I don’t know exactly why they exist. But, they intrigue me

 

I am talking about the opening ceremonies of multi-sports events. Considering I am too lazy to do some research, I will make my own obviously-invalid conjecture about how they came into being.

It seems the elaborateness started on the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow. I assume the USSR tried to compensate for its human rights violations and impoverished populace by bringing out the ‘positivity’ that was the opening ceremony.

I have that assumption because it is no secret countries all over the world, even ones more well-off than the USSR, actively bearing deceptively friendly and warm facades on the international stage. No matter how free and peaceful their countries are, they all need propaganda… and opening ceremonies of multi-sports events make a really good one.

They are the only propaganda I willingly fall for. They are the only reason why I care for some sporting events and they also successfully instil suspension of disbelief into my mind; every time I watch the ceremonies, I am willing to pretend that the host countries are all-perfect, albeit temporarily.

I have made reviews for the opening ceremonies of Asian Games and Para Games 2018 (simply because I am an Indonesian, obviously). Don’t know why it took me a long to review the summer olympics ones.

I will focus on the ones held in Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, in that order. They are the summer olympics openings I have watched in their entirety.

I know I could have waited for the Tokyo one. But, I want to write this down now.

2000 Sydney

There are three things that I love about this edition: Deep Sea Dreaming segment, Nature segment and James Morrison’s Jazzy fanfare.

I love the two segments because the combination of playful and colourful visuals with soothing orchestral soundtracks result in an ethereal spectatorship. I love the fanfare because of how its energetic sounds compliment the atmosphere of a sporting event.

But, the rest of the ceremony is tacky and problematic.

In contrast to those two specific segments, the others seem to be designed solely to hype up the audience. The segment titled Arrivals even goes so far to exhibit extremely sparse visual and prefers to give spotlight to the kitsch upbeat techno music!

One of my media studies lecturers also pointed out the whitewashing in the Tin Symphony segment. Instead of showcasing the hardship of the British convicts sent to Australia, it only depicts happy early European settlers.

I also pointed to her that throughout the ceremony, one can see the Aboriginal performers observing the performances from afar. It can be interpreted either as a commentary of how Australian Aboriginals are excluded from their country’s festivities OR as a subtle middle finger to them.

It might not be ill-intentioned. But, combined with the historical whitewashing, it can send a wrong message.

2004 Athens

The conclusion unfortunately feels cold and I think the use of trance music during the parade of nations emits an off-putting vibe of self-indulgence. But, at the same time, it is the most artistic and thought-provoking opening ceremony ever… and I said that without any sense of exaggeration.

The Allegory segment really does live up to its name. It is a dream sequence (and I am a sucker for dream-like atmospheres) which features a giant, floating Cycladic head sculpture breathtakingly arising from the body of water with geometric imagery projected onto it. Then, the sculpture breaks into pieces, revealing a more sophisticated sculpture of a human torso inside… which breaks again, revealing another human torso sculpture. A white cube also arises from the water with a man tries to balance himself on it, all while images of human beings and humanity’s achievements projected onto the sculpture’s broken pieces. The segment ends with the pieces land on the water, representing the Greek islands.

Basically, it is an allegory about the evolution of human civilisations and present-day Greece is one of the starting points. I adore this segment for its skilful storytelling with no expositions needed. Anyone with basic knowledge in history will easily get it.

The Clepsydra segment is also a unique segment. It depicts Greek history and mythology. But, how they are depicted struck me. It took me some time to realise the moving things on those carts were not animatronics, they were actual people with painted bodies who deliberately moved like animated sculptures!

It is refreshing from the usual routine of performers wandering all over the venue. It feels less like watching an entertainment show and more like visiting a museum; for someone who loves visiting museums, it is certainly a strength.

I always wonder about the performers: were they dancers, actors or models? I thought about those three professions because they clearly require mastery of our body languages.

The presence of Björk, a musician known for her intense musical exploration, surely bolsters the event’s overall artistry as well.

2008 Beijing

I know people will rip me for this (as if my essay will ever blow up): this edition is too overrated.

The more mature I get, the more I see how tacky it is. In fact, it is as tacky as the Sydney one. No regard for aesthetic, only for the audience’s desire for eye candy.

Okay, it is a bit unfair. The Beijing edition is certainly more grandiose and therefore, requires more discipline from the performers. Disciplined enough to work as a large collective, but still manage to look like humans instead of robots.

2012 London

Aesthetic wise, I am not that impressed. Many of the choreographies (excluding the one in the 7/7 tribute) are either awkward or basic. The one in the children’s literature segment looks like it was created by an amateur.

The event is also another pander express. It chooses to showcase the United Kingdom’s most famous aspect of life: pop culture. Of course, I do understand why the focus is not on British heritage or history; the former may be boring to non-Brits and the latter is associated with colonialism and must be executed with great tact. Pop culture is a safe choice. But, it makes the entire ceremony feels like a commercially-produced British TV show.

Strangely, I also think it has emotional profundity lacking in the other editions. The joy, the grief, the sense of wonder, they don’t feel artificial. They feel sincere.

I wonder if it has something to do with the nature of British entertainment.

From what I observe, American and Indonesian ones (especially when one talks about ‘reality’ TV shows) can be forceful with the emotions; they love to dictate the audience on what to feel. British entertainment, on the other hand, prefers to let them speak for themselves and it is always transparent about their absence.

Obviously, my statement is too simplistic as exceptions does and will always exist. But, from my personal experiences, Indonesian and American entertainment constantly annoy me with their overt-sentimentality which always comes across as insincere; British one barely annoys me like that.

2016 Rio de Janeiro

I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with this edition.

