One does not simply start conversing with people out of the blue. Usually. When a complete stranger approaches you and tells you why The Exorcist and The Shining are practically horror filmmaking par excellence, you either stay away from the guy, or miraculously get enraptured by the stranger’s eloquent prose. The latter’s probably unlikely, but my point is that one must introduce himself to the other in the hopes that a fruitful conversation would eventually take place. As such, considering how I’m practically relaunching this blog of mine, consider this my introduction. Better yet, consider this my CV.
Who am I?
I’m Bok, let’s leave my name at that. I took up Liberal Arts for my undergraduate degree. I was supposed to go into Communication, but my Classical Literature instructor in college swayed me towards the Humanities. I went straight for a Master of Arts in Humanities degree, getting delayed a year due to thesis, and academic and personal drama, until finally graduating and working as an English teacher for five years in my high school. Considering I had no education degree, I took some units; I didn’t finish it as I had misgivings about the teaching profession five years down the line. I resigned from teaching and was recruited by my dad to work in his company. So now, I’m the H.R. officer in our family business, a company which imports fertilizers.
I believe the teaching gig, at least initially, offered one tremendous amounts of free time to train oneself in culture. One had to read the assigned reading texts in class in order to discuss them extensively, know basic aesthetics, and study composition techniques among others. In my case, I focused on Western Classical Literature. I apologize half-heartedly for ignoring Asian and Filipino literatures as, quite frankly, they confound me. Besides, my training in a conservative university deeply ingrained a love for classical aesthetics for both art, literature, and film. Simply put, we were immersed in mostly Western art, literature, and film.
My life doesn’t evolve around literature, however. In case the second full sentence in paragraph one isn’t clear, I love movies. I may have gravitated towards genre movies as a personal preference, but I don’t consider myself a total ignoramus in other genres. I also play videogames. With the exception of Monster Hunter and 2048, I prefer narrative driven games. Whether they be as simplistic as Super Mario or as complex as Spec Ops: The Line or Shadow of the Colossus, I appreciate videogames as an exciting medium for storytelling. I am also a writer by hobby. To date, I have one produced play, hundreds of story concepts, and roughly ten stalled first drafts which I was supposed to go back to but wasn’t able to because life happened.
Such are the simple pleasures of a professional bum, and he would have it no other way if he had his own way. However, something happened. The dreamer realized his dreams are futile, and the ideals he once held suddenly became politically “inconvenient”, bordering on “heretical” even. One encountered “reality”, its unforgiving nature, and turned one into a grouchy old fart as a result (despite, at time of writing, only 31 years of age). With these realizations came the desire to process these realizations even further so as to reconcile with my old and irreplaceable ideals; to filter my negotiables with my non-negotiables. As such, the old Evil Dr. Bok film critic persona has come to its (deservedly) ignominious end, and along with it, the website. But you didn’t come here to say, “goodbye”, you came here to witness a rebirth.
Reformatting the blog
Going over my old Evil Dr. Bok entries, I realized that they are not so much “reviews” of films but commentaries. A film review is supposed to look at the film as a whole; making sense of each individual element and how it properly and artistically contributes to a film’s narrative. Considering that I simply have an elementary knowledge of film criticism from a writer’s perspective, I found myself lacking in credibility to review films. Add to that the fact that I tend to be behind with the films I watch due to geographic location.
Being in the Philippines, I have to make do with Hollywood films. I mean that in its simplest terms. At time of writing, the last film I saw on the big screen was Infinity War. Before that, Black Panther. Simply put, there isn’t that much variety in Western films available in the Philippines, unless one does something naughty and visit the gray market.
And don’t even get me started on the local films, whether mainstream or independent. With all due respect to my contacts working with the local entertainment industry, mainstream Filipino films tend to be garbage while indies are almost always pretentious. I tried my very best to love and appreciate Filipino movies. But except for the following movies, Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, Oro Plata Mata, and Yanggaw, all local films I’ve seen to date are simply not worth discussing, period.
Despite this lack of extensive credibility in films, I still see the importance of making sense of art, culture, and all the associated fluff with it. As such, allow me to rechristen this blog as:
COMMENTARY BY A JADED IDEALIST
Underwhelming and possibly pretentious, I’m sure, but shut up; I own the blog, and consider this my way of weeding out non-desirables.
This new format won’t be limited to movies but to what I said earlier: books, stories, art, videogames, essays, current news events, other commentaries, basically everything that would affect the human condition.
