“You should ‘go out’ more”…

… is what people usually say to me in arguments. When they say ‘go out’, they mean leaving my safe space and exposing myself to different worldview.

Obviously, that’s a sound advice. We should thrive to avoid any echo chambers if we truly have the desire to grow and discern our reality. But, I do know those people don’t care about my well-being; they just hate it that I refuse to appease to them.

People who love exaggerating the flaws of Marvel films think I need to watch anything other than Hollywood blockbusters, not realising that my favourite film directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick, arguably giants of arthouse cinema, and some of my favourite films are not even American, let alone Hollywood.

Some people think I will grow out of my “extremely woke” politics and suggest leaving my echo chamber. It is interesting because not only there is nothing radical about centre-left politics, I used to be a lot more conservative. I also live in a country where even self-proclaimed moderates are very socially conservative. Not to mention the many conservatives, libertarians, liberals and centrists I constantly run into online.

Pro and anti-multiculturalism and anti-Muslim westerners have something in common: they genuinely believe that the west is the only diverse place on earth. The differences? The pro wants to feel superior about their own countries, thinking simply seeing minorities on the streets and having foreign ancestors boost their multicultural cred. The other camps think other places aren’t being forced to be diverse. When I refute their factually incorrect claims, they condescendingly suggest me to interact with people of differing cultural and religious backgrounds.

What they don’t know is I am from Indonesia, a country with six officially recognised religions and literally hundreds of ethnic groups; my hometown specifically has five dominant ethnic groups, which is unusual even for an Indonesian city, and has visible Christian and Buddhist minorities. I attended a middle school where I was one of the few non-Chinese-Indonesian and non-Buddhist students and I got my degree from an Australian university. Oh, and virtually all of my online friends are foreigners and much of them are non-Muslims.

My exposure to different cultures and religions is so mundane. If it wasn’t for my interactions with dumb westerners, I would have kept taking my diverse upbringing for granted.

“The more you know, the more you don’t know”

The older I get, the more I can relate to the quote. As much as I want to see myself as extremely knowledgeable, I have to acknowledge the horizon’s infinite vastness.

I haven’t tasted every film style of imaginable. I haven’t matured politically. And I have only been exposed to a tiny chunk of the world’s cultures and religions. I need to keep learning.

But, as one can tell, my aforementioned opponents clearly don’t care. They all share something in common: the belief that some or all of their opinions are absolutely correct. My mere disagreement is more than enough for them to make a baseless assumption about my personal life, which they make even before I say anything about it.

One may argue I am a hypocrite because I also make assumptions about others when I disagree with them. But, there is a difference.

My aforementioned opponents make assumptions simply because I disagree, that’s literally the sole reason. Meanwhile, I make assumptions based not only on how (un)reasonable and factually (in)accurate their opinions are, but also the anecdotes which they willingly share.

If you say enjoyment of pop culture is a sign of immaturity, I can assume you are a self-righteous bitch who want to feel undeservingly high and mighty about your tastes.

If you say centre-left politics – which is closer to the centre than it is to the far end – is too “woke”, I can assume you are swinging too far to the right end. I can also assume you are unable to perceive life’s many many shades of grey.

If you say multiculturalism can only be found in the west, I can assume you are jingostic westerners who think your countries are more special than they really are and/or you know nothing about lives beyond your borders.

If you admit that you intentionally avoid interactions with the “others” and avoid visiting other countries because you “know” how bad they are, I can definitely say you don’t care about the truth, you just want to affirm your preconceived beliefs.

Again, I refuse to say I have fully escaped all kinds of bubbles. But, I am confident I have escaped more bubbles than my opponents do.

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What Dave Chappelle’s defenders reveal about so-called comedy fans

They don’t get what freedom of speech is

They think they can dictate what others can feel offended by, dictate how others feel anything.

While you should definitely criticise their lack of level-headedness, you should also remember they are your fellow human beings, NOT your toy robots. It is unreasonable of you to demand them to stop behaving like human beings.

While you have the right to defend any jokes, it is just sensical that the butts of the jokes – whose lives are definitely being affected – are entitled to the biggest megaphones.

And when the jokes target the likes of you and you are fine with it, just remember that you are just one person. As worthy as your opinions are, your fellows’ are just as important.

They care too much about your feelings

If they really don’t, why would they think negative opinions ruin their fun? Why can’t they just enjoy the things enjoy and ignore the haters?

I was able to enjoy Harry Potter despite knowing that religious puritans hated the series and they even made the books banned from school libraries. Considering we live in a digital age, we can still access banned works, anyway.