It has eye-catching visuals, it has upbeat music… and yet, it feels anaemic. It reminds me of a person who tries to put a lively and energetic facade when deep down, he/she in favour of calmness and quietness. I have such observation because the calmer segments work rather well.

My God, the environmentalist message. Why does it have to be so on-the-nose? When will people realise that blatant messages in the arts and entertainment are fucking off-putting? How will this make people accept that humans are a a part of nature and not above it?

The only thing I like about the ceremony is the acknowledgement of Brazil’s history of slavery. I love it because such acknowledge is refreshing to any countries… and because it is actually goddamn subtle and not dependent on any fucking bullshit expositions!

Which editions are my favourites?

The Athens and London ones, if you can’t tell.

Instead of completely pandering to the masses as the creative director of the Athens edition, Dimitris Papaioannou maintained his identity as an artist. Creators must be commended for that because, whether we want to admit it or not, the members of the audience were benefited by non-escapist and artistic presentations and having their horizon widened even further. Considering the global significance of the olympics, Papaioannou did millions of people a favour by compelling them to stay ‘switched on’, albeit only for a while.

And yes, I am making a big deal out of the London edition’s emotional sincerity. It is just that I am deeply revolted by the synthetic emotionality which many creatures prefer over the organic one; they prefer the former because they think being obvious equals being sincere. Running into the latter is such a nice, rare treat.

But, do you what is nicer? Fusing both strengths into one.

Can you imagine watching an opening ceremony that makes you think and feel? Right now, I can only yearn for such gratification.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

 

Are Marvel films “cinema”? (And a long rant about snobs)

 

Yes, they are. And yes, I am late to the party.

My short answer should be the end of the story. But, I can’t help myself from ranting and letting cretins ruining my days.

Yes, it is “days”. Plural.

On Facebook, a land where intelligent discourses thrive, I made posts on multiple pages and groups on why I disagree with Scorsese, Coppola and their defenders.

Surprisingly, my comments were more well-received than I expected. It feels nice to know I am not alone with my frustration.

Unsurprisingly, I also encountered detractors -two to be exact- and their overall counter argument is something I have seen read and heard before. Yet, it still manages to ruffle my feathers.

Basically, they told me that instead of being “unfairly dismissive”, I should eat the “humble pie” (one of them said that exact term), acknowledge that my taste is shit, acknowledge that my opinions regarding cinema are and will always be inherently less worthy than the ones regurgitated by award-winning directors and acknowledge that I am being pretentious for thinking mine can be better than theirs.

Five reasons why it is a bullshit argument.

Reason one:

Awards are not always what we think they are.

They do not always indicate appreciation of merits. They can also be used as indicators of how much certain individuals and their creations are beloved by the establishment.

You cannot expect me to believe they are always about merits when James Cameron’s Avatar, a film which success was entirely dependent on special effects and 3D theatre presentations, was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

Reason two:

It advocates status-worshipping.

Surely, if one wants to determine the merit of an opinion, the most important thing is to analyse the reasoning and evidences being used instead getting fixated on how much the establishment loves the opinion maker.

It is not anti-intellectual to simply question the so-called experts. If anything, it ensures they are being held to the highest standard.

Oh, and if you encounter the “Marvel films are not cinema” remark online and you don’t know who said it, you would not assume it was made by intellectual adults hardened by life experiences.

No, you would assume it was made by immature and pretentious snot-nosed teenagers who think their tastes are the most sophisticated ones.

In fact, it is way less understandable when a adult does that. You would think life experiences will make her/him more mature and reasonable.

Speaking about pretentiousness…

Reason three:

Those two snobs don’t know what pretension is.

I don’t have my own personal definition of what cinema is as I choose to stick with the most objective one available: the production and distribution of films.

As much as I despise films like Michael Bay’s and Batman vs Superman, I have to acknowledge them as parts of the cinema, just like my favourite films are.

It is arrogant for anyone -Scorsese and Coppola included- to think their subjective definitions of certain words are the only right ones.

They are trying to convince us that their unsound and petulant remarks are more profound than they really are. They are trying to convince us that among billions of human beings living right now, people like them are the only ones who “get” cinema.

In short, they are fucking pretentious.

I, on other hand, try my best to be as objective as possible by not letting my hatred of certain works hinder my judgement and by not pretending my taste is best.

One of my detractors also nitpicked about my wording. He said it was pretentious of me to use the word “one” as a pronoun.

When one realises one does not have any good comebacks, one can simply retaliated by splitting hair in front of one’s opponent.

Reason four:

They insist on thinking in boxes.

It has been ingrained in their minds that loving films like Marvel’s is an absolute sign of mediocre taste. As I can enjoy them, they perceive me as thoroughly unsophisticated.

But, I also told them about my love of Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick, three directors who are frequently considered as among the best by film snobs.

So, if one takes their words as the truth, it means I have a really good taste in cinema.

Well, not to my detractors.

Even with my repeated claims that I love those directors, my detractors kept pretending I could only love Marvel and Marvel only.

Their black and white mindset cannot comprehend how one’s taste in anything can be difficult or even impossible to pigeonhole.

If they immediately acknowledged my love of those directors, they would have to accept that tastes can be complex. But, as they insisted on thinking in boxes, they ignored my statement and kept claiming their non-existing aesthetic superiority.

One of them eventually did acknowledge that I am a fan of those directors. But, even then, it did not stop him from using the condescending tone.

For him, it does not matter if most of my favourite films are arthouse. Love just one Marvel film and I will ruin the whole batch.

He probably thinks taste is literally measurable… like a literal, physically-embodied chemical which can literally be poisonous.

