“Banyak orang yang merasa pintar, tetapi tidak banyak orang yang pintar merasa.”
– Pak Iwan, warga Kampung Pulo
The hours, they are creeping in like windows on an empty house
drinking dust and waiting for a new owner
to live in them. The hours are living in the present. Your presence,
your furniture, your collection of building sketches are
the ones that need repeating.
The hours are fresh-painted walls in a museum, never elsewhere
but white spaces are never anywhere. Safe and sound in a plain view.
Your fingers twisting magic words,
your mind formulating fantasy,
your eyes concentrating.
The ones that need repeating.
A man walks into his cousin’s life, meeting her tycoon husband and suddenly gets his pass into the 1920’s New York high life. His mysterious — but extremely wealthy — neighbor throws up huge party at his huge mansion every week, and secretly was the old lover of the man’s cousin who tries to get her off her unfaithful husband. Drama ensues.
There. I just saved you from trying to read into the already simple storyline of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, a high concept adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel of the same name. Despite having a certain affection of American Classics, I somehow haven’t got to reading the actual novel, but I can tell you one or two things about the 2013 adaptation: the whole damn thing is incoherent. Not the story, fortunately, since most literature adaptations are usually saved in the story department however bad the whole movie is, but the way everything else connects with each other to create a bearable movie.
The slow motion scenes. The costume design (this one is actually wonderful). The overlaid quotes. The cheesy CGI. And the worst offender, the hip-hop/The XX/whatever else resembling a soundtrack! Look, many people dislike Sucker Punch like it was Hitler’s first movie. I liked it, since Zack Snyder made it fully conscious that it will be so over-the-top as the movie goes that he can hear the jaws dropping on the floor as the robot samurai dragons or whatever they are march to their death by the protagonist girls in their scantily clad outfits. It was meant to be extravagant. It was Snyder’s wet dream, and people should forgive him for still making a decent movie out of it.
Meanwhile, The Great Gatsby, as far as I’m concerned, was about 1920s America. A real decade in a real world, despite being set in the fictional West Egg somewhere in Long Island, NYC. Luhrmann made a good approach with a wonderful detail to art direction, creating wonderful costumes and lavishly extraordinary scene of Gatsby’s house parties. But it doesn’t seem to come anywhere beyond the eye candies. Nobody can deny that what is beneath is just a simple love drama between three people, and Luhrmann never tries to expand beyond that. Tarsem’s The Fall practiced minimalist storyline with gorgeous costume design and cinematography. Premium Rush explored a simple, well-thought premise through high tension scenes to keep you on the edge of the seat. Luhrmann’s Gatsby adopts none of those, and instead layered a very basic drama with pretty costumes and endless CGI makeup. If I wasn’t familiar with the title before, I wouldn’t believe it was an adaptation of what is considered as one of the Great American Novels.
The only thing worse than the sleep-inducing story exploration is its incapability of creating the atmosphere of NYC in the 1920’s. During the movie I asked myself numerous times on what inspires the director to insert a half-decent rendition of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” in one of the scenes. Holy crap. I’m pretty sure in one of the deleted scenes there were a time traveler who accidentally gave his middle school music collection to the folks in dapper pants. Is this American Pie? And in the mellower scene there was that signature The XX sound. Come on, this isn’t Twilight. Not to mention Lana Del Rey. I’m pretty sure Pitchfork jizzed in their pants, let me check for a moment — nope, even they hated it. Dude. I’m not exactly against putting outlandish music in your movie, but I’m not sure many people would appreciate an unexpected reality check halfway through their popcorn. Sorry Luhrmann, but Nick Carraway should have better left his draft titled simply “Gatsby”.
Full disclosure: Aside of not having read the original novel, I also might or might not have fallen asleep for a couple minutes while watching, so maybe I’m missing a thing or two here.
This is a story. I might want to write about it more in the upcoming days. Enjoy.