Maybe they are those annoying fans who demand the rest of the world to love what they love. Maybe they think their taste comedy is objectively the best and it is an atrocity against reason to think otherwise.

Those are fair assumptions. Don’t deny it.

They don’t know comedy that well

They believe jokes are meant to be jokes, nothing more. Well, history of comedy says otherwise.

In America, some of its most legendary comedians are ones who insert serious messages into their jokes. Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Smothers Brothers, Mort Sahl are just a few examples.

If you want to go more contemporary, The Daily Show correspondents and veterans are arguably the most well-known examples. Heck, even Chappelle himself has inserted commentaries about racism into his jokes. In fact, isn’t that a reason why he became a legend in the first place?

Regardless whether Chappelle is a transphobe or just a preteen edgelord stuck in an adult’s body, how can anyone who claims to be comedy fans thinks every joke should never be taken seriously?

If jokes can have underlying serious commentaries, why can’t they accept that jokes can also harbour genuine bigotry?

Pay attention to the jokers when they are not performing. The more they talk sincerely, the more likely they reveal their true selves. Then, we can tell whether their jokes are just edgy OR genuinely hateful.

Wait, who am I kidding? I am expecting too much from my fellow human beings.

Too many of them are blind to what is in front of them…. and yet, I am expecting them to read between the lines.

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Canadian bilingualism: my definitely non-Canadian perspective

The problem with French language in Canada: it is both unique and not unique at the same time.

First thing first, Franco-Canadian cultures are basically western cultures expressed in the French language. French is one of the world’s major languages and, as an umbrella word, western culture is arguably one of the most dominant on earth. In the context of the entire world, it is certainly not one of its kinds.

Their extinction would undoubtedly be a painful loss for anyone who treasure human cultures. But, the pain would be more unbearable if they have unique language-culture combo (e.g. French language and a South Asian culture) or when the language and/or culture involved is endangered… you know, like indigenous languages and cultures of the Americas.

If Franco-Canadian cultures are unique on a global scale, Quebec’s harsh language policy would be more understandable.

Focus on the word “global” because I am going to contradict myself.

Every knows damn well Canada is often mistaken as the US. Its accents, TV shows, music, films (if you ever encounter one) and celebrities are often mistaken as American. Countless of American TV shows and films were shot in Vancouver and Toronto and no one – apart from the cities’ residents – realises.

When I say Canada, I clearly mean English-speaking Canada.

Admittedly, not everyone cares enough to try distinguishing cultures from each other. But, some of us will always try our best. Personally, I know how to differentiate Metropolitan France and Franco-Canada from each other. Well, at least, when it comes to their TV news broadcast.

Franco-Canadian TV hosts speak with lighter-sounding accents and behave more exuberantly than their Metropolitan French counterparts, the graphic design looks similar to the one on American TV (albeit less garish-looking) and there are lots of shots of suburban areas.

Obviously, those are narrow and superficial observations. But, it proves that anyone who pay more attention can easily spot the differences between Franco-Canada and France, no matter how surface-level they are.

With Anglo-Canada, it is a different case. If a Canadian TV show or film does not showcase the Canadian flag or mention the words Canada, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, I would have mistaken it as American. I find standard Canadian English accent and Anglo-Canadian aesthetics to be indistinguishable from their American counterparts.

You can argue the official bilingualism is burdensome for the federal government and the Quebecois people are being a dick about their language. But, you also have to admit French makes Canada stand out in North America.

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A fan of things

Films, TV shows, songs, books, why do I have my personal favourites among them? Why am I a fan of anything?

I always wonder how critics compile lists of works they consider to be the objectively greatest. If I ask them, it is very likely they would claim that they only take things like originality, executions and legacy into account.

But, do they, really? Do they actually care about the quality? Or do they only pander to self-righteous snobs? Or are they the self-righteous assholes who think their tastes are objectively the most refined?

Regarding the self-righteous pricks and the panderers, they are relatively easy to detect. All of you have to do is to see if the right to opinion or appeal to authority fallacies are being used. As long as they are a bunch of big mouths and you are capable of reading between the lines, you won’t fall for their deceit.

I do know people who can only enjoy arts and high-quality entertainment exist… and I have no doubt those on the opposite side of the spectrum also exist. Obviously, they frustrate me.

On one hand, I understand why some people can only love escapism; life truly sucks, after all. But, on the other hand, I hate it when they go full pseudo-intellectual populist and assert how there is no such thing as ‘bad taste’.

I also hate the ‘high-quality’ crowd because they can be a hoard of sanctimonious pricks; I have complained about this lots of times. But, recently, I noticed something potentially eerie about them. Let me explain.