They actually make me proud of myself for having unpredictable and relatively complex taste.

Yes, I used the word “complex” to describe myself.

Reason five:

Where is the fucking humble pie?

If they wanted me to eat the bad-tasting yet nutritious humble pies, they had to painstakingly make one for me.

Instead, they took a huge dump on the dining table and claimed their faeces is the humble pie; the refusal to consume is a sign of one’s infantility.

When I kept refusing to do, they started shoving their faeces into my mouth. Unsurprisingly (and ideally), I retaliated by throwing their shit back to their faces.

When they showed no signs of stopping, I started to take a dump myself and do the same thing.

Interestingly, when I said the arrogance of snobs put off others from even considering to try something highbrow, my detractors dismissed it.

They said it never happens and I am just making excuses for people to be comfortable with their aesthetic mediocrity.

Except, it does happen all the time.

I have seen people defecating on certain works even though they have yet to experience them. The behaviours of the fans are considered more than enough to determine the quality of those works.

I have seen people hating on Harry Potter, Steven Universe and anime solely because of their toxic fandoms. And yes, I have seen people hating on fine arts and quality entertainment because of the exact same reason.

Yes, what I just said are anecdotes. But, at least, I tried to make my claims sound more believable.

My detractors, on the other hand, didn’t make the efforts. Instead of trying to give me evidences to counter my claim, they simply dismissed it.

If anything, the (thankfully not literal) excrement fight I just described above actually supports my claim. The evidence that is against them was displayed right on their screens.

Their arrogance begets my arrogance.

How can they expect me to eat humble pie when they have never eaten one themselves?

—-

Yes, I know I should not let their snobbery ruined my days. I also hate that I ended up resorting to arrogance as well. Even though I am way more reasonable than those two, I believe there is no winner in this fight.

But, cultural snobbery has been frustrating me for years because of the disservice they have committed against the masses.

I would love for films like Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman’s to be even more popular. I would love them to greatly influence film industries in the incoming years.

I would love if the creative industries of the incoming years allow idealism, artistry and experimentation to thrive more.

I would love if the masses are starting to think more critically about the entertainment they enjoy and stop associating popularity with quality.

But, thanks to those snobs, my desires will always be make-believes.

Thanks to them, the masses will keep on associating mindless escapism with “humility of the ordinary people” and intellectually-inclined admiration with “vanity of the elites”.

Those beliefs are obviously not true. The presence of humility and vanity does not correlate with one’s standing in a society. But, as those snobs prioritise their egos over actually enlightening others, they unwittingly perpetuate those falsehoods.

They shoot my feet, accuse me of committing self-harm, shoot their own feet and accuse others of violence.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

A childhood treasure I didn’t know having

When I was a toddler, I remember watching feature films from those gigantic laser discs and one of my favourite films to watch was Disney’s Fantasia.

The original one, NOT the so-so sequel.

Back then, I didn’t try to comprehend the plots. I was simply mesmerised by the beautiful colours and shapes, adorned with harmonious classical music. It felt like I was watching a magically-animated painting, accompanied by a live musical performance.

Along with my beloved encyclopedias, I credit the film for making my childhood a colourful and vibrant life chapter where even the sky was not a limit. It felt like every inch of the universe was worthy to unearth.

When I started attending primary school, VCDs had become widespread. I started to watch more movies on the smaller discs and I started neglecting their bulkier predecessors. So, between pre-school and adulthood, I forgot about the existence of the film.

Yikes.

I managed to watch it again when I was eighteen. As I already started becoming a snobby cultural critic, I started to appreciate its merit.

Even though I don’t think it was an extraordinarily groundbreaking film*, it still effortlessly stands out among many Hollywood flicks. To this day, I am still surprised that one of my childhood favourites is of high quality. Most of them tend to be shit.

And, because of its uniqueness, it shapes my taste in the arts and entertainment as an adult.

Magically, absurdly and subconsciously realistic

The segments that feature abstract animations are my very first exposures to abstract art. Now, I am one of those weirdos who genuinely enjoy staring at abstract paintings.

I don’t care about the lack of coherent narrative. As long as the combination of shapes and colours impress me, I will consider the paintings beautiful regardless.

I also have to credit it for inspiring me to love surrealism and magical realism, making me attracted to the weird and inexplicably fantastical.

Nowadays, some of my favourite films include ones with strong metaphysical themes and/or ones that portray the inexplicable. They include Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and The Shining and much of Andrei Tarkovsky’s works.

While Fantasia is of neither genre, its sublimely fantastical depictions of natural phenomena certainly help opening the path.

And it is certainly metaphysical.

Unhinged sophistication

When I listened to Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring supposedly for the first time, it felt like an inexplicable surge of nostalgia ran through my veins, as if I had heard it before. It turned out I had: it is one of the soundtracks of Fantasia!

My early exposure to the modernist composition possibly influenced my taste in classical music. I prefer the more stylistically-eclectic and/or “unhinged” newer works -like ones by Stravinsky (obviously) , George Gershwin and John Cooliged Adams- over the older ones, many of which I find a bit too saccharine.

In fact, I now love to complain about how films, especially fantastical ones, are too dependent on cliche-sounding orchestral music and are too afraid to utilise more ambient, more eclectic and more “untraditional” compositions.

The lovely dread

Chernabog is probably one of my first exposures to “scary entertainment”, even though I was never terrified by it. Again, I was too busy mesmerised by the beautiful animation.

Beautifully haunting and sinister animation, showcasing something one can describe as a symbolic representation of the dark side of humanity.

As an adult, I have a weird thing for entertainment with ominous atmosphere, as in you feel scared even though nothing scary is happening on-screen. You know, actual horror instead of cheap jump scares.