Timetrip Mourning Blues
Andy came quickly through my door. This is it! He said, but I didn’t get what he’s saying just yet. This is the living proof! A human through time! I was shocked for a while, thinking maybe he had knocked his head somewhere on his way home, but I followed him anyway. I walked outside to see a man in a brown suit, holding a newspaper clip which I later learned had the headline: Young Footballer Lost Without Trace. It dated back to twenty years ago. Andy said he bumped into the man on his way home, and being the big sports nerd he is, he recognized the man almost instantly.
The man was Joaquin Mourning. He was a footballer.
Show me what you’ve got, I said after taking him and Andy to a field. I produce a ball from my bag and passed it to him. According to Andy, if you are really Joaquin, you should have no problem getting through Andy and score between the two pine trees. He stood there for a while, swiftly dribbling to the already prepared Andy, swerving to the left before stopping the ball with his right foot and made a quick spin to the right of the gullible Andy. Such finesse. With a single long shot, the ball landed smooth on the grass field. Such precision. His movements wasn’t of someone who is in his mid-forties, and he certainly doesn’t look like one. Comparing to the newspaper photo, he probably aged only a year or two. Now, do you believe me? He didn’t say a word but it was written all over his huge shit eating grin.
Curiosity has got the best of us already. We talked and talked. He didn’t know what happened, other than that on a Tuesday afternoon he suddenly jumped forward by a minute over and over again, and later on that day he was gone and arrived in his room exactly 14 hours later in a single blink. It seems to work on his own will, and while there is probably no limit on how much forward he can go in time, it wasn’t the case in space since he can only move in approximately a 1 km radius.
Also, he can’t go back in time. Only forward.
Joaquin was about to finish his sentence while he vanished into thin air in a blink. No poof, no cloud of smoke or whatever. Andy was speechless. Had I not talked to calm him down he probably would lost his shit right there. A time traveler, describing his experience, and gone in half a millisecond.
I can see the huge disappointment in Andy’s eyes. But it need not to last long. In around four and a half minutes some young man came running across the field towards us. It was Joaquin, again.
Taking time to catch his breath, he apologized briefly. That it wasn’t intentional. Sometimes, just very occasionally he would lost control and jumped a few minutes forward to somewhere close. I looked at his eyes. He stared back. I couldn’t tell if he was lying or not. Somehow his hair seemed just a tiny bit shorter. He couldn’t have got his hair cut in four and a half minutes, not to mention all by himself. His ears would have been chopped off. Why did you came back running? I asked him, because he could very well just walk off anywhere just fine leaving us in disbelief over his story. I need you guys, he said. I am not the only one who can blink. No, I am the only one. Probably. But I am not one. Someone is on my heels. Minutes, days, months, years — he is coming closer and closer.
What can you tell of him? What does he look like? Andy and I got more curious since today will probably turn into a big adventure we’ve hoped all our lives to live. Aaron hesitated. No, it’s not hesitation. He knew exactly what he was going to say. He just loves a big, dramatic pause. The man, he said — is myself.
You step into life. You roar, you cry. You grab things to try to make sense. You see and visualize. Your cells gulp and gain and thrive to be larger than whatever preceded you. You skip through food and take naps and stay awake at night. You turn pages of wonder into deliberate algorithms and empathy contained in a tiny vessel. The vessel grows but you stay you. You meet people. Sane people with rudimentary emotions. You figure out the boundaries. You draw your own lines. You run red lights. You slam the brakes once. Hospitals fake their welcomes. You navigate yourself through rivers of different isms, casting ashore at times short enough to make sense but not long enough to not care. You fall in love. You grow and break and come to terms with what you can make. You elaborate to ensure you can elaborate. You consume and process. You tread into places nobody fears but you. Fearful, fearful you. You underachieve. You take steps back. You take brisk walks under the midnight sunshine. You never actually make sense. You take long pause to think whatever becomes of you. You compensate. You fall asleep watching scenes of people falling asleep together. You dwell on past mistakes. You get your shit together. Months, maybe years. You start to learn that nobody knows what they are doing. Your shoes are worn out, so you throw them out. You walk in some new shoes. You become a believer. You crash your car and walk out fine. You water your grass to make them greener. You run and talk about running. You still don’t know what you are doing.
You suit yourself just fine.
