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Curriculum Vitae

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.

Jaded Idealist?

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.

 

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I’m Alive

I haven’t really updated this blog since 2015 due to adulting, changing interests, and shifting priorities. That, however, doesn’t mean I hate film. I still do, and it’s that love for pop and high brow film which drove me to come back here. So strap in, loyal minions: Evil Dr. Bok is back, and he’s here to stay.

Well, that is if you’ve really been following this blog from the beginning.

Birdman: Really Short Impressions

It’s been awhile since my last post here. Unfortunately, as much as I want to continuously update this blog, it won’t be happening at least for a couple of months. Once I find time to update this, then you guys will be the first to know. As such,

BIRDMAN.

It sucks. Well, not really. However, I find it extremely amusing how utterly shallow and pretentious that piece of tripe was. Definitely not something to win Best Picture, but then, the Oscars have been steadily losing its credibility since 2000 anyway.

I guess I shouldn’t be too harsh on it, though, as it has indeed some pretty good moments, but no, those aren’t enlightening moments. In the end, watching the film is tantamount to watching a director tell two hours worth of fart jokes; super crass, super un-intellectual, but told in such an interesting way that you’ll forget whatever “profound” message it attempts to convey as there really isn’t one. Another Emperor’s New Clothes in all its “best”.

No Oscars 2014 Commentary

First off, I just want to thank you, my loyal minions, for the site traffic for the past few weeks. That rant over Frozen seems to be my most read entry here, and it’s very good to know that I am not alone in my impressions over that film. So, thank you! 😉

Secondly, I want to apologize in advance. As you know, Oscars 2014 is roughly 18 hours away and some of you might be wondering whether I’ll be providing a live commentary of it. Sadly, I won’t be able to. Compared to last year when the Oscars fell during a free-day at work, this year’s Oscars fall on a working day; hey, I need to earn in order to conquer the world eventually. 😉

So, there; thank you for your support, and I’m sorry if you won’t be seeing a live Oscar commentary tomorrow.

See you at the movies!

Evil Dr. Bok 🙂

Blue is the Warmest Color vs. Shame (an R-rated/NSFW post)

*disclaimer: For my students who follow this blog, I would advice that you guys skip reading this. Most of the stuff I’m talking about here doesn’t concern you guys, and I also wouldn’t want to be directly responsible for your deformation of character, so please STAY AWAY FROM THIS ENTRY!!!

I don’t usually disagree with James Berardinelli as much as I disagree (albeit in a charming way) to Armond White, but my goodness a part Berardinelli’s review of Blue is the Warmest Color goes like this:

“Watching Blue is the Warmest Color provides viewers with that rarest of motion picture opportunities: the ability to lose oneself in the life of another for three hours and to emerge having felt something.” (Berardinelli, 2013)

Yeah, I sure felt something after browsing through that tripe: DIRTYAnd I seriously couldn’t figure out what warrants the 3 hour running time of Blue is the Warmest Color. Heck, Shame was roughly less than 2 hours, had the same amount of sex and nudity, but while I did feel dirty watching  it, it sure is nowhere near as shameful (no pun intended) as Blue‘sIs it because Blue‘s lesbian sequences are ultimately the only reason for watching it, unlike Shame? Is it because despite its shallowness, Shame actually features decent storytelling unlike Blue‘s preachy nature, where we are explicitly told that love chooses no genders, sexes, etc.?

What do I mean? Remember that scene is Shame where Michael Fassbender‘s character invites his girlfriend over at a motel room for some shagging? Nothing happened; Fassbender and the girl didn’t bone. Rather, the implication goes that Fassbender couldn’t get an erection, or he couldn’t bring it to himself to have sex with a girl that he seems to genuinely love. The girl leaves the room. You know the scene which follows, right? Fassbender banging a prostitute, finishes, and again feels sorry for himself. Absolutely no words explicitly saying that Fassbender’s character couldn’t make a decent relationship with another person because of his sexual addiction. This is good storytelling, we see the effects on the person, we are not told. This is probably why I felt less dirty watching Shame over Blue.