I am not a fan of the show Criminal Minds due to its dehumanising depictions of mental illness sufferers. But, I do love the episode where the heroes unwittingly cooperate with a police station where virtually every officer is corrupt; it genuinely feels like they can be ambushed at any time. It feels like real life horror.

Horror is not about what you explicitly show, it is about the feeling of terror you induce on your audience.

Connecting non-existing dots

Admittedly, what I just said do sound far-fetched.

It is indeed absurd to claim one feature film dictates my entire taste as an adult. There are many things that can be taken account as the influencing factors.

As I hinted in the beginning, I also read encyclopedias frequently as a young child and some of them not only discuss “weird” paintings and sculptures, they also display the photos. Basically, they partook in the exposure.

One of my favourite musicians is Chrisye, an Indonesian Pop singer whose early works reek influence from Genesis -a Progressive Rock band- and the band’s genre does sound “unhinged” to the “untrained” ears. After discovering that particular musical style, I ended up craving for more “weird” sounds.

And those films that I love, I also have to credit my time wasted on Wikipedia and my Media Studies classes as contributing factors; I would not have heard of Andrei Tarkovsky if it wasn’t for the former and I would not have watched a single film from West Africa if it wasn’t for the latter.

My love of ominous entertainment may also be rooted by many years of watching horror films and eventually ended up frustrated with the excessive amount of cheap jump scares, craving for actual feeling of terror.

Oh, and don’t forget about my personality. Our personalities not only dictate how we interact with each other, they also dictate what we love and hate.

I am a weirdo and have been called such since forever.

Therefore, my current taste can still come to being even without Fantasia in my life.

But, still…

As I said before, the film is a huge part of my childhood. While it is clearly not the only factor that shapes my taste, it certainly is a major one.

It certainly accelerates its formation and it certainly aggravated its potency.

Without the film, it would probably take me a much longer time to love the things I now love.

*I refuse to call Fantasia a groundbreaking film because I don’t think it is.

Yes, it certainly has a relatively unusual approach in regards to moving image narratives and may be unappealing for those who want more glaring expositions, who think escapism equals quality and who cannot give more damn about visual artistry.

But, if you dig deeper into the history of cinema, you would see there were already ground-breaking cinema movements -like surrealism and Italian futurism- that predated the film’s existence.

And works of those genres are bizarre and incomprehensible for the masses. Not matter how weird Fantasia is, I still think it is relatively comprehensible.

If anything, its audio and visual aesthetics were already conventional at the time of its release.

The risk-taking was indeed high. But, it was not that high.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

Bizarrely mournful

Many years ago, me, my family and a friend of my sister were vacationing in Singapore (as my Indonesian hometown is just an hour of ferry ride away).

We made an impromptu excursion to the then-ongoing Titanic exhibition because it genuinely sounded exciting, especially for me, who thinks museums are way cooler than shopping malls and theme parks… and I will fight those who think otherwise.

After we bought the tickets, it didn’t take long for the strangeness to arose.

At the entrance, a ticket-checking attendant greeted us and cheerfully said something along the line of, “find out if you survive until the end!”.

Wait, what?

I don’t remember if others were shocked or not. But, me? I was personally so weirded out! The sentence itself is dark on its own. But, to exclaim it with a cheerful tone to visitors who just want to have a playful visit is bizarrely dark.

But, once we entered, I temporarily forgot my sense of bewilderment. I was too busy being enthralled by the content of the exhibition.

I don’t remember every detail of it. But, I do remember they showcased the actual objects unearthed inside Titanic, which include the passengers’ personal belongings.

I also remember a segment of the exhibition where they tried to emulate the feeling of being underwater; they did so by (if I remember correctly) installing clear glass floor tiles which revealed the bed of sand beneath, painting the wall black and designing the lighting so that it emits the underwater light effect. Probably the first time I realised curation was an art form.

But, the climax of the tour was the part when we were shown a list of the actual passengers. Their names and their survival status were on display.

At that moment, I realised every individual ticket tried to emulate one of an ocean liner by having each of them printed with one of the passengers’ names. Basically, showcasing the story of the Titanic also included making the visitors felt like we were also the passengers!

I was excited when searching for the fate of my passenger. But, I quickly found out that he was among the casualties. His life ceased to exist on April 15, 1912.

One or some of the people who visited the exhibition with me laughed at me for “being one of the casualties”. But then, I was too busy grieving to take heed of the mocking laugher.

Yes, grieving!

I was genuinely heartbroken the man whose name was printed on my perishable ticket died. It felt like he was someone I had known for many years and death took him away without warning.

I tried to get rid of the sadness off me… and it literally took me hours to do so. I was and still am an emotional person. But, even at that moment, I felt irrational and extremely mushy for grieving his death.

Every time I remembered that day, I was always baffled by the occurrence of this “phenomenon”. Basically, I overthought and not immediately realise the ticket was the answer.

It was very blatant from the start that they printed the passengers’ names on the tickets to enhance the immersion. So, an emotional person like me would probably experience grief after the visit.

But, that didn’t explain why the grief didn’t strike my mom and sister, especially that they are more likely to fall for sob stories than I am.

Well, I presume it has something to do with our intentions. Me and my family did visit the exhibition because we wanted to have fun. But, we had different reasons why we considered the visit fun.

My mom and sister were in it probably because Titanic is arguably the most popular ship in the world and its sinking the most well-known maritime accident. For them, it is pop culture.

I, on the other hand, just wanted to learn. Yes, I am patting myself on the back. But, I have been curious about anything “useless” since forever.