Last Friday was one of the most surprising days of 2013 so far for me: I woke up to the news that the most prominent film critic in the world, Roger Ebert, is no more.
It was just last Wednesday when I read Roger Ebert’s post on his blog that he was taking some time off of his blog to deal with his reoccurring cancer and how he wrote that he will still be reviewing movies and working on his project titled Ebert Digital, and how there will be probably a fourth book in his Great Movies series. Two days later, poof, he passed away from his years-long battle with thyroid cancer. Now I’m not the kind of guy who will weep over some notable person’s death like some did when Steve Jobs passed away even though he did not singlehandedly designed the whole line of Apple products, but hearing that Roger Ebert has passed away made that morning a very sad one. Perhaps because he liked film. Perhaps because he spent forty-six years of his life working for Chicago Sun-Times and wrote about movies passionately. Perhaps because he is a basically a writer. Perhaps because I love movies and I like to write and I also have faith in good movies. But of course, to become the single most recognized film critic in the world, you would have to be more than a mere newspaper critic and TV host. His death broke many hearts because he brought his passion of movies to countless people all over the world and he did so with a very big heart.
Some people, most notably Americans, might be growing up watching Siskel & Ebert & The Movies in the mid-80s and the 90s, and found their way into the wonderful world of movies by watching the pair debating various movies and brought the fact that movies are something more than mere entertainment. I have never watched the show. I was an Indonesian kid who wasn’t even ten years old in the 90s, so how far removed I am from the possibility of ever watching the show in my childhood! But even then, when I was well into teenage years and even before I took movies more seriously, I had known the name Roger Ebert and the famous thumbs up for his approval of movies. In fact, up until a few years ago I probably couldn’t remember the name of any other film critic other than Ebert. High school was the first time I really looked into good movies, and since the one critic I knew was Ebert, I always checked what he’d got to say about movies I wanted to watch.
His reviews are glowing. He was a great writer and a critic that could articulate his points well. He didn’t fall into structures and instead brought people right into the mood and the situation of the movies, something many others has tried to emulate ever since. One thing I really like about his writings is how he managed to talk not just about the quality of the film he is reviewing, but how the story corresponds the world we currently live in and often more importantly, with humanity. In his review of The Double Life of Veronique (which is one of his Great Movies), he related the experience of Weronika feeling she has been in two places at once all his life with how we imagine sitting in a cafe in Venice while being at home at the same time — because he noted that it is a movie about feelings, and feelings are pointless if we don’t manifest them ourselves. He reminded people that movies are more than meets the eye, and through his TV show and reviews, that everyone can delve deeper into the movies themselves to see what he said. The result is a whole generation of film critics who wrote posts about how they owed him for introducing them to look deeper into movies. It is safe to say that there are no film critic these days in their respective websites and blogs that has not been influenced by Roger Ebert in some ways.
But Ebert was more than just a critic. He married only after his mother died in his 50s. He thought video games don’t deserve to be called art. He does not believe in the afterlife, but respects others with a religion. How do I know about this? He wrote about his life over and over again. Ebert’s writings reminded me that, more than products or buildings, your writings will get your voice to the world and make those who read it feel as they’ve known you all their life. Here is a man who died halfway around the world and I feel like I know him personally better than I know my own president. (Granted, I haven’t read much about SBY.) He is a man who embraced the world with his positive attitude towards everything and held his passion up high so others can see it and learn to love it with him. This man will most likely be remembered as the last most prominent film critic in the world, as the chance to shine as bright as him is now virtually nonexistent thanks to the internet. He serves as a great inspiration for me to live for what you love and I will always remember his last written words in his last post, A Leave of Presence:
So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.
Everybody’s usually got their own favorite TV show or two. Most of my friends go with How I Met Your Mother, which I also watch occasionally but to actually never meet who the real mother is after 8 or so season is getting tiring, really. And I never really get into any TV show anyway, because honestly the idea of investing hours and hours to watch 30 to 45 minutes of each episode of a TV show sounds really exhausting to me, do I really have that much of a spare time everyday?
Turns out I did.
