Monthly Archives: December 2004

a holiday stripped of its holiness

on christmas day, i woke up at 3pm, ate lunch with my family, played some basketball with nigi and wally, came back home and watched korean dramas while eating ramen, and went to wally’s to play some poker. i lost really quick in poker and waited for the others to finish the game. i fell asleep on wally’s couch and by the time the game was over, we all left and went back home. what struck me was how today (yesterday) felt less christmas-y than the days leading up to it. well, this could be just another one of my entries where i get all nostalgic about how holidays used to mean a great deal and now just pass by without a trace, but i’m going to type up a passage from v.s. naipaul’s a house for mr biswas that really captured, for me, the essence of a day like today:

‘After breakfast – tea and biscuits from the drum – the children waited for lunch. More whistles were silenced; more balloons burst. The girls seized the scraps of the boys’ burst balloons and blew them up into many-coloured bunches of grapes which they rubbed against their cheeks to make a noise like heavy furniture dragging on an unpolished floor. Lunch was good. And after lunch they waited for tea: Sumati’s cakes, a local and fraudulent cherry brandy doled out by Chinta, and icecream, made by Chinta again, who, against annual evidence, was supposed to have an especial gift for making icecream. And that was that. Dinner was as bad as usual. Christmas was over. And, like all other Christmases at Hanuman House, it had turned out to be only a series of anticipations.’

when it’s cold, you watch movies

it’s been a trying past month, with all the papers and projects being due and the final fall semester of my undergraduate career winding down. now it’s five days before christmas, and i find myself at work (NFL) eagerly awaiting the company party at the Museum of Natural History. it’s been a while since i listed some of the films i’ve watched… been lazy i guess. i picked up Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full again… finishing up the last 200 pages or so… getting kinda exciting. Anyways, the past three weeks have been a film fest for me, some of the films being required for class and some being an excuse not to do school work. i thought i would list most of them and comment on them — an exercise that will hopefully allow my memory to distinguish the large quantity of films i’ve ingested in a short time span.

closer (dir. mike nichols, 2004) – good looking actors and actresses in a cyncial love story. i couldn’t help noticing how natalie portman in this movie looked not too different from the natalie portman of the professional (1994)… a bit disconcerting since she’s a stripped in this one. but she does have a beautiful face; even my mom agrees.

white balloon (dir. jafar panahi, 1995) – this was the first iranian film that i stayed awake for in its entirety. it’s about a little girl who wants to buy a goldfish on new year’s day but loses her money and tries to find it. it’s one of those neo-realist type films. i wrote a paper on it for film theory talking about its ‘slight-narrative,’ but i was happy that my suitemate graceface stuck around to see it with me on vhs.

the secret of my succe$s (dir. herbert ross, 1987) – i watched this in order to research my film senior thesis about yuppies and i must say, for an eighties movie, this was fairly entertaining. i found michael j. fox even more sympathetic a character than his back to the future roles. but what i found most valuable about this film was that it definitely did capture that horatio alger american myth of “working hard” to get on top — and it’s a romantic feeling that we still perpetuate such beliefs.

risky business (dir. paul brickman, 1983) – i expected more from the subway sex scene at the end of the film since it was supposed to be one of the “sexiest scenes” of all time, but then again, i really liked how the scene was built up with tom collins singing in the air tonight. tom cruise is not as sharp or cool as he is made out to be in his other roles (i.e. top gun, mission impossible, minority report), and he does a good job in essentially being a dork who happens to be convinced by prostitutes that he can be a pimp for a weekend.

ocean’s twelve (dir. steven soderbergh, 2004) – a most disappointing sequel, i could not find much entertainment in seeing famous people have fun on screen without much direction or story to entertain the audience. i mean, to use julia roberts as a character who pretends to be julia roberts while having bruce willis play himself — corny! i understand that perhaps the first one was too good and set high expectations, but not really – this was just too loose of a story. but brad pitt was pimp as usual, and i guess that redeems the “cool” factor.

the aviator (dir. martin scorcese, 2004) – the more i think about the film, the more i realize that i enjoyed it. visually stunning and masterfully directed by the master scorcese, i was a bit disappointed that my emotions were rarely touched. it was funny to watch with wook because he seemed to sympathize with howard hughes’s OCD. leo dicaprio does a great job of playing hughes, and the story of hughes itself is fascinating and sort of a personal inspiration for me – filmmaker, engineer, businessman, playboy – it was great because he wanted to do all, and did it – except by the end, he became crazy.

national treasure (dir. jon turteltaub, 2004) – i downloaded a bootleg of this and saw it on my computer because the reviews for it were so awful, but once a nic cage fan, always a nic cage fan. i didn’t think it was so bad – maybe the critics have a thing against nicolas cage. i found the whole celebration of historical knowledge to be corny but nice at the same time because i am a history major as well. but i hate the sidekick charater riley who is so annoying with his corny jokes and his acting just ruins the film. it wasn’t a miscast, it was a miswrite.

don’t trust that girl (some korean director) – i went home for a night and my parents told me to watch this film; it’s about a con woman who gets parole and is on her way to her sister’s wedding. a goofy guy with an engagement ring sits across from her on the train but someone steals his ring. the girl goes after the guy and recovers the ring, but the train leaves before she can get back on. of course, she goes to his town and is mistaken for his fiancee… you can tell where this is going – it was a nice typical romantic comedy but the acting was superb, especially by the lead character, who has hilarious facial expressions and becomes more and more likeable although she could’ve been prettier.