When I was young, I read encyclopedias as much as I read comic books. Nowadays, I browse the web to find out about information like the different systems of government and the different styles of postmodern architecture.

I went to the exhibition because I wanted to know more about Titanic beyond what James Cameron’s film showed. I wanted to learn about what makes the ocean liner so iconic… and, most importantly, I wanted to learn about the untold human stories!

The immersion made me emotional probably because my intention made me so.

Now about the intentions of the organisers…

I don’t know why they printed the passengers’ names on the tickets. Maybe they wanted to create a fun experiences for the masses. But, they might also crossed their fingers and hoped some visitors got emotional as a bonus culmination. I can only speculate.

But, one thing for sure: I am glad they printed the names. Thanks to them, I realised that empathy is a part of learning experiences.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

Toy Story 4: bittersweetness, quashing uneasiness and quality maintenance (a late review)

Warning: contains spoilers!

I was genuinely disappointed when Pixar announced the fourth instalment. Like, why? The third film has given us a strongly bittersweet finish to one of the chronicles that warmly occupied my childhood. A sequel would sacrificially bulldoze the highly emotional culmination to give way for more profitable yields. It felt scummy.

But, at the same time, I would still watch the film anyway. Pixar films have a special place in my heart due to their ability of narrating profound stories of humanity in spite of the abundance of non-human characters; I haven’t watched all because I missed their releases, not because of my lack of interest. Basically, my disappointment failed to squash my fanboyish eagerness.

And the film exceeded it by hundreds of miles.

Youtube Big Joel made a video titled Pixar and the Obsolete, in which he observed how Pixar films are all about characters coming to terms with changes and dealing with their increasing irrelevance. While I am not sure if it applies to every single one (e.g. Monsters Inc and A Bug’s Life), I still can agree with the assessment to a certain extent. Overall, the films do portray characters experiencing ups and downs in their lives and realising how life is inherently unstable and there is nothing they can do about it other than confronting the instability.

In the Toy Story series, this particular theme is very prominent in the third and fourth installments.

In Toy Story 3, Andy giving away his toys is the emotional climax of the film. In the end, the characters have finally accepted that he has fully grown and they are no longer Andy’s. For them, a new child means new adventures lie ahead, which should be embraced with open arms.

And it is not just the toys. Even Andy is experiencing changes in his life as well: he is leaving home for the university. Unlike his mom, he is emotionally taking it very well (or so it seems). Even when giving the toys away to Bonnie, he seems unfazed. Well, unfazed until Woody was in the picture.

Andy was initially very reluctant to let him go. But, knowing his age and where he is heading to next, he lets him go. This goodbye reminds us that Woody has a special place in Andy’s heart… and will always do. Andy has to bid farewell to his childhood and embraces adulthood.

What I love about Toy Story 4 is how it brings the unpredictability of life even further. Not only Woody gives up his voice box which had always been an integral part of his identity, he also decides to leave his new owner Bonnie and his old friends he has known for years to live as a childless toy with Bo. For me, it was unforeseeable.

The formula of Toy Story stories has always been toys getting lost, toys getting rescued by other toys and toys going back home. While Toy Story 3 breaks it a little by having Bonnie as the new owner, the formula is more or less the same as having an owner means having a home; not to mention that, due to the story’s premise, the emotional conclusion can be seen from miles away. But, Toy Story 4 decides to ditch it altogether. It gives the impression of life’s unpredictable nature and you will never know which paths you will take.

And that’s why I am scared. I always prefer to have complete control of my life, I always want to take any paths that I want. But, it begs to differ. The paths in front of us are limited and, whether we like it or not, we have to take the new ones and bring more uncertainty to our lives; choosing the old paths means we are moving in circles and we will never move forward. Toy Story 4 is one of those works of speculative genres that successfully reminds me of the reality.

Another thing about Pixar films is they know how to make me feel things. Unlike many of their family-friendly contemporaries, they believe there is no excuse for entertainment to tell hunky-dory stories. They believe good stories must encourage their audience to confront the unpleasant emotions within themselves. Basically, I am forced to become a human being. Ew.

Due to the aforementioned theme of the uncertainty of life, Toy Story 4 is even more emotionally profound than its predecessors. The pleasing and displeasing emotions are intense in equal measure. While not everyone may agree with me, I find this film terribly bittersweet. Even after leaving the theatre, I was still an emotional wreck for many hours. I was both heartbroken and overjoyed!

I never thought I would ever say this: I am glad Pixar made the fourth installment!

Oh, and speaking about sequels…

As I said before, I was apprehensive about Pixar’s plan to continue the series. But, my apprehension has been proven to be unfounded and, because of that, I am now actually open to the possibility of more sequels.

Obviously, we should never accept sequels willy-nilly. We must have high standards about how the continuation is executed. In the case of Toy Story, I don’t mind if the story formula stays the same as long as they tweak some parts in order to prevent foreseeability from taking shape. But, the emotionality is still the most important thing.

As one can see, the increasing emotional profundity parallels the series’ progression. It would be a considerable setback if Pixar decides to diminish it in the sequels; it is akin to raising a chick all the way to adulthood and then proceeds to shoot him/her down once he/she soars high in the sky.

Actually, that’s not a really fair comparison. It is literally easy to not shoot down a bird you raised. All you have to do is to not be an asshole. Making good art works, however, is far from easy.

I am no artist. But, I know bringing about a heart-wrenching piece requires both high mastery in the craft and good understanding of human nature. Undertaking the task of upholding excellence is certainly different from a walk in the park.