A few months back, a very British TV show caught my attention. It wasn’t because of its Britishness, which if it is then I would just watch Downton Abbey instead, which I currently kinda almost do having downloaded 5 of its episodes, but because it’s a sci-fi TV show. Turns out I have a soft spot for anything sci-fi. And unlike other shows lasting 5-8 seasons without being heard of again, this one have been running for almost fifty years, save for the decade-long gap in the 90’s. The show is called Doctor Who.
So what is it really about? Doctor Who tells the tale about a time-travelling alien named The Doctor, who travels through time and space with his spaceship, a blue British police box named TARDIS that is bigger on the inside. And he occasionally brings one or two companions throughout his journey. And he cannot die, since every time he almost died he regenerated instead into a new face, new body and (kind of) new personality. That about sums the whole story of Doctor Who. The show first started back in 1963, and yes, the Doctor we see now is the same character as the Doctor when the series first started 50 years ago. There have been lots and lots of companions going with him all the time, but he is essentially the same Doctor from the black-and-white age of television back in the 60’s.
If you’re wondering why a show could last so long, worry not. The plot device that is his regenerative ability allows the Doctor to be played by different actors throughout the show’s timeline, and in fact so far the Doctor has regenerated 10 times which makes the current Doctor, Matt Smith, as the eleventh Doctor. His companions are easier to be changed though, any plot twist could be easily made to replace the companions over the time. Usually it’s a young woman, but companions could be anyone from another time traveler (Jack Harkness) to a robotic dog (K-9).
Being a traveler in space and time allows him to go anywhere, from 18th century England to the last planet in the end of the universe. The Doctor has battled numerous aliens, from his centuries-old nemesis the Daleks to the quantum-locked statues the Weeping Angels (which is one of the more interesting enemies). This flexibility also allows the writer to stay on the same characters and rules over the years since it’s not exactly linear, so why the hell should they stop the journey after a final big boss battle? It’s never exactly a battle either, since the Doctor is known to be a pacifist and refuses to bear arms other than his super-handy sonic screwdriver.
Throughout the journey, Doctor Who was not always everybody’s favorite. In 1989, the show was probably running out of ideas and declining in quality and popularity, and thus BBC decided that Doctor Who should come into a halt. The Doctor was on his seventh form, played by Sylvester McCoy, when the show was stopped. 1996 saw the making of the film version with the eighth Doctor being played by Paul McGann, and almost nothing more was heard from the franchise until the show was revived by BBC in 2005’s Doctor Who First Series.
In the 2005 revived series, the ninth Doctor is played by Christopher Eccleston, which only last one season due to him being uncomfortable to the culture and environment of the Doctor Who crew. His companion, Billie Piper as Rose Tyler, lasted through the next seasons exceeding the Eccleston himself. Nevertheless, executive producer Russell T. Davies brought back the show to enormous success, and Eccleston’s Doctor gained a lot of fans due to the charismatic portrayal and the darker side of his Doctor. The next season brought the stylish David Tennant as the tenth Doctor, with his energetic performance and trademark “Allons-y!” stealing the hearts of many. Tennant’s tenure lasted three exciting season, with several companions including Rose from the previous season, Martha Jones, and Donna Noble.
The fifth season was different altogether from the new version of the iconic opening theme, new show logo, to the new Doctor and even new companion. Now headed by Steven Moffat (you might know him as the writer of the hit series Sherlock), the show took a different direction and felt very fresh cinematic and story-wise. The BBC-produced Sherlock series was in fact came to existence from discussions between Moffat and Mark Gatiss who were both working in Doctor Who. The eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, has a highly distinctive style and his new companion Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan, was arguably the prettiest of companions of the revived series.
Currently the show is entering the second half of the seventh season, which introduces Jenna-Louise Coleman as the new companion for Matt Smith in the episode ‘The Bells of Saint John’. The show will be returning exactly today, March 30, which makes a pretty good reason to write this post! This year the show will also celebrate its 50th anniversary in November. Better start watching now, because the show is bigger on the inside. 😀
My rule of thumb for good movies is, “If the movie still lingers in your mind days after watching it, then it’s a good movie.” Many survives the mind-lingering test that now shelved in my “Great movies” collection in the corner of my mind (and some in my MUBI favorite movies list), usually mainly because of three reasons:
1. The visual presentation is simply astonishing, whether it’s the production design, shot composition, or VFX. See: The Darjeeling Limited.