I believe in an inherent order in the universe. I believe in absolutes. I believe in morality and ethics, that human actions, despite committed in an arguably morally gray world, can still be determined as black or white. I believe in the importance of morality and ethics as taught by the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the historically documented abuses of this institution, I still wholeheartedly believe that the Church is the most sensible institution in terms of teaching morality, philosophy, theology, and social justice. In addition to this belief in absolutes, I also believe in objective standards of beauty.
These are all lofty and ideal, I have to admit. Can they be improved on? That’s arguable. Is it useless? No. There is a reason why the West rose to prominence, corruption aside. The West was founded on these lofty ideals of truth and justice. The West was founded on these “cliched” views, and they remained powerful institutions for centuries. I decry how the current cultural milieu seemed to have forgotten the values and ideals which have shaped it and are now adamant on destroying it. As a friend of mine said, the Old Powers seems intent on cannibalizing itself due to a grossly inaccurate and misguided understanding of their old beliefs.
Simply put, the good old conservative values (I’ll say it for what they truly are) are now deemed outdated, and I’m supposed to accept the new values of more liberal leanings. While I see the value of selected contemporary views, I just cannot stomach the idea of destroying the Old just because of incompatibility with the New. However, I also know that I won’t win readers and followers if I simply stuck to my old college habit of calling those who don’t share my worldview idiots. Condemning one to hell is never a good conversation starter.
What are your aesthetics then?
Considering my training in that conservative university, I prefer the classical form. I prefer a marriage of form and substance, how one cannot separate the product’s intended message with how it was made. I prefer balance and proportion, symmetry, and the occasional asymmetry. Again, you can cry how limiting and exclusive my tastes are, but it’s simply my own fault for being stuck in the classics as stupid me simply couldn’t comprehend anything post Renaissance except for the Existential movement.
This soft spot for existentialism is due to my “existential phase” back in 2009 or 2010. It was my Junior year in college when I got rejected by a crush, and I supposedly felt the “absurdity” of my actions when I still working on my thesis in 2010. And it didn’t help that I discovered Dostoyevsky’s Christian existentialism in Crime and Punishment, and the admittedly Romantic views of Camus’s Sisyphean absurdism. Sartre was too boring for me to read and understand other than a possibly simplistic notion that human beings are mere pieces of sentient flesh who need to create meaning in our lives. I would say that Sartrean existentialism was a bit nihilistic for my taste. I tend to abhor overly nihilistic works unless the apparent nihilism is a critique of nihilism’s own self-defeating purpose. But for works which are nihilism for nihilism’s sake, I tend to dismiss them on the basis that I don’t want to depress myself further into suicide.
This does not mean I’m completely averse to works not falling within the classical aesthetics. I recognize the possibility of encountering art beyond my preferred aesthetic standards which speaks to me. Videogames and film are practically postmodern mediums of storytelling, but I love how they use the medium to tell engaging stories.
Additionally, I tend to have respect for art which evokes a feeling of repulsion. I don’t mean torture porn or scat or whatever disgusting thing out there; it could mean art or ideas I don’t personally agree with because I don’t share with the artist’s worldview. I tend to put this people on a higher level over “bad art” because those works make me think. Didn’t Socrates say that the unexamined life is not worth living?
With that, what is “bad art”? In a word: lazy. I hate lazy art. These are art works which neither stir wonder nor disgust in me. The fact that the work failed to incite an emotional response show that something is fundamentally lacking in the work’s craftsmanship.
This would also hold true for supposed “art works” which push a specific agenda detrimental to culture. There’s a reason why propaganda is held in such low esteem as there is a disconnect between form and substance. Add to that a specific agenda which goes against everything I hold dear, talk about a work committing a mortal sin.
Come, let’s talk
This reformatted blog is a dialogue. These are my own views, opinions, statements of fact, whatever. While I’m not too enthusiastic about how a person’s opinion is his own and we don’t have a right to tell them they’re wrong, I prefer opinions to be informed. It’s much better to see where a dissenting opinion is coming from so that I can understand why that guy is wrong. Otherwise, that guy’s simply creating noise, of which I admittedly am guilty of committing every now and then. But like I said, this is a discussion. Correct me, point me to the right direction, suggest stuff which could tickle my fancy, I don’t care. All you have to know is that this CV contains my stance, my worldview, and that the succeeding articles have this particular worldview driving them: a Third-World, Western educated, postmodern-absolutist, idealist, Roman Catholic worldview.
And with that, welcome to the new blog.