Of course, I’m not wholeheartedly in agreement with Shame. If anything, the explicit sexual content of the film makes it almost as bad as Blue is the Warmest Color. it just so happened that Steve McQueen is a far more superior director than  Abdellatif Kechiche. That, however, doesn’t entirely justify the existence of these two films. Both are basically sexploitation in nature that you’re pretty much better off watching porn instead of these two arthouse films pretending to be profound because of their use of shock. In Shame, it’s showing off Michael Fassbender’s flaccid willy. In Blue is the Warmest Color, it’s the lesbian sex scene between the two girls.

Besides, while I do acknowledge that sex is a completely natural and necessary human act, there are other things art can talk about, you know? What exactly? Here’s the top three things that come to mind: a boy meeting his first crush, a boy who wants a cookie but couldn’t get one because he already way too much earlier on, and two best friends, a guy and a girl, who need to break their friendship because the guy’s romantic relationship is already suffering.

The Year Ender Post of 2013

Hey, it’s the end of the year and my gosh has it been a year; the year when I left the singlehood despite my geekish and grumpy tendencies, the year that I finally got to teach literature among high school students despite poetry being my “math”, the year that I finally got to record podcasts with friends, the year that… “Okay, Evil Dr. Bok! We appreciate the fact that all these things happened to you, but what about the movies?!”

Oh yeah, sorry about that. Yes, I acknowledge that I was not able to update this blog as much as I wanted to because of life stuff; don’t worry, nothing too serious happened, but there are just too many stuff happening at work and at post post-grad school that I wasn’t able to review that many films this year. Regardless, here’s my Tops, my Bottoms, and my Honorable Mentions. As usual, my Honorable Mentions aren’t necessarily the movies I loved or hated, but rather these are the films which I thought should be mentioned for the sake of exposure. As for my Tops and Bottoms, they aren’t arranged in any particular order.

Top 5 for 2013

Pacific_Rim_FilmPoster

1. Pacific Rim: My mentor complained that this film is plagued by the Transformers syndrome, that is “too many humans, too little Transformers”. While I do acknowledge that problem with Pacific Rim, that the human story isn’t entirely too impressive, and that there were certain plot-holes that could have been ironed out some more, it doesn’t change the fact that this film is quite possibly one of the most stupidly fun and entertaining films of 2013. Sure there were more human drama than giant robots and monsters fighting, but at least in the latter category, this film delivers.

Prisoners2013Poster

2. Prisoners: Man was I unprepared for this movie. Sure it takes its sweet time for the story to unfold, and there were scenes which, arguably, went on for too long, but I stand by my argument that if this film were paced faster than it already is, it would have been one of the most tiring films to see for the year. The timed and tested premise of a father taking matters into his own hands to look for his missing daughter and the cop assigned to solve the case works in this thriller. The police procedural took a backseat for this one; instead it focused on the effects on the individuals affected by the tragedy. Once more, the examination of the human condition put in extraordinary circumstances makes for great stories, and Prisoners is definitely one of those great stories for 2013. And speaking of extraordinary circumstances…

Gravity_Poster

3. Gravity: This again is one of those films: an astronaut gets stranded in space and has to get back home safely even if Fate (or Providence) had been quite shitty to her. While some praise this film for being deeply profound (it’s not, I’m telling), I enjoyed this because of the direction. For a film to be able to hold your attention for 90 whole minutes with minimalist casting is an achievement.

Olympus_Has_Fallen_poster

4. Olympus Has Fallen: This could have been Die Hard 5 as it follows the classic Die Hard formula: a group of lowlives hijack a place, and a lone meathead kills them one by one. Okay, maybe that’s an oversimplication, but it still delivers some solid action set pieces.

Last_Stand_2013

5. The Last Stand: Are you serious? Do I really need to explain why this film is in this list? Isn’t the poster enough? Okay, fine: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a sheriff who has to prevent an escaped drug lord from heading back to Mexico because… Oh screw it, it’s the Governator killing bad guys and Peter Stormare, and that’s awesome!

