch mother. The business is in bloom because of her excellent customer service, positive attitudes and beautiful heart, boosting her self-confidence, filling her heart with the love of humanity. Her broomstick and craftiness in flying with amazing navigation skills are part of witchery, but her real magical power is her empathy with people that infatuates all with a sense of euphoria. Kiki comes to know that the real magic comes from within, not from supernatural entities.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a 1989 Japanese animated film that was written, produced, and directed by great Hayao Miyazaki, which was an adaptation of the 1985 eponymous novel by Eiko Kadono. The fineness of Japanese animation is at the meticulous rendering of original literary source text to the animated version without losing the authenticity of the original theme and maximizing the emotional and visual effects. Also, there is a polyphony of pathos and affabulation found in Miyazaki’s animations, such as Graves of Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, and his other television works as presented in The World Masterpiece Theater. In fact, Kiki’s Delivery is a bildungsroman film of an adolescent girl who tries to establish her own place in the world while growing up, independent of the comforts of her home and conformity of lifestyles that is likely to be pinned down on her by a society’s convention. In a way, it is reminiscent of Jonathan Livingston Seagull in terms of his search of self-identity and growing into adulthood through the vicissitudes of life. However, Kiki’s rite of passage seems more adventurous, more libertine and more vivacious, all in the artistic mastery of Miyazaki’s creation of La Vie de Rose according to the eyes of young and resilient witch Kiki. Young, Old, Man, Woman, regardless of where you are or what you do, this is a film that will bring you all to the world of fantasy wonderfully anchored in reality that will entertain you with beautifully rendered scenery in detail and a story worth the keeping at heart.

‘Ocean Waves’ (1993 film) by Tomomi Mochizuki – review

ocean-waves-49Some stories are better told in animation. The characters become vividly alive in a way that your imaginary world effortlessly conjures up before your very eyes by a witchcraft of wondrous imagination. It’s a world of fantasy, but it is also a realm of parallel universe where reality is poetically translated through the avatars living in the creator’s make-believe world without the alloyed feelings and crafted emotions by way of thespian performance. It also enables the characters to perform feats of wondrous physical motions and a wealth of emotions effectually, which real persons can hardly accomplish. That said, animation as an established genre of performing art deserves of legitimate artistic appreciation and merits its own place in the canon of cinematography.

“Ocean Waves” a 1993 Japanese anime television film directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and written by Kaori Nakamura based on the 1990 eponymous novel by Saeko Himuro is worth noting the beautiful cinematic qualities and elegant storyline that spreads through the mind and lingers there in alterations so deep that they are felt almost physical. The setting of the film is in the city of Kochi, located on the Japanese island of Shikoku. It tells of the first love developed by Taku Morisaki whose story flashes back to his high school years in Kochi as he catches the sight of a familiar woman whom he has fallen for on the platform opposite at a Tokyo subway station. It’s Rikako Muto, a bright and beautiful new girl transferred to his high school. At that time, Taku did not realize that he was besotted with her. However, as Taku narrates the events that have brought her into his life, Taku comes to know that for all these times, he has been crazy about her. It’s a moment of great awakening of love, an epiphany of adulthood, all in the calm recognition of meaning of love as to see the essence of another human being in the inner most core of who the person is. Taku and Rikako has known their own faults and frailties since they first met in school, and now they see one another’s innermost core of their personalities, which are the essential traits and features of the beloved person to actualize their potentialities in love with awareness and understanding.

The emotions are elegantly nuanced in the narration, but we know that the feelings are all present in the ways that the characters move and talk. That is the beauty of this animated film that renders no less visual and dramatic effects than other genres of film. Director Mochizuki is a young, ambitious director whose punctilious attention to details and the authenticity of the ambiance and theme of this film speak to our lost days of innocence in this world of collapsed grand narratives, gratuitous sensual expressions and super abundance of raw, unbridled charge of emotions that are hard to be empathetic to the minds of those who are likely to find solace in quietude. Walt Disney said animation offers an effective medium of story-telling and visual entertainment which produces pleasure and story that people of all ages everywhere in the world can enjoy and relate to. For these reasons, this film is worthwhile to be noted.

there she goes (BBC drama 2018) – review

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Although I am not a parent, I know that parenting is a grand task constant of every age. The ancient Greeks thought that to rear children was a hazardous undertaking and success was won though struggle. In this respect, parenting -like all other our human vicissitudes that life presents to us – can be something of an odyssey packed full of both foreseeable and unforeseeable events tinged with laughs and sighs sailing through thick fogs of uncertainty of the future but with silver-lined clouds of hope for tomorrows. A family is in the vessel of life’s voyage, and they are in for the adventure together as in the Yates of “There She Goes”.

This drama evolves around Rosie Yates, a nine-year old learning-disabled daughter of Emily and Simon and her bright older brother Ben. Rosie is a beautiful girl in appearance, but she still wears a diaper and needs her parents’ help in all things she wants to do, ranging from going to a park to eating pastas, to wearing her clothes, and to combing her hair. Her intention of the will is expressed by raw emotions of crying, shrieking, lying down on a floor (even in public) and laughing. To be brutally honest, Rosie is unbelievably uncontrollable and patently outrageous in her unbridled behaviors as symptoms of chromosomal disorder. Looking at Rosie’s outbursts of frustration, I recollected the image of wild Helen Keller before she met Ms. Sullivan. I could not help but think throughout the whole series of the drama thus: ‘What if Rosie got a teacher like Ms. Sullivan? The Yates were of a middle-class family, and there must be a way Rosie could be like Helen Keller in order that she will be independent of her family’s twenty-four-hour vigilance. It will be beneficent  to both herself and her family.’  But then my wish would be father to the thought because the Yates would not seem to entrust the care of Rosie to any one outside her family.

The drama is based on the real-life experiences of creator Shaun Pye to whom I applaud to the very echo for all that she has taken to raise her daughter. And I also feel for her husband brilliantly played by David Tennent who at first did not want to accept the truth of Rosie’s disability but later turned to be a loving father. In fact, Tennent’s performance excels in portraying a neurotic-looking father who has doubts about Rosie’s betterment but has no doubt about his love of her, his wife, and their son. He does it without a shred of overaction or hyperventilating emotions, which renders the drama a sense of verisimilitude. Parents or not, married or single, this drama shows the truthful and honest portrayal of family on a life’s odyssey bound by love and understanding and patience. If you like a simple drama that portrays the life of ordinary folks without perfect teeth and great hair but with a good storyline and elliptical scripts, this is worth watching.