2. The story engrosses the viewer in ways beyond what is depicted on screen. See: A Separation.
3. The atmosphere invoked upon watching lasts with even the slightest reminiscing of any scenes in the movie. See: The Double Life of Veronique.
Of the last year’s glorious galore of cinema, three movies fit each of the criteria like proper shoes: first, Moonrise Kingdom, second, Holy Motors, third, Amour.
Moonrise Kingdom was made as if Wes Anderson himself had said, “Well, fuck those critics, I’m gonna make the most Wes Anderson-y film ever they would not even be able to grind a single teeth”. It was dreamy, cheerful, unreal — something that he wonderfully achieved through amazing shot composition and microscopic attention to set detail. The result is something you wish so badly what your childhood were like.
Holy Motors takes on the cryptic Merde segment on the three-piece Tokyo!, bringing the monsieur to an even wilder adventure that might or might not be his real life. Everything in here is debatable, from his concealed sanity to the period where the story is set. Is it a metaphor of reality television, a sci-fi that doesn’t need questioning, or a complicated character study? It is up to the viewers to decide, and the debate rolls on as each of us embraced the magic of the endless interpretation of cinema.
Amour is wholly different in that it is devoid of any attempt of explaining. Amour is a work of art that needs to be experienced and survived. Amour is more than an observation, it tries to grab your hand and make you feel the heart that keeps the feeling strong. Amour is love, in its many expressions. You have to watch it and let the tears run dry to really devour Amour.
But then again, as all of the above confine themselves by my definition towards one criteria only, I found out recently that in 2012, there was a movie that is a complete package of cinema. A movie that forced me to rethink and create the fourth criteria: A movie that entwines its story, cinematography, and mise-en-scène with such finesse that it is impossible to not think about it afterwards.
What is it about? A WWII veteran missing a few screws from his head is wandering aimlessly, rejected by society until a founder of a new cult-like movement met him by chance. Their relationship grows like magnets shaped like a gorilla and a carrot: Not exactly a pair, but still sticks anyway. Actually, recounting the story made me wish I had seen this on a local cinema. If it ever made its way to Indonesia, I’m definitely seeing it again the proper way it’s meant to be watched, on the biggest screen possible. Watching The Master, I succumbed into visual petite mort last experienced when I watched There Will Be Blood, another movie made by none other than Paul Thomas Anderson himself.
Every scene contains mixes of colors so subtle you need to distance yourself from the story to really appreciate it: cornflower blue and cream white, sunshine gold and burnt sienna, mainly. The spectrum made it way closer to 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love than it is to There Will Be Blood: obvious hues without implying any obvious correlation to the story. Yet, when you can finally take your eyes off the vibrant scenes, what lies below is an enigmatic character study between Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd, both characters soaking wet with power until it doesn’t matter who the main character is. Philip Seymour Hoffman is fantastic (as always) as the charismatic cult leader, but Joaquin Phoenix’s eyes truly radiates crazy as the deranged veteran Quell. Every exchange made is an example of an exquisite script paired with the best actors possible. As the title suggests, The Master is a demonstration of exertion of power, trying to dominate one over the other: Who embodies the id, ego, and super ego?
On top of that, The Master invokes a sense of acuity even with questions left unanswered — a feeling that you have just watched a very comprehensive piece of cinema. It’s everything a drama should be and modern cinema wants to be, a feat only achieved partially by today’s A-list directors. As with PTA’s previous efforts, There Will Be Blood, both movies will forever be remembered as early 21st century masterpieces.
On the second rainy evening of the week, I stared into the drips in the window as they reflect the glow of hundreds of cars going the other way, not really going, merely rolling a few inches at a time. Inside each of them were eyes with gaze similar to mine: this is probably their third hour of being in the ocean of automobiles crawling like prisoners waiting for their turn into the concentration camp, albeit with a minor difference. The car is their concentration camp.