When one thinks of a work of high quality, one thinks about the techniques. From my experiences, techniques can improve the human expressions. Can, but not always.

Sometimes, I encounter works of high quality (or seen as such by critics and snobs) which I have a hard time liking. I have a hard time finishing the unnecessary visceral films of Quentin Tarantino, I find Kanye West’s songs undistinguishable from many other pop songs, I find ‘common practice’ classical music too sugary at times and I am inclined to believe some ‘realistic’ films are emotionally heavy-handed just for the sake of being so.

Here’s a list of my favourite works and the reasons why I enjoy them.

I enjoy films like Your Name, The Man From Earth and My Dinner With Andre and anything by Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick. They thrive to understand humanity through metaphysical means. Even Bergman’s psychological films incorporate metaphysical themes at times.

I enjoy compositions by John Coolidge Adams, George Gershwin and Igor Stravinsky. Unlike ‘common practice’ music, they don’t sound saccharine. If anything, they have an ‘edge’ which I find lacking in ‘common practice’ music.

Despite Rowling exposing herself as a shit worldbuilder and a TERF, I still have to commend Harry Potter for turning me into a book reader and for creating escapist works dense with social commentaries which I wholeheartedly support.

I love Michael Jackson for introducing me to music in general, Phil Collins for introducing me to more offbeat pop music and Chrisye for introducing me to quality Indonesian music.

I love Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code for providing me nuanced takes on religions’ place in our lives, despite Brown’s poor writing skills and the inaccuracies.

I love Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Bumi Manusia for changing the way I see myself through the lens of Indonesian national identity.

I love Enya for her ethereal, borderline-spiritual music and I love Mahavishnu Orchestra for their ethereal Jazz Fusion.

I love some Marvel films for their ability to incorporate genuine emotions within  action superhero narratives.

From all of them, you can easily tell they have something in common: I love them because they personally mean something to me; it is obvious I don’t always care for virtuosity.

I thought Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite was an anomaly. Immediately after watching it, I was mesmerised by the acting, directing and unpredictable plot. Not long after, I was mesmerised by how fun it was to analyse the film; the interpretations seemed never-ending!

I was surprised that I would have a black comedy crime thriller as a personal favourite, that I would like a work simply for its virtuosity. But, after I thought about it, that was not the full story.

The film is a cynical satire… and I love cynical satires; in fact, much of my earliest blogs are cynical satires that felt cathartic to write. The film also has an ominous atmosphere almost right from the beginning… and I am a sucker for subtle sense of terror, which I find more ‘traumatising’ than the conspicuous one.

Speaking for myself, I love the arts and entertainment because they make feel like a human being in a world where cold-hearted pragmatism is king and make robots out of us. Loving them solely for their techniques feels antithetical to what arts and entertainment are meant to be.

As frustrating as the exclusively low brow crowd can be, I still can relate to them on some level; their desire to ‘escape’ feels perfectly human.

On the other hand, I cannot relate to the exclusively high brow crowd at all; their inability or unwillingness to ‘escape’ does not feel human at all. What I am saying is I often wonder if they are even humans.

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Defending Fantastic Beasts…

… Is something that I cannot do. I just cannot simply find any good reasons to justify the direction Fantastic Beasts is going to.

And it does not help the justifications I have encountered do not make any sense. Some are even outright stupid.

The seemingly most reasonable defence is the expansion of the worldbuilding. Taking Rowling’s poor and insufferable worldbuilding skill aside, it does sound like a compelling argument.

But, here’s the thing:  Rowling could have written stories about anything; as long as they are set within the HP universe, they still would have continued the worldbuilding. She could have written a short story about a Slytherin incel who spends his time masturbating in  Knockturn Alley or a witch who fell from grace after exposing her own transphobia and it would still do the exact same job.

And the defences are going downhill even further.

One defence claims the second film is more exciting than the first one because it is less dialogue-driven and more action-packed. For god’s sake, when will people realise our inability to appreciate something is not an evidence of its lack of merit? By the way, many of the films considered as among the greatest in history are actually dialogue-driven. Just sayin’.

While I am still reluctant to diminish the importance of action scenes, I should remind you that characters communicate with each other through dialogues. Not taking experimental/avant-garde films into account, dialogues are crucial to narratives.

Well, fucking duh.

Oh, and how pathetically short is your attention span that you find the first film too boring despite the abundance of actions and special effects? I don’t see anything wrong about enjoying action films. But, for fuck’s sake, expand your horizon a little bit. Don’t be proud of your intellectual limitations.