I must accept that my favourite film studio is run by humans who are certainly plagued with imperfection. While I haven’t watched Cars 2, I have heard about its less-than-stellar reputation among Pixar fans. I have watched Finding Dory and I am greatly disappointed by its lack of risk-taking and similarity to its predecessor. I cannot expect them to be excellent all the time. All I can do is to hope.

I remember reading an article (I forgot from which media outlet. So, take my words with a grain of salt) about how the producers are quick to shoot down ideas with low potentiality and are quick to kick out individuals from the screenwriting process if they are deemed incapable. Pixar’s higher-ups also consist of individuals with backgrounds in filmmaking and/or animation; consequentially, the executive decision-making is always based on the understanding of the craft.

If Pixar perpetually sustains such organisational practices, it would be hard for me to not have high expectations of them.

My thoughts about the Try Guys

Since I watched Shane Dawson’s conspiracies and ghost-hunting videos, I cannot help myself from judging the critical thinking of my favourite entertainers, including the Try Guys. Sadly, scientific scepticism is not their forte.

And it is ironic because Ned is a Yale chemistry graduate and he fails to bring scientific scepticism to the group (a good reason to not worship people’s educational backgrounds). There are some videos where the guys take the words of so-called experts for granted. But, I think the video that sticks out the most is the acupuncture one.

Admittedly, this is one of the most entertaining Try Guys videos, mostly because of how Eugene’s discomfort juxtaposes with the others’ comfort and the acupuncturist’s charm and wit. But, I am also annoyed by how quickly they accepted the validity of acupuncture.

They could claim they felt the qi flowing inside them. But, there is such thing as placebos. Just because one feels better, that does not mean one actually gets better. You feel better after the treatment because you believe it works.

Okay, I just watched the video again and I was wrong about Ned not being sceptical. He actually was, even though he eventually changed his mind. He and the others might actually feel something. But still, I doubt they were feeling the qi.

Even though I am no biologist, I do know our bodies have sensory neurons all over. So, when one gets stabbed by pointy objects, one ought to feel something; no sensations means one is medically fucked. The sensation they were feeling might be the acupuncturist messing with their nervous systems. But, all four of them failed to realise that which inevitably led to their acceptance of alternative medicine.

I also have another less consequential problem with the Try Guys. On Youtube, there are videos exposing how unfunny the quartet is. Even though I haven’t watched a single one of those videos, I do understand why some people think that way.

Sometimes, when they have guests on their shows, they don’t even bother to read the room; they clearly make jokes only for their online audience, not the one right in front of them. As a result, I often see the guests looking awkward; it somewhat reminds me of Rhett and Link, whose antics have been known to put off some of their guests.

I know I sound a bit too harsh on them. I make it sound like they are unfunny idiotic hacks. In actuality, I don’t believe they are.

Despite the presence of thoughtless jokes, there is also an abundance of wits. In fact, I notice the guys have become wittier as time goes by; they have been entertainers long before their fame, giving them many years to learn. Not to mention there are also guests whose sense of humour is in tune with theirs.

I also cannot be certain about their idiocy. Regarding their validation of acupuncture, it is hard to say if they were being sincere; they might try to not offend the charming and seemingly-nice acupuncturist. Or maybe, they changed their mind about its cogency after they recorded the video. Basically, we should never take people’s words for granted, especially if they are public figures who are known for carefully maintaining their images.

But, even if they are indeed easily duped by pseudoscience, I still refuse to call them entirely idiotic. I mean, they are content creators who maintain their success even after leaving a big corporation that can generously provide resources for their endeavours. If anything, I believe their quality increases after their departure.

In general, the content of their videos can be described as escapist fun with occasional bouts of seriousness; the seriousness often includes topics like health, gender, immigration and even the Try Guys’ own personal lives. They have been thematically consistent throughout the years. But, their professional independence does bring changes to their videos.

First of all, they have bent their definition of ‘trying things’, as shown by the time when they tried to make Eugene AKA Mr. Aloof to sit on Keith’s lap; despite its bizarre yet oddly wonderful pointlessness, the video -which some fans consider as simultaneously the best and the worst- lives up to the group’s name (kinda). Because of that one video, I am expecting more of such outlandishness in the future.

Second, fans have been noticing how the Try Guys have been more carefree than ever. The thing is Keith, Ned and Zach have always been exuberant and I never notice any notable increase in their carefreeness. But, when it comes to emotionally-reserved Eugene, I do notice the change.

Some fans believe the independence, no matter how stressful it can be, is a joyfully liberating thing to have in one’s grasp. Others believe he exaggerated his stand-offish personality just to make Buzzfeed videos more entertaining. I personally speculate that Eugene is happier because he felt he was constantly being used as a clickbait by his former employer.

It is also possible his increasing devil-may-care attitude has nothing to do with his professional life. Nevertheless, I cannot help myself from thinking how plausible those speculations are. Of course, as they are speculations, I must refrain myself from accepting them as the absolute truths. But, as much as I love seeing the goofy side of Eugene, there is a third change that I love the most: the videos’ durations and narrative chronologies.

During the Buzzfeed years, the videos have varied durations; some are as short as two minutes while others are over twenty-minutes long. But, I notice the less-ten-minutes-long ones dominate the playlist. The videos’ storylines are also predominantly linear.

After leaving Buzzfeed, their videos’ narratives have become more nonlinear and the durations have become significantly longer; most of their videos are over ten minutes long with the short ones being a tiny minority. While some may find these aspects too trivial to concentrate on, I think they have greatly enhanced the quality of the content.

More nonlinearity means less sluggish pacing and more enhanced conveyance of emotions, consequentially creating a more captivating storytelling. I also love the challenge (if one can call it that) of deciphering timelines of nonlinear stories without the help of time stamps and, thankfully, Try Guys’ nonlinear videos almost never have them; I hate the unnecessary usage of time stamps as it discourages the audience to take more heed of what they are watching.