As the car behind me honked like a madman for what have been two seconds of me not noticing the car ahead had moved one meter forward, I remembered that I am, too, inside a car. The machine, and the culture, that has become the most ubiquitous signature of our technological accomplishment over the last century.
Forty-five minutes later, I got home. Cinere, safe and sound and tired.
Don’t get me wrong, I love driving. I would say being able to drive is a modern manifestation of one of our most basic freedoms: The freedom of going places. Everyone should be able to drive, regardless of them having a car or not. Driving should be equal to computer skills. You can get through life not learning it — if you live in the 19th century. This is 2013. You. Should. Be. Able. To. Drive. A. Car.
That being said, getting stuck on the road for three hours just to get home every day is not fun and never will be.
Raising your speed in an empty street, letting the wind blow through your hair, taking left turns to god knows where — that must be what Henry Ford thought when Ford Model T became a hit. But then the cars overload the availability of roads in big cities, and so we formulate public transportation systems so people wouldn’t need to drive again because one bus should be more efficient than ten cars. But people keep on buying new cars, and they drive and drive and drive. And they drive slower and slower, because there are other cars, because the buses are too inconvenient, because they can still stand the sight of yet another traffic jam. And even if it rained all day and made people spent eight hours in their air-conditioned metal cage with their lives draining out of every hole in their body, people will still drive the very next day. Because they still have to get to work or school or meetings.
The question is, until when?
Reminiscing an episode of the revived sci-fi British TV show Doctor Who (the show is my current addiction, but more on that later), titled Gridlock, in the year five billion and fifty three, humanity will graze the Earth with their magnificent flying cars everywhere…
In an eternal traffic jam.
Going at the rate of ten miles in six years.
It goes to the length that there are actually children born and raised in the cars without ever stepping outside because the air is very highly polluted nobody can stand 20 seconds being outside without coughing like a pneumatic grandpa in a coal mine. Sure, it’s most likely a satire on the current state of transportation (note that the episode was made in 2007), and there are cat-human hybrids driving cars and a huge ugly face in a glass vat, but the point is we shouldn’t let the traffic jams become anywhere near that, not in a hundred years, not in a million.
Luckily we are creatures of highly adaptable nature, and numerous solutions have been proposed to overcome the worldwide transportation dilemma. In one side, people from the likes of my campus department are proposing a change in public policy or the mass transportation system, in the other, self-driving cars have been tested and proven to be a highly efficient alternative in the future.
We, on the other hand, should not turn our back and keep on staring on the motionless driver inside the motionless car in front of us anymore. Read and discuss all you can and try to use other means of transportation. Otherwise, one day, a few years from now, staring at the lines of cars outside your own house, you wouldn’t even give a second thought about driving nor going anywhere anymore.
It’s the peak of rainy season here in Bandung. Which means it rains day and night, leaving everyone snuggling in their warm blanket and hot tea and influenza — except when it’s never actually like that. Most of ITB students are facing the final exams in the upcoming week, and currently everyone is busy working on their endless stack of assignments overnights. But hey, catch a little break, will you. It’s going to be over in two weeks anyway, whether you do it half-assed or full-fledged. In between the journals and formulas, I made a little playlist to accompany the white noise of nature, the drenched days and soaked nights, and probably driving you to sleep.
Do you know what it’s called when the rain draws in even when the sun is still up and about? In Japan they call it kitsune no yomeiri (the fox’s wedding), and nobody is supposed to see the procession or you might end up gifted a blade by the foxes to kill yourself, a la Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams. Meanwhile in our country we believed that a wealthy Chinese has just died during the rain. Racist bastards, aren’t we.
1. Autechre — “Nine”
2. Minta & The Brook Trout — “Devil We Know”
3. Of Montreal — “City Bird”
4. Balmorhea — “Shore”
5. Woods — “Wind Was the Wine”
6. Preludes — “Ariel”
7. Black Moth Super Rainbow — “Psychic Love Damage”
8. Oh Mercy — “Doldrums”
9. Gretchen Parlato — “In a Dream”
10. A Hawk and a Hacksaw — “Lazslo Lassú”
Click here and enjoy. Password: kevinadityadotcom