And I still haven’t talked about the most idiotic defence yet.

Some believe the the series’ change of direction is a good thing. Why? Because they think the story of Newt Scamander, a kind-hearted and soft-spoken male magizoologist whose quest is to study and protect every single magical beast he encounters, is not compelling, One person I encountered even compared this to Pokemon Go.

A non-stereotypical male character as the leading hero. A departure from the usual good vs evil theme in fantasy adventures stories. The tale of Newt Scamander easily stands out in pop culture! How is this not compelling?

The fact that they don’t find a refreshing story compelling indicates their reactionary inclinations. They don’t want creativity, they just want the same thing repeated over and over again. For them, the upholding of the status quo is worth the deceitful title.

I am not saying every new thing is good. But, dismissing them simply because they are unconventional exposes close-mindedness on your part.

Oh, and Pokemon Fucking Go? Seriously?

A Pokemon trainer is someone who captures creatures called Pokemon, train them to fight and send them to battle other trainers’ Pokemon; the more battles you win, the higher your social status will be.

Newt Scamander, on the other hand, is someone who not only studies the creatures but also protect them from human threats.

The former? An exploitative social climber. The latter? A scholar and a protector.

A slight tangent:

An admin (or a former admin) of this Harry Potter fan group had an argument with me about the merit of Fantastic Beasts.

Actually, calling it an argument is too generous. She said I was being disrespectful NOT because I was calling her name, but simply because I kept challenging her views! So, she suspended me, prohibiting me to post anything for a few days.

Oh, did I tell you she was the one who made that Pokemon comparison?

Her sense of entitlement already showed me how limited her intellectual capability was. So, when she said she didn’t see any differences between a wildlife exploiter and a wildlife protector, I shouldn’t be surprised.

But, I still was, anyway.

For some reasons, there is a part of me who is still naive enough to believe people who are dumber than me don’t exist.

Chrisye: the one with smooth voice

His fans would probably describe him as the greatest Indonesian singer ever lived. But, I am also a fan of his and, even though I see him as one of the greatest, I don’t think he is the greatest.

For one, his singing was not that versatile. While other male singers like Ahmad Albar and Gito Rollies easily traversed various styles, his voice required more care. The melody of the songs, the music arrangement and even the phonology of the lyrics must be carefully considered. Why? If just one was disregarded, his smooth voice would turn harsh. He even said that on his biography.

But, it is not to say he was not a great singer. There was something about the smoothness that enabled him to express the full emotionality of the songs, regardless of the composers and lyricists. In fact, even though he mostly sang original songs, he was one of those singers whose covers were perceived as good as the originals, if not better.

Another thing that makes me reluctant to say he was the greatest was his artistic integrity.

Unbeknownst to most non-fans and those who don’t know much about modern Indonesian music, Chrisye actually started as a rock musician. A progressive rock one, to be precise. His first album was a project called Guruh Gipsy, which fused progressive rock with Balinese gamelan music and western classical one.

In fact, his earlier albums are still heavily influenced by progressive rock. His roots are heavily present in them, despite him already being a pop singer by this point.

That can be credited to his collaboration with Yockie Suryoprayogo, whose background was also prog rock. No matter what the songs are, the musical arrangements always feel “progressive” in a way.

Thanks to Yockie, Chrisye was able to become a pop singer who maintained his roots. Sadly, the professional relationship had to be severed.

Apart from not wanting to be musically static, Chrisye also thought that -as much as his commended his colleague’s talent-, Yockie’s style did not fit his voice. Two of their collaborative album also commercially tanked, probably because they were too damn weird.

But, while there were good reasons for termination, I don’t think his musical career improved. The commercial success was still there. But, he was no longer a pop singer with prog rock roots. He was just a pop singer.

None of his successive collaborators (that I know of) had backgrounds in prog music. While he stood among his contemporaries a bit, Younky Suwarno’s musical arrangements were quite stale. While they can be a bit daring with their arrangements, neither Addie MS nor Erwin Gutawa have backgrounds in prog music.

In fact, his post-Yockie career included something that I call the ‘artificially cheerful’ trilogy: Aku Cinta Dia (I Love Him/Her; our pronouns are gender neutral), Hip Hip Hura and Nona Lisa (Miss Lisa). They are albums in which most of the songs have very cheerful melodies and arrangements, evoking a high degree of lightheartedness previously unheard of in his previous works.

I see them as artificial because the lightheartedness was forced. He and his collaborators were just following a trend, not because he was interested in making very happy music. Not to mention that he was coerced (to put it mildly) to wear colourful costumes and perform choreographies.

