I was looking for horror movie recommendations a little while back (because it’s Shocktober) and my friend Dan Coffey asked if David Lynch movies counted. I replied that they didn’t; Lost Highway was certainly unsettling, but insufficiently horror-like to me. In my head, at least, I needed strange sounds in the night, supernatural presences, people dispatched in terrible and inventive ways. Things that stalked or crawled. Creatures that fed.
Na Hong-Jin’s The Wailing (Gokseong, 2016), like the film’s shadowy outsiders who are not what they seem, is a shapeshifting horror movie: it starts off resembling a police procedural, but veers off into unexpected territory. A series of rage-provoked murders in a rural town seem to be unrelated — an epidemic of sorts, perhaps caused by ergotism — and so I sat back waiting for the zombie plague to begin.
I was playing with WordPress this morning and thought I’d repost my longer blog entries on movies into a new site. (The category page was getting too unwieldy to load anyhow.)
So: three entries will be uploaded a day until the old posts run out, which will probably be a month. I won’t be editing any of them (regardless of how wrong they might sound to me now), just reposting them as I go.
It’s interesting to see that, in the 11 years or so I’ve been blogging, my writing has actually changed — for the better, I think. Whether it’s an improvement in style (debatable), an acquisition of both writing and cinematic vocabularies, or a genuine attempt in taking the stuff more seriously, it’s a reflection of an ongoing, immersive, giddy education in consuming movies. Or, perhaps more aptly, being consumed by them. I can’t think of any other art form that has given me as much pleasure.
It should be clear that this cinematic “education” is not formal at all; when it comes to movies I’m a total amateur — and yes, in the older sense of the word too. (And I should add that despite the mention of Tarkovsky and Kubrick — and that screen capture from Last Year in Marienbad, which will change from time to time — I’ll still be mostly writing about flicks you can find at your local multiplex.)
The name of the WordPress blog — Film, Eyeballs, Brain — partly comes from an essay in The New Yorker by Jonathan Lethem called “The Beards”. An excerpt from the piece is reproduced in a sidebar, and it should be self-explanatory. (However, I’ve actually taken it a bit out of context. It may be best not to reproduce the succeeding paragraphs as they’re probably a little too revealing — not of Lethem, but of myself. You can find it in anthologized in Lethem’s essay collection The Disappointment Artist, but he rewrote the passage I quote.)
Please add me to your feedreader, link to me on your blogroll, tell friends, and most of all: please leave comments! (And please don’t tell me that the url looks like it’s four separate words (“Film, Eye, Balls, Brain”) — I know that already.
1. My comment boxes have died — I suspect people (or spammers) have been posting something, but I can’t read them somehow, and even some old comments aren’t showing up anymore. So I’ve turned them off, unfortunately. Anyone wanting to leave me a message or a comment can send them to me via the Meebo widget on the upper right-hand side of the main blog index page. (I can get them even if I’m offline.)
2. Arthur Dong’s Hollywood Chinese is one of the best Asian American documentaries I’ve ever seen, period, and one I’d assign to students in a heartbeat if it were out on DVD. It’s also out on a limited theatrical release all across the world, but Bay Area audiences are lucky enough to have it for almost two weeks (April 11-23 at the Kabuki and at the Grand Lake). (Los Angeles viewers have it made though, as it’s part of an entire Hollywood Chinese film series at the Egyptian from May 15-22, including a cast and crew reunion of Wayne Wang’s The Joy Luck Club.)
Hollywood Chinese is a fascinating film all throughout, including jawdropping footage from Marion Wong’s The Curse of Quon Gwon) — the first Chinese American film ever made, in 1916 (!) — plus revealing (and sometimes hilarious) interviews). (It’s also worth noting that Arthur Dong walked off with a Golden Horse for Best Documentary last year — and that two of the other winners (Ang Lee and Joan Chen) are interviewed in his documentary as well.)
3. Up next, to be posted in the next few weeks:
– possibly more movie reviews
– a handy and totally opinionated guide to the San Francisco International Film Festival, whose lineup is coming out next week
– a summer reading and watching list
– my life as the neighborhood invalid
– Pinoy academic porn