Honorable Mentions

1. The Conjuring: I feel bad that James Wan is leaving the horror genre because The Conjuring is proof that despite having the most cliched horror script (minus the more obviously stupid characters which plagued horror films), atmosphere, build-up, and the ever important human element is what makes horror movies terrifying.

2. Ender’s Game: This is a film adaptation of one of the most influential science-fiction novels of all time. Despite Gavin Hood‘s rather lackluster direction, at least shadows of Orson Scott Card‘s brilliance found its way into the film.

3. Man of Steel: This is neither a Christopher Nolan film nor script; this is a film directed by Zack Snyder and written by David S. Goyer. As such, you can expect certain issues in plotting and even logic, but where a solid story fails, Snyder and company make up for it in the spectacle. Yes, this is a “sound and fury” kind of film, but at least we finally get to see the Last Son of Krypton slug it out with ridiculously overpowered bad guys.

4. G.I. Joe Retaliation: This could have been side by side with Pacific Rim, the only issue being that I didn’t have that much with this. Regardless, the film fixed certain issues with Rise of CobraRetaliation is a live-action cartoon, nothing more, nothing less.

5. Thor: The Dark World: While I wasn’t too impressed with Iron Man 3, at least this film managed to put on some pretty impressive worldbuilding. It’s still nothing compared to the first one by Kenneth Branagh, but it manages to expand on the world of Thor. That and Tom Hiddleston once more steals the show.

Bottom 5 for 2013

1. Evil Dead: I really wanted to enjoy this film, I really do. But the one thing you do not do in a film about blood, dismemberment, and gore is to take it seriously. Put stupid characters, but wink at the audience; let them know that this is a whole joke and we’re just having fun. You do not tell the story of a recovering addict and make the possession a metaphor for the distrust friends have towards a junkie, most especially if the title of the film is Evil Dead!!!

2. Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters: This would have been more forgivable, but again it committed the same mistake Evil Dead did; it took itself more seriously than it should have. Plus, I don’t see how Hansel and Gretel turned out to be the best witch hunters in the country, considering that they spent most of the time being thrown around by the witches. “But surely the action sequences are fun?” you asked, to which I reply, “No. They’re generic, they’re boring. Pirate this film some more.”

3. The World’s End: Now take note that this movie isn’t as badly made as the first two choices in this list. Rather, I’m placing this here because this is one of the BIGGEST LETDOWNS of 2013. The charm which made Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fun is gone in this installment. Simon Pegg’s character is one of the most unsympathetic characters around, unlike Shaun and Nicholas Angel from the first two Cornetto films. And my goodness, that argument with Bill Nighy’s voice is one of the preachiest dialogues in recent film history.

4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Same complaints with no. 3, as this is a pretty big letdown. You’ll know something’s wrong when all I can remember from the film while watching it on 48fps is that the higher frame rate isn’t as distracting as it was in An Unexpected Journey.

5. Blue is the Warmest Color: Just watch porn. I’m sorry, but if this film happens to be the best movie of 2013 according to the Cannes Film Festival, then I wouldn’t be surprised if some  actress wins awards for her extremely believable facial expressions during coitus. “Wait, Dr. Bok; didn’t they award Halle Berry an Oscar for his performance in Monster’s Ball?” … … … Yup, Western Civilization’s going down.

Happy New Year, fellow minions! 😉 Here’s to the film industry for 2014: may the bubble that is superhero movies not burst yet. 😛

Typhoon Haiyan Relief Drive

*updated (11-11-13)

As you guys know (it is trending on Twitter), the Visayas region of the Philippines was struck by Super Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda. Apparently more than 10,000 Filipinos have lost their lives in the disaster, and the survivors need all the help they can get. Spread the word, my fellow minions. Click the link below, and if that isn’t enough, just Google “typhoon haiyan relief drive” for other links.

God bless you all. 🙂

Typhoon Yolanda Emergency Appeal

TY Haiyan Call for Donations

Following Philippines Typhoon Haiyan, Here’s How You Can Help