Besides his smooth voice, he also had other two trademarks: ‘bloodless’ stage performances and simple costumes. The fact that he suddenly changed his fashion and performance style just for the sake of maintaining popularity undoubtedly made him a sell-out.

Don’t get wrong: I like some of the songs from the trilogy, even the one that plagiarised Footloose. But, the albums are clearly the least Chrisye-like Chrisye albums.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention Guruh Soekarnoputra.

He was a co-founder of Guruh Gipsy, a project that gave Chrisye a once in a lifetime musical sensation. While it clearly did not make him an even more idealistic musician, it certainly cemented his passion for music.

But, that was not Guruh’s only influence on him.

For some reasons, there was something about his songs that just fit Chrisye’s voice. I don’t know why. But, it seems they were meant to be sung by him.

Because of this curious compatibility, Guruh frequently wrote songs for him. Some of Guruh’s most well-known works were originally performed by Chrisye and some of Chrisye’s most well-known songs are Guruh’s creations.

Guruh’s lyrics are admittedly not that great; sometimes, they can get too pretentious. His melodies, however, are wonderfully unpredictable. He has a strong background in traditional arts and the influences are audible in some of his songs.

Yockie helped him getting in touch with his musical root. Guruh helped him in touch with his ancestral one.

Eros Djarot, another songwriter, was also a frequent collaborator. But, I don’t know how influential he was on Chrisye’s musicality and I don’t know why they stopped collaborating after 1984.

His best albums?

Obviously, the ones I will mention are my personal favourite. But, I am going to pretend they are objectively the best… because I can. So, here they are:

Jurang Pemisah (Dividing Chasm), Sabda Alam (Nature’s Order), Badai Pasti Berlalu (The Storm Will Surely Pass)-both the 1977 and 1999 versions-, Sendiri (Alone), Kala Cinta Menggoda (When Love Seduces) and Dekade (do I need to translate this?). Of course, I love them for different reasons.

1. Jurang Pemisah

There is nothing original about it.

Even though its concept is about combining ‘sweet’ Pop with thumping Rock, the result did not sound groundbreaking at all. In fact, it sounds like a typical 1970’s pop rock album. As far as I am concerned, it is mostly known among Chrisye’s most devoted fans.

But, I still love it anyway. It has catchy tunes and it is quite mature as a debut solo album.

Okay, I am not sure if I should call this his solo album. Not only Yockie arranged the music, he also provided solo vocals in three songs. It feels like every Chrisye album with Yockie in it was less of a solo album and more of a collaborative one.

2. Badai Pasti Berlalu, 1977

It is hard for me to dislike the original BPB.

It is often lauded as a pioneer of pop kreatif, an Indonesian variant of art pop (and yes, it is a lame-ass name). It is a proof that, with the right musicians and producers, modern Indonesian music can be elevated to a higher aesthetic level and still be commercially successful.

It was also a soundtrack album for a popular film of the same name, which was based on a popular novel of the same. Chrisye and the album became more legendary than the film and the source material themselves.

I have read the novel. It is a sterile melodramatic story. It is a big meh.

3. Sabda Alam

While certainly not his first solo album and certainly did not launch his career, it feels like a grand solo debut.

It successfully introduced him as not just a talented solo pop star, but one with an artistic integrity and willingness to keep improving. It is another great example of pop kreatif album and, objectively, it is certainly one of his best works.

It is indeed stylistically and thematically similar to its predecessor, BPB. But, SA did not copy BPB. The former was only inspired by the latter. It does not feel like a carbon copy.

4. Sendiri

It is his only artsy post-Yockie album in the 1980’s.

Thanks to music arranger Addie MS (who is now known for his symphony orchestra), it has a strong influence of western classical aesthetics. The titular song’s classical piano-dominant arrangement is quite unusual for an Indonesian pop song, even to this day. I still don’t know exactly how it became popular in the first place.

But, I do notice how the style accentuates the smoothness of his voice… which is unfortunate because it is rarely used in his works. If it was utilised more, Chrisye’s songs would be of higher quality even without Yockie’s presence.

5. Badai Pasti Berlalu, 1999 version

I love this version because, from all of his post-Yockie albums, it has the most unusual musical arrangements; one of the songs uses sitar, gamelan and western-style choir.

Here, Erwin Gutawa showcases his ability to create relatively idiosyncratic arrangements while still complimenting Chrisye’s unique voice. Too bad this album is the only one where Gutawa pushes his limits.

It is also a reason why I almost left out Kala Cinta Menggoda, which was released two years prior, from the list.