More time span means more capacity to showcase more content (obviously); it prevents the feeling of hastiness, it does not keep viewers out from more interesting happenings and, most importantly, it allows the Try Guys to convey a wider range of emotions. I still stand to my earlier description about how their content is mostly fun and occasionally serious moments. But, thanks to the longer durations, there are more manifestations of grave emotions.

Buzzfeed Try Guys videos are like the typical American sitcoms; their seriousness is so rare that they are still considered as comedies. Post-Buzzfeed Try Guys videos remind me of Marvel movies; while light-hearted and may be seen as overrated by some, the mixture of jokes and emotional depths easily put them in the drama-comedy category (if drama-comedy also includes non-fiction).

Dramedy is one of my favourite genres ever. Light-hearted enough to not take itself too seriously, sombre enough to emanates and encourages thoughtfulness. It has the best of both worlds… and I fear the Try Guys will choose only one in the future. The fear comes from them being featured on Youtube Rewind 2018.

In case you don’t remember, Youtube Rewind 2018 is something that can only be described as Youtube’s shameless effort to embrace advertising-friendliness by the means of disregarding the real circumstances of the Youtube communities. If you were a content creator who had never expressed discontent against the establishment or whose content was never deemed controversial, you would be the platform’s golden children.

You would never experience involuntary demonetisation and suffer any consequences for breaking any rules, ensuring a constant stream of fame and fortune. Such privilege is encapsulated by being featured on Youtube Rewind 2018. Basically, the Try Guys haven’t offended the Youtube establishment. Yet.

Of course, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with not being openly anti-establishment. The problem is not being so comes with a lot of perks and those perks may discourage anyone from being more thoughtful and truthful. Frankly, I understand why anyone would keep their mouths shut, especially if one is a financially-independent content creator like the Try Guys.

As I have said multiple times before, their videos have no hesitance in embracing thoughtfulness. If they intend to stay as the establishment’s darlings, there is a possibility they will refrain themselves from creating meatier and riskier content… or worse, will remove the thoughtfulness altogether. But, at the same time, I am also glad they are Youtubers instead of Hollywood personalities.

One thing that I and many other fans love about the Try Guys is their embodiment of healthy masculinity. They are willing to try things many men will feel uncomfortable about, including wearing make-up, wearing women’s pants, getting nail extensions, naked wrestling, drag performances and wearing women lingerie. Their masculinity is anything but rigid (which really triggers Alpha-wannabes Youtubers). And, thankfully, Youtube allows this so-called gender ‘deviance’.

No matter how much you hate it, Youtube is certainly more socially progressive than Hollywood. On the website, members of racial, sexual and gender minorities can enunciate their own authentic and unfiltered voices, some members of the ‘beauty’ community (beauty does not refer to personalities) are men and, of course, male Youtubers are popular despite or probably because of their unorthodox masculinities.

Compare the situation to one of Hollywood, where cis-heteronormativity is still the law of the land, where the groundbreaking character Newt Scamander is considered a boring male lead protagonist for not fulfilling the gender stereotype; while the most outspoken figures are indeed progressives, many of the values imposed by the higher-ups are still very conservative and outdated. Hollywood still has a long way to go.

In the end, no matter how tyrannical Youtube can, it is still free enough for male Youtubers to express wholesome and undogmatic versions of masculinity. So, unless the higher-ups decide they want to impose puritanical gender norms on the platform, I will still love the Try Guys regardless.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

Harry Potter and the fitting fashion

I have made an essay where I argued the film adaptation of The Half-Blood Prince boasts more artistic merit than its source material for its ability to convey the characters’ psyche and the story’s general atmosphere more effectively.

I wrote that because I am annoyed by how easy it is for people to dismiss screen adaptations. While it is true filmmakers enact unnecessary changes and omit certain crucial elements from the narratives, we also have to remember literature and films are two different formats.

The former tells stories entirely through written words (with bouts of illustrations) while the latter does so through audiovisual means. Surely, there bound to be differences in how each format unfolds the same narrative! If you expect the films to be the exact copies of the novels, then why bother adapting them in the first place?

While I have condemned the Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix for their unfaithfulness to the original stories, there is one change in every HP film which I do appreciate.

When I first watched the films, I noticed how the Hogwarts uniforms include neckties, similar to the real-life British school uniforms, albeit with robes replacing the blazers. I also noticed that while some adult characters wear clothes we associate with witches and wizards, some also adorn muggle-ish attire, albeit with pointed hats and longer coats. So, I was shocked when I finally read the books.

I was (and still am) rather disappointed by how the characters’ original costumes are very much cliches of the fantasy genre! Unlike the films, the source materials determine clear boundaries between muggle fashion and one of witches and wizards. In fact, Rowling also made recurring jokes in which wizards and witches try to emulate the ways muggle dress and, more often than not, end up with hilarious results.

For a long time, I didn’t know why the alteration was enacted. I still don’t. But, on a personal level, I am glad it happened.

As I said before, literature narrates through written words. For me (and I don’t know if this is common or not), any written descriptions of physicality never leave strong mental images in my head, unless they are accompanied by illustrations; so, when I have the mental images, I am influenced by the illustrators’ interpretations.

The copies of Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix I possess contain illustrations by Mary GrandPré (at the time, the Indonesian editions lazily used her works). Sometimes the characters are drawn with muggle clothing, sometimes they are drawn with forgettable and bland-looking robes and pointed hats. This is why even after reading the illustrated copies for countless times, I still don’t associate overtly-cliched fantasy outfits with the Harry Potter universe.

