Tag Archives: films

150 miles to El Dorado

foggy-morning-in-a-meadow

Judy begins to feel like a whimsical paramour leaving for a new object of love at sight. What was pleasingly solitary in the nature seems to be a prolonged isolation from the world that Judy so wanted to escape, and her coquettish dalliance with the wild rugged nature is no longer wanted as the Sun is slowly moving westerly to cave in to the Evening Star and the Moon. It might be still early for calling it a day to you with your weekend frolics still left to re-calibrate your kicks for another week, but it’s late for Judy, who would rather mourn for a passing of the last day of a weekend at home than rebel against it in a frenzy of nocturnal bacchanalian orgy elsewhere outside the comforts of her den. Now the anxiety holds a grip on her, and she begins to fret, and the miasma of the ill-feelings begins to effuse the uneasiness to Nena who begins to whimper and to the accidental trio of strangers observing every move that this girl makes as they are nearing to her, part perplexed, part bewildered. What a curious mixture of emotions she puts on her face! Rufus, Ben, and Raphael become curiouser and curiouser as they get nearer to the porcelain doll in their eyes.

‘Howdy! Lass! What are you doing here?’ Raphael, the talker, begins the talking. ‘We are headed west toward Los Adios Mountain. Do you know where it is?’ Judy incredulously looks up the mounted man with a mustache and a sombrero and thinks that he looks very convincingly like Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s faithful servant. There’s something about the man, thinks Judy. The diction, the ambiance, and the deportment are rather anachronistic or incongruous even to the social media era where people flag their selfies on the internet as if they were on a popularity contest and compete for likes and comments as emotional security and collateral for their forged so-called self-confidence. My Dear Reader, don’t misunderstand that it’s immoral for you to hang your beautiful pictures on a digital platform for popular admiration. It’s just that this act of self-promotion serves as a springboard for testing your marketability and your mobility as a result of winning the competition for likability based upon looks and frivolous comments that do not mean much, much at all. Amid this train of thought, Judy despite being agitated by the lateness of the time warms to this amiable man and decides to answer him. ‘This is Wildwood Park, sir. Los Adios Mountain is 150 miles away from here. And you should go northward. You are far off from your destination.’ It is a sight to behold – the face of Raphael grimaced partly and bewildered partly, all in a dazzling chemistry of emotions that is hard to describe. So much so that this display of indescribable human emotions on Raphael mollifies Nena’s agitation and puts the tempestuous waves of her emotions at ease. Now Judy feels refreshed and happy.

Rufus and Ben are within an earshot of this dialogue between the pretty lass and Raphael and cannot but be disappointed by the fact that they are once again on the wrong track, which seems to be forever chasing after a phantom of the dead Union soldier obfuscating them lest they should find where the buried treasure is. Where’s the Aztec gold? When can they find it? Maybe the miasma of frustration and agitation that hovered over Judy must have been transmitted to Rufus and Ben on the stead because now their faces mirror the symptoms of malady of broken hearts. Then suddenly, Nena now recovered from the plague of uneasiness, springs forward and wags its chubby tail and bark toward the firmament as if it were looking at a thing invisible to your and my human eyes. Nena keeps barking and looking at the puzzled crowd behind as though it were trying to explain them that there is something in the air that only Nena can see but we can’t see. ‘What is it, Nena? What you do you see?’ Judy knows that dogs and cats can see supernatural things because their eyes can look through the souls of the living and ghosts of the dead. Judy tries to follow the direction where Nena is looking and barking and sees a gossamer trace of haze vanishing into the air like the vestige of a propeller plane soon to be effaced across the skies. The more Judy tries to scrutinize it, the faster it disappears. And Nena keeps barking, looking in front of the curious crowd. What is it that the dog is seeing?

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.

‘Bad Ben – The Way In (2019)’, by Nigel Bach – review

I don’t know why I am drawn to this bold middle-aged curmudgeon named Tom Riley, who fashions himself to be a self-professed paranormal investigator. While I liked the Mandela Effect one about which I even wrote because of its refreshingly ingenious takes on a genre of horror film, it never occurred to me that I would be contracted with the uncanny charm of this ireful, cloddish Jersey man’s fiasco of battles with a legion of nine demons commandeering in the same beautiful house to no end. That’s the gist of this hilariously polished offbeat film about Tom Riley, the alter ego of director Nigel Bach, and that’s why he returns with his own legion of demons in this ‘Bad Ben – the Way in.’

In this installment, Riley goes back to the haunted house of which he was a former owner to rid the demons thereof at the request of a new owner before the family moves in. He accepts the offer for none other than an existential need of money, hence the repertoire of his wrestling with the demons begins: the toy girls still wreak havoc of already edgy borderline neurotic Riley with seven other demons, introducing Clown and Voodoo dolls that look irritatingly menacing without diabolic charisma. Well, that’s the point of this new film by Bach, who seems to render the ambiance of irony fused with comedy and tragedy, which is another stance on life itself according to his view of reality. At least, that is what Bach visualizes his way of weltanschauung with go-aheaditiveness and hubris even though the motives are for lucrative rewards. But then who will pillory the man in need when we all need it to get by?

Mad, bad and bold Riley is here again to do his job, and he does it with his trademark dour humor and grumpy face that render his continuing saga of ghost-busting all the more realistic and business-like, which is all the more refreshing and oddly attractive and highly addictive. If you do not like the person of Riley for his ill-temper at his worst, you can appreciate his resilience, optimism, and courage against the forces of evil at his best. This is Bach’s finest hour.