6. Kala Cinta Menggoda

Compared to its successor, KCM feels uninspiring; the musical arrangement (also done mostly by Erwin Gutawa) is very much middle-of-the-road pop with token traditional elements. While every song is enjoyable, only Untukku, Ketika Tangan dan Kaki Berbicara and the titular song that truly impress me.

But, I choose to include it in the list anyway. As critical as my review can be, I cannot help but respect art pop albums (and the wannabes), especially if they are Indonesian.

Before the mid-1980’s, while there weren’t that many artsy Indonesian pop songs, they could be commercially successful. After the mid-1980’s (around the time when the ‘artificially cheerful’ trilogy was released), their popularity is almost impossible.

The fact that Chrisye and Erwin Gutawa were able to produced a commercially-successful artsy pop album in the 90’s is something worthy of respect.

7. Dekade

When I mentioned how good he was in making song covers, I was thinking of this.

It would not be far-fetched to say this cover album revives people’s interest in the songs. In fact, I am certain most songs in the album end up more famous than the original versions.

Considering he had the skills, I am surprised and disappointed he didn’t do more song covers.

Wait, where’s Guruh Gipsy?

Some of my fellow fans would be bewildered by its exclusion. But, I have a good reason.

Yes, Guruh Gipsy is indeed a masterpiece. But, Chrisye was not that star. Guruh was. He was the project co-founder. He was the one in charge.

Chrisye might have a one-of-its-kind voice. But, the project would still exist without him.

Conclusion

The more I think about, the more I am disappointed by his career.

Yes, he was a talented musician who had created masterpieces and showed the true potentiality of modern Indonesian music. But, he was also a musician who had to compromise lots of times… and it shows in his works, which level of quality and idealism greatly vary from one another.

Of course, I cannot blame him. He was unfortunate to live life after the mid 1980’s, the time when idealism was almost entirely wiped out from the Indonesian music industry (and American one, if I may add).

It also does not help he was born in Indonesia, a country where the masses are culturally unsophisticated and have always been, a country where it is hard to find truly sophisticated pop musicians to collaborate with.

Oh, and I only use one source as a reference: his biography written by Alberthiene Endah.

Frankly, I hate it. It feels like it leaves out many things. I wish there are more detailed accounts of his creative processes throughout the years.

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Is the poor quality of Marvel films exaggerated?

Yes, it fucking is.

I am not going to pretend Marvel films are full of technical marvels. I don’t watch them for the directing, cinematography, editing and dialogues. I don’t pretend them to be arthouse works worthy of awards.

But, to say they are the worst films, isn’t that disingenuous?

As escapist as they can be, I genuinely love how they treat human emotions. Let me tell you some my favourite scenes from those films.

When I first watched Guardians of the Galaxy, I genuinely thought Rocket would be another comic relief. I was proven wrong when he was revealed to harbour internal anguish as he perceives himself as a laboratory ‘freak’.

When he is grieving Groot’s death, Drax wordlessly console him. Despite their differences, Drax can empathise as he also knows how it feels to lose loved ones tragically.

In the sequel, Yondu’s funeral scene is accompanied by Cat Steven’s Father and Son. The song about father-son relationship reminds us about the genuine familial bonding between Yondu and Quill; by doing so, we focus our attention to Quill’s personal grief.

In Infinity War, there is a scene where Thor is having an intimate conversation with Rocket. The former claims he is emotionally fine, even though his speaking tone and body language say otherwise. It reminds us how in the real world, we should learn to take cues as not everyone can open up comfortably.

Also in the same film, there is also the infamous annihilation scene, in which many people are heartbroken by Peter Parker’s death. As he is the youngest main character, it is just heartbreaking to watch. Gone to soon, one may say.

In the beginning of Endgame, Natasha Romanoff is seen eating peanut butter sandwich while trying to hold back her tears. Later on, Thor can be seen as an overweight alcoholic who tries to put up a happy facade; many think he suffers from PTSD. Both are representations of the world still trying to cope with the mass annihilation five years prior, visually emphasised by the grey-based colour palate.

In the middle(?) of the film, Tony Stark  travels back in time and accidentally meets his now-deceased father. Judging from his awkwardness and him hugging his father in the end, he clearly misses his feather dearly and is overwhelmed by the encounter.

Its ending is also very bittersweet.

The reversal of the mass annihilation is undoubtedly a positive turn of events. But, we also cannot ignore that two of the main characters we are emotionally-attached to sacrificed themselves in the fight. In the fight for greater good, there is no such thing as a happy ending.

After travelling back in time to return the Infinity Stones, Steve Rogers does not return to the present time. Instead, he chooses to stay and spends the rest of his life with his significant other. While we are happy for him and he does return as an elderly man, it somehow feels like we are losing a dear friend.