Now just imagine if the films base the costumes entirely on the source materials: the cliches would be even more pronounced for me! Visually, the film series would be just another fantasy motion pictures featuring ‘weirdly-dressed’ characters!

(Okay, admittedly, there are many other fantasy films featuring characters wearing ‘muggle’ outfits; Harry Potter is not the only low fantasy series in existence. But, I will explain later why I support the filmmakers’ decision to alter them.)

Because my mind still associate magical human beings with pointed hats and robes -especially the colourful ones-, the fact that HP characters wear muggle-ish clothing is very refreshing for me.

But, at the same times, the characters’ outfits are still not entirely muggle-ish. The style seems to be a hybrid of muggle and ‘magical’ fashion; they look realistic enough, while still looking from out of this world… literally. Oh, and the muggle-fication is very gradual.

While the film version of Philosopher’s stone does feature muggle-ish costumes, they are mostly worn by the students as their uniforms and casual dress; the adult witches and wizards wear very much stereotypical ‘magical’ outfits. Then, as the series progresses, the costumes become more and more muggle-ish; the men wear more neckties and both men and women wear more suit jackets.

The characters’ muggle-ish outfits make them more real to me. The way they dress (somewhat) remind me of how real-life humans dress, remind me of how I dress! Their fashion, in a way, makes them more relatable. Admittedly, it does sound unnecessary and shallow.

Unnecessary because the Harry Potter universe’s thematics already includes grittiness with characters often put in situations not unlike the real-life injustice and prejudice any sane individuals know persistently exist. Shallow because judging a character’s relatability should be based on his/her substance, NOT her/his look. Surely, not only grittiness is more than enough to increase the relatability, it is also a significantly more profound way to do so!

While the arguments made by imaginary people living in my head do have points, I can provide some justification which is greatly influenced by my own bias.

One thing we should acknowledge is the characters live in a world almost entirely different from ours (apart from undeniable social and political parallels); don’t forget that despite the physical coexistence of both worlds in the same universe, the magical one is virtually concealed from the muggles. Inevitably, the (somewhat) lifelike clothing does significantly increase their relatability to me.

I also notice that, as the film series progresses (spin offs included), the increasing muggle-fication of the costumes and the increasing thematic grittiness (Order of Phoenix excluded) occur synchronously. As a result, the costumes as an indicator of relatability seems neither shallow nor pointless in my eyes.

But, I also do have an issue with muggle-fication. As said before, he source materials feature wizards and witches’ inability to dress like muggles which often ends with comical results. This running gag will be more hilarious in the films than it is in the novels due to the former’s strong emphasise on the visuality. There would be more reasons to love the screen adaptations!

But, as disappointed as I am by the missed opportunity, I accept we cannot have it both ways. If we want the filmmakers to muggle-fy the outfits, we have to eliminate the running gang and vice versa. Speaking solely for myself, I will be happy either way.

I have never discussed it with my fellow potheads regarding this. After finishing the previous paragraph, I was curious enough to do some googling and, unsurprisingly, I found out I am not the only one who have noticed the alteration.

There are forums dedicated to the discussions of films’ muggle-fied fashions. A Tumblr user actually sketched how Hogwarts’s uniforms originally supposedly look like in the novels. Even Bustle made an article (if you can call it that) about how fashionable the characters look in the film! Unsurprisingly, I also found an article written by the author herself.

She mentioned about the International Statute of Secrecy which requires wizards and witches to blend in by the means of fashion, their failure to comply, whether on purpose or by sheer incompetence and how the children and teens are more up-to-date with the muggle culture than the adults are due to intermingling with their muggle peers. Nothing new and mindblowing, really. Well, except for the last paragraph.

She stated that even muggle-hating individuals can’t help themselves from wearing the more practical muggle fashion in their daily lives! Interestingly, they try to express their sense of superiority by embracing ‘a deliberately flamboyant, out-of-date or dandyish style’, a sound tactic if you are a fashion snob with surface-level priorities, of course.

There are two reasons why I find this interesting:

Reason number one: it reminds me of real life bigots who enjoy the cultures of the people they have prejudice against. There are Chinese-hating Indonesians who love Chinese cuisines and there are Mexicans-hating Americans who love Mexican cuisines. Bigots love what the ‘others’ contribute to mankind while still refusing to humanise them. I wonder if this counts as cultural appropriation.

Reason number two: it defies how I imagine the books deal with clothing. While Rowling’s essay still draws strict boundaries between muggle and ‘magical’ fashion, I always thought the novels’ characters wore the former exclusively for entering muggle territories. And, to my surprise, it does not harm the overall narrative!

At times, Rowling’s authorial intent can be a nuisance; the revelation of Dumbledore’s sexuality, for example, seems to come out of nowhere as it was never hinted and his relationship with Grindewald is a shameless queerbait. But, regarding the fashion, it seems to complement the already-established universe.

While I indeed haven’t read the first three books, I clearly remember the characters utilising magically-powered muggle inventions like cameras, cars and radio sets. Hence, the idea that even the most prejudiced wizards and witches adorn themselves with the more functional muggle fashion is still within reason despite the absence of signs.

Before encountering the essay, I was very happy with how the filmmakers’ decision to muggle-fied the costumes, was disappointed by Rowling’s inclination to utilise cliched fantasy costumes (even though I still love that one recurring joke). But now, even though I am still delighted by the muggle-fication, I appreciate how this particular authorial intent compels me to see a previously unseen layer of the HP world-building.

It feels like a puzzle piece we didn’t know was missing.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Give money to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.