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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for the ‘Movies’

Weekly Report Card 3: Carrie Fisher, Angelina Jolie, Ben Affleck and the actor as writer

January 23, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →

Books read: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher; A Time to Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermor (on Cappadocia)

I loved Carrie Fisher, first because she was my Disney princess, and then because she was a truthful writer who mined her mental health issues for comedy without belittling them. I thought reading her last book would be a proper goodbye to someone whose work struck sparks in the darkness. And now I feel bad for her because it seems like she never got over being an outwardly worldly but naïve and insecure teenager in love with an emotionally distant, much older, married man who, to paraphrase Fisher in another book, granted her the use of his penis. That he was playing Han Solo just makes it worse.

Supposedly The Princess Diarist was written because Fisher unearthed the diary she’d kept during the making of a low-budget space adventure called Star Wars. But the stuff from 1976 only consists of some poems—not too embarrassing—and entries describing her confusion and frustration over the non-romance. The first half of the book is her recollection of that rather mingy affair, the third quarter is the old diary, and the last is about how stars of beloved SF&F movies can continue to cash in on past fame at fan conventions. I assume that’s one of the reasons this book was written at all. But Carrison!

I’m glad Carrie Fisher had her service dog Gary Fisher in her final years because his affection and loyalty was never in doubt. If you’ve kept old journals about past amours, shred them now.

Movies watched: By the Sea, written and directed by Angelina Jolie; Live By Night, written and directed by Ben Affleck

The French seaside town is beautiful, Angelina Jolie is beautiful, Brad Pitt is beautiful, their clothes and accessories are beautiful, but they’re miserable for some reason that is vaguely hinted at till the end of the movie. What is their damn problem? Is it that they’re too beautiful for this world? And when the problem is revealed, you have to yell, “That’s it?!” and demand the two hours of your life back. It’s like Antonioni’s L’Avventura without the everything.

Live By Night has already been savaged by the critics, so I’ll be kind. Ben Affleck is a skillful director of taut thrillers. I enjoyed Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo very much. Live By Night, which Affleck himself adapted from a Dennis Lehane novel, is a gangster epic that takes place over two decades from Boston to Florida, and the director seems to be having a crisis of confidence.

The movie feels small and cramped. The characters talk too much, and then Affleck provides a voice-over that explains everything all over again. The tough-guy noir dialogue is soft-boiled, the cardboard crimelords are not particularly menacing, and the star looks tired and ill at ease. Did Batman burn him out? We could not help but notice that Affleck, who does not usually pass up the chance to display his torso (even while whisking embassy staff away from the Ayatollah’s Iran), kept his clothes on throughout the love scenes. Was he feeling a bit hefty? That, we understand. His disappearing Boston accent, not so much.

Weekly Report Card 1 and 2: A Bigger Splash, La La Land, Nobelists and ex-wunderkinder

January 17, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →

In 2016 I was so distracted by the horror of the outside world that I read fewer books and watched fewer movies than I usually do. This was a mistake because I live in my head. I know one must be aware of what’s going on, but it’s not necessary to get the bizarre news as it happens or read vile tweets as they are posted. In my case it only leads to helpless rage, despair and catatonia, and I’m not even on the social media.

It is precisely in times like these that novels and films are essential to survival. To ensure that I do not slacken in my reading and viewing, I’m starting a weekly scorecard. I urge you to do the same. File under sanity maintenance.

Week 1: Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney and A Bigger Splash by Luca Guadagnino.

Precious is the word, as in precioussssss. This is a seriously overwritten book about well-to-do people who feel poor among richer people. Oh, the humanity. Typical sentence: “Inside, she’s confronted with a vast creaking stairway composed of ancient oak planks that recedes as it ascends in front of her, each floor taking her farther back into the building, until finally she finds herself on the top floor, where the door stands ajar.” Wow, he just described how stairs work.


A Bigger Splash: Emotional Rescue

(I saw Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back on the plane—every time Princess Leia appeared I felt like bursting into tears.)

Ralph Fiennes is hilarious in A Bigger Splash as a loud, disruptive, middle-aged music industry guy who turns up uninvited at the Italian island retreat of his rock star ex (Tilda Swinton) and his ex-friend (Matthias Schoenaerts), dragging along a young woman (Dakota Johnson) whom no one believes is his daughter. Trouble ensues. Since The Grand Budapest Hotel Fiennes has been in a comic phase (See Hail Caesar) and it’s unleashed something wild and unpredictable in this serious thespian.

Week 2: A Strangeness In My Mind by Orhan Pamuk and La La Land by Damien Chazelle

Reading Pamuk in Istanbul is an incredible experience. Combine with a visit to his Museum of Innocence and you can sit in the van for the rest of the trip (But don’t).


An exhibit from the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul.

La La Land is beautiful to behold, Emma Stone graduates from her protracted ingenue phase to break your heart in her final audition song, Ryan Gosling’s frustrated jazz musician is so real that you want to kiss him and punch him in the face at the same time, and that Last Temptation of Christ-like montage nearly killed me. I wish the composers had listened to Sebastian’s rants about jazz and used more bebop. But though I am also partial to Bird and Monk, I know that jazz isn’t dying, it’s simply moved on. You got a problem with Miles?