I just love how the film ends on a calm note. Instead of bombarding us with fast-paced montage, we are allowed to absorb the emotions. Not just the one we are experiencing in the ending, but also the ones we have experienced throughout the series.

Obviously, Marvel Cinematic Universe are not the only emotionally mature films around. Pixar films and How To Train Your Dragon (I haven’t watched the sequels) are also known for that aspect.

But still, I have my share of films and it is hard for me to find films which actually make me feel like a proper human being. And yes, I also have a hard time finding such arthouse films.

I have often talked about how Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman are my favourite directors. However, as much as I love their works, I also find theirs to be emotionally distant.

Yes, their works dwell deep into the human minds. But, Bergman’s depiction of the human psyche is extremely intricate while Tarkovsky’s are laced with philosophical musings.

And I almost forgot to mention Stanley Kubrick (which is also one of my favourite directors, but I keep forgetting to mention him), whose films are infamous for their coldness.

The problem with arthouse films is they are so cerebral, we need to think hard first before we feel the emotions beneath. Even then, there is no guarantee we will end up feeling anything.

Hence, if I want to watch films that make feel like an emotionally well-rounded human being, I prefer ones like Marvel.

Admittedly, the depiction of Thor’s PTSD is polarising. Some people think the PTSD turns Thor into a comic relief while others consider the portrayal realistic. As I have never suffered from it and I have never had direct one-to-one contact with people who have, I cannot say which opinion is the right one.

But, I can say this: it is refreshing of Hollywood to depict mental illness sufferers as the actual sufferers instead of ones who inflict suffering.

Oh, and I don’t get how anyone can think Marvel films ruin cinema when we have films like Michael Bay’s and comedies starring like Adam Sandler among us…

… When pop cultures in general have been accused of artistic mediocrity since forever.

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Another thing I learned from this ongoing pandemic…

… Was I was among the people who were right about how ‘traditional’ celebrities are not inherently more talented than Youtubers.

I have said this a few times before: unlike celebrities, Youtubers are jacks-of-all-trades who need to be their own hosts, script writers, directors, editors, cinematographers, PR officers and social media managers. They have been self-reliant with their content creation since the very beginning. They delegate the duties if they have friends who are willing to work for free OR once they can financially afford to; even then, they are very particular about the delegation, making sure they hire those who compliment their styles.

Compare that to ‘traditional’ celebrities. As everything in the film and TV industry is a collaborative effort, they are not compelled to learn more than one skills. Why should they when the producers can pay others to do the duties they cannot do?

And the ongoing pandemic has exposed how professionally feeble they are.

Mind you that the current situation does not force those talk show hosts to do everything by themselves. They still have others writing, editing and researching for them. Heck, I think some of them have one or two crew members visiting their houses. But, the resulting works still come off as half-assed.

I don’t know the exact reason why. But, I assume it has something to do with the drastically decreased human contacts they have on their temporary ‘sets’. Maybe they don’t know how to be more proactive outside their usual duties. Maybe they are already used to getting direct energy boost from their live audiences.

Stephen Colbert, one of my favourite entertainers ever, does not do well in the current format. He keeps making pauses, as if he still expects receiving live laughter between each joke. It is weird.

So far, Trevor Noah is the best at this semi-Youtube life. It feels like he secretly has made solo Youtube videos before. Maybe he has his shares of Youtube viewings and he learns from those Youtubers. Maybe it is the editors whom I should credit.

But, sadly, I doubt this phenomenon will decrease the sneering against Youtubers.

Every time I encounter people those Youtube detractors, I always tell them about the multitasking aspect. Ideally, this should be enough to change their minds. But, somehow, they still insist ‘traditional’ celebrities are inherently more talented than Youtubers.

Maybe they suffer from cognitive dissonance and somehow think multitasking and not joining the ranks are signs of ineptitude. Maybe they are those who still fall for the prestige of ‘traditional’ media, not knowing prestige is arbitrary and manufactured by the establishment.

Either way, one thing for sure: even before the advent of Youtube, people already believed that NOT all celebrities were talented.

If Youtube detractors can ignore that fact, they can certainly ignore how celebrities are struggling to maintain their prestige during this ongoing pandemic.

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Parasite rightfully won

I have seen way too many people attributing Parasite’s victory at the Oscars to its popularity and it being a foreign-language film.

They are so smart, it hurts.

Not every award is like the Kids’ Choice Awards. Believe it or not, some awards like the Oscars are presided by a handful of (presumably snobby) juries who judge the nominees’ objective merit, NOT their popularity. One can argue the juries are misguided with their judgement and they have been criticised for it. But, it is very certain they don’t care about popularity.

And the data backs me up.

Avatar, one of the most highest-grossing (and one of the most overrated) films ever, was (idiotically) nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars… and yet, it was defeated by Hurt Locker, a film I would never heard of if it wasn’t for its victory. Don’t forget that Marvel Cinematic Universe, the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, have yet to won a single Oscar; they are more successful in awards that specialise in speculative fiction.

Oh, and don’t forget that film snobs looooove Parasite. On Youtube alone, you can find lots of them ravingly reviewing the film… and mind you, those people do not care much about popularity. They don’t have problems berating films they deem dreadful, no matter how popular they are! In fact, I feel alone because it is hard for me to find people who enjoy both Parasite and Marvel films like I do.

The thematic analyses are even more plentiful. Thanks to those Youtubers and their equally passionate audience, the surge of its cinematic exegeses feels never-ending, proving how Parasite is a dense and meticulously-crafted work.

Those who dismiss the legitimacy of its victory are either driven by xenophobia, anglo-centrism, neoliberalism or a combination of some or all of them. I am confident with my assertion because their dismissiveness contradicts the observable facts and I have seen many people hating on the film because it is non-American, non-anglophone and critical of capitalism.

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The overtly-polished Casey Neistat style

I call it the Casey Neistat style because that’s how others call it (even though some people think the style predated him) and I don’t have an alternative name for it.

From the title, you can easily tell I am not a fan.

Okay, I am not saying I hate the aesthetic. I actually think it looks beautiful and proves every image can look pretty when captured by the right person. But, that’s also my problem with it: it looks TOO beautiful.

Before I was immersed in Youtube cultures, I had already watched arthouse films like Andrei Tarkovsky’s and Ingmar Bergman’s. They are visually stunning and narratively compelling (for me), exposing me to cinematic art works.

Also resulting in my high expectations of vloggers like Neistat.

It is already ingrained in my mind that good cinematography HAS to be accompanied by compelling stories. But, vlogs don’t tell ‘profound’ stories (mind the quotation marks), even when they showcase out of the ordinary events or the lives of perpetual travellers.

If anything, those vlogs feel pretentious. The polished cinematography seems to do nothing but overcompensating the passable narratives.

Oh, and when I said that vlogs are not narratively profound, I meant it as a compliment. Because they are supposed to narrate Youtubers’ semi-personal lives, I always expect raw and mundane storytellings; that is what I find attractive about vlogs in the first place!

I actually do enjoy some Neistat-esque vlogs, like the ones of Evan Edinger, Terry Song and Adam Neely. The difference is theirs are more stylistically restrained, allowing a greater presence of rawness and mundanity.

Thanks to its participatory nature, Youtube has opposites for almost everything. For Casey Neistat style and the likes, there are content described by Nerd City as post-ironic.

I cannot make myself enjoy the works of Youtubers like Filthy Frank, MaxMoeFoe and IDubbz (his Content Cop videos are an exception). Apart from the crassness which I find extreme (even for a relatively crass person like me), I am also anxious about the blurred lines between irony and sincerity.

But still, despite my inability to relish such content, I cannot help but respecting those creators for their unsuppressed mockery of the insincere and synthetic charm endorsed by the establishment. While I admittedly do embrace some of the establishment’s ideals, I also despise the idea of venerating them.

Thankfully, despite the increasing pressure of uniformity, the platform still has a sizeable freedom to dissent, something those employed in the ‘traditional’ media can only dream of. Therefore, almost every imaginable type of content has a place on Youtube*.

Whether it is aesthetically and thematically extreme** or middle-of-the-road, you will definitely find it.

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*Obviously, there are restrictions to what can and cannot be uploaded. But, it is no secret Youtube content policing is both ineffective and misguided. ‘Lawful’ videos can get taken down and ‘unlawful’ ones stay. Supposedly, people have found porn on the site; while I do have found softcore films, I have yet found hardcore ones.

**Post-irony is extreme due to its depictions of life as an inherently ugly entity. But, I would argue overtly-polished aesthetic is also extreme for its overtly beautiful depictions of life; once one is accustomed to it, acknowledgement of the ugly reality feels taboo.

A bit of tangent here:

Andrei Tarkovsky said he utilised both colour and monochrome scenes in his films because those shot entirely in colour felt like animated paintings for him and therefore, felt ‘too beautiful’ to be realistic.

I never thought that I would reference Tarkovsky’s philosophy while discussing Youtube.

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