Stranded in a Snowpocalypse

January 13, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Places, Traveling 3 Comments →

Record levels of snow fell over Europe, blanketing the continent, closing the Bosphorus to shipping and causing flight cancellations. In Istanbul, homeless people and stray animals were rounded up and taken to shelters. In Cappadocia, the snow heightened the extraterrestrial feel of the landscape. It makes me think of Arrakis with snow instead of sand, and the fairy chimneys as frozen sandworms.

It was supposed to be our last day in Turkey. In the morning we went up in a hot air balloon for spectacular views of Cappadocia.

To no one’s surprise, the airport was snowed in and our afternoon flight back to Istanbul was cancelled.

These clever cats live at the Nevsehir airport, where there are warm spots to huddle in and people to give them food. I had taken to carrying cheese and cold cuts from the breakfast buffet for the critters I met.

The safest way to get back to Istanbul was by land. So the next day we drove ten hours from Goreme to Istanbul, with pit stops every two or three hours. Turn a setback into an adventure! I must’ve seen every public WC and convenience store in Anatolia.

Throughout this unexpected development, the center of calm and efficiency was our tour guide, Arif Yasa. Not only is Arif super-knowledgeable about Turkish history, culture, and cuisine, he is also extremely kind and patient. You try being in charge of ten Pinoys, each with specific requirements, and maintain your sanity.

If you’re going to Turkey, one of the smartest things you can do is get Arif to be your guide. You can reach him at arif.yasa@experta.com.tr.

By 8pm we were having dinner at a mall in Istanbul, by 10 we were at the airport. Almost the minute I strapped myself into my seat, I was asleep.

Notes on travelling to Turkey and elsewhere

1. The news is scary, so it’s natural to hesitate about going there. In the aftermath of the nightclub shooting, security has been tightened in Istanbul and people have been warned to avoid crowded places. At no time during our eight-day trip did I feel unsafe. Not to belittle the problem, but there is an upside to this: fewer tourists. You can hear yourself think.

Listen, the whole world looks like Children of Men (the Alfonso Cuaron movie) now. Are you going to hide, or are you going to get out there and live?

2. Always have travel insurance, even if it’s not required when getting your visa. Shit happens. Best to be prepared.

3. If you’re going to a cold country, Uniqlo is your friend. When I was packing for the trip it occurred to me that my ten-year-old winter coat could use reinforcements. I stocked up on Uniqlo sweaters and Heattech shirts, and they saved me from hypothermia when the mercury dropped.

4. How can you see the world when you’re perpetually checking your phones and tablets? Disconnect. It’s mostly chaos and idiocy anyway, and you do not need minute-by-minute updates. Enjoy the silence. Get reacquainted with yourself.

While I defrost my extremities, enjoy this camp classic from Turkey, one of the most bizarre movies ever made: The Man Who Saves The World a.k.a. Turkish Star Wars.

For great Turkish films, check out Yol (The Road), Once Upon A Time in Anatolia, or Winter Sleep.

Happy 2017 to all of us! Some reminders from Rogue One

January 01, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 3 Comments →

rogue1

1. Every fight against tyranny is built on hope.
2. Tyrants practise terror and call it peace.
3. No victory is possible without the commitment of many ordinary people who see themselves as part of a larger ideal and are prepared to make sacrifices to see it through.
4. You do not need magical powers to defeat tyranny. What is essential is the strength of your convictions.
5. It takes only a few determined individuals to sway the majority into action.
6. It is easy to lose your nerve in the face of great odds. The seemingly impossible becomes less daunting if you break the mission down into steps. Exert all your efforts on getting to the next step, then the next, then the next.
7. Never make assumptions about an individual’s capabilities on the basis of their gender, color, or ethnicity.
8. And from The Force Awakens: Winning the war is not the end. Eternal vigilance is required to ensure that tyranny does not sneak back in.

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Gotokuji Temple

Send off this horrible year with a George Michael New Year’s Eve Playlist.

December 28, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Childhood, Current Events, Movies, Music No Comments →

george-michael

How can a music icon and jillion-selling artist still be underrated? Well George Michael was, because he only released new music when he wanted to, he didn’t think every moment of his life was for public consumption, and he expected no praise for his kindness and generosity. Thank you, George Michael.

Let’s start the playlist with Outside, which responds to a very public shaming with defiance and strength.

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And the Year of Obituaries continues with the death of Carrie Fisher, who as Princess Leia taught the women of my generation how to fight, resist tyranny, and be the equal of any man, and as a writer showed us that no one has to be perfect, our flaws are what make us strong. The Force is with you, General Leia.

larry-to-leia

Do people really want freedom from freedom? 2016 suggests that Loki in The Avengers was right.

December 15, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Movies 2 Comments →

The evidence suggests that people do not practise critical thinking. Or do not want to think. Or do not think at all. It’s so much easier to surrender your decision-making processes to the nearest strongman who claims to have the answers to everything. Freedom comes with responsibility, and who has the energy for that? Yeah, join the hive mind and hide behind the supposed strength of numbers. If you agree with everyone, you can’t possibly be wrong, right?

Nope, it just makes you a scared little waste of evolution. Throughout history people have died to fight and to escape from slavery, but you choose to be a slave. You do not have to be anyone’s tool. Think.

You can choose to be free. We are responsible for ourselves and our fellow humans.

* Star Wars analogy redacted because every viewer naturally assumes she is the hero and not the oppressor.