assault on precinct 13 (dir. jean-fran�ois richet, 2005) – as a treat after our final test in Film Theory I, our professor – james schamus of focus features – gave us a sneak peek of the upcoming remake of john carpenter’s assault on precinct 13. i was struggling from an all-nighter but this film kept me wide awake. starring ethan hawke as the cop of a precinct open on its last night, this action/seige flick is pretty intense. laurnence fishbourne, as the notorious gangster who plays on the good side against bad cops, is pretty intimidating in his thug don gear. a shocking moment was when they shot the pretty blonde character point-blank in the head… sorta sad. but i must say, more and more, i identify with ethan hawke than most other white hollywood actors – he’s intelligent, insecure, and scrappy but capable of rising to the challenge.

million dollar baby (dir. clint eastwood, 2004) – someone at work warned me that this film would “punch me in the gut” before it was over, and surely, i had a most gut-wrenching experience watching this film. it’s quite an inspiring and sentimental film, but it does take an emotional toll. i am only being vague because, unlike most other films that i love to ruin for people, this one i’d like people to see for themselves. i watched this with sarah and she was creating rivers down her cheeks towards the end. you could hear the whole theater sniffle. and i don’t blame eastwood for going overboard – it was just dark enough to keep it from being a pure tear-jerker.

house of flying daggers (dir. yimou zhang, 2004) – people think this movie is too much like hero in that it is beautifully shot and features some diesel martial arts sequences, but i think the two movies are worlds apart. while hero was entertaining in its own right, zhang ziyi has a much more expanded role in this and more often than not, a pretty girl who makes things happen can mean the world of a difference in a movie. the love story in this film, which becomes a triangle towards the end, is very potent and is allowed to remain subtle by being in the background of the fancy action. i particulary loved the scene when the camera pans across a plain with luscious foliage in the background only to have snow trickle down and then blanket the entire terrain with white. perhaps cliched in this sort of genre, but beautiful indeed.

there are a few other movies which i’ve attempted to watch but had to put on hold or fell asleep through – perhaps they are worth mentioning so i can go back to them at a later time: infernal affairs, vertigo, the big chill, close-up, and weekend.

next up on the film agenda: in good company (scarlett!), life aquatic, the merchant of venice.

impressions on a misty day

i woke up at around 1:30pm today. staying up late to eat ramen with spam while watching (or trying to watch) infernal affairs at wook’s suite, i needed the extra hours of sleep. and there was no rush to get to work since i had told them i had been feeling sick. but putting those wet paper towels on my desk before sleep really did the trick. the nose was barely stuffy and my throat wasn’t so bad. i took my sweet time – showered, shaved, read some nytimes headlines, talked on AIM, and got dressed for work.

it’s raining outside, but not really. it’s a constant spray of mist coming from the side. i don’t have an umbrella, but an umbrella wouldn’t make a difference. i am glad that i have a scarf on. keep my throat area dry.

when you get to walk from 50th and broadway to 49th and park ave, it’s a very nice walk. it’s hectic during christmas season – there are policemen directing traffic and tons of holiday shoppers lugging their bought goods around. storefronts are gaudily decorated with bright lights and yet, i don’t feel any urge to participate in the season’s shopping frenzy. i’ll make it easy on myself and stick to an online solution for shopping. i walk by rockefeller center. i don’t even notice the tree – the all-so unimpressive rockefeller xmas tree that thousands of people from all over come to see each year. i walk straight to the dean & deluca across the street from the tree and wait in line to get my $2.01 coffee. i wonder when they’ll learn that starbucks reduced their $2.01 coffee to $2.00, or rather, the pretax price from $1.85 to $1.84. while waiting in line, i spot a lone apple crumb cake. i look below and see a pile of blueberry crumb cake. the staggering difference draws me closer to the apple crumb cake. i submit, and ask for the last piece. $3.25 for a mere pastry.

it’s a great feeling when you can walk into work at 3pm and you can still be useful at the office. 15th floor, i pass by all the superbowl logos of the past on the wall. human resources. warmly greeted, i am given work to do, which i confidently finish a few minutes later. i sneak in some thesis work on the computer while people are going in and out of the office – not that they would care – they are very supportive of my academic work. one of the HR generalist even let me film a scene for my project in her office. but i feel guilty so i start to do work again. i go around and consult with the benefits personnel and then i try to make some changes to the demo page of our up and coming intranet site.

it’s 6:30pm on a friday night and i leave work.

the walk back from 49th and park ave to 50th and broadway is quick. i am a running back in high school again, slipping through fur coated defenders and dodging swinging shopping bags. at the heart of the consumer culture that signifies the holidays, i can’t wait to get on the subway and go back uptown.

the train ride – the uptown (1) – is a pleasure because i find an empty seat by the second stop – 59th columbus circle. i have my sigfried kracauer theory of film book which i read on the way up. i am on the chapter about avant-garde film. it makes me want to become a free-spirited artist. there are no attractive girls on the subway tonight.

i need to pick up wine for a gathering of RAs. i get out of the 115th subway exit. i walk towards the corner of 115th and broadway on the side of lerner hall. a familar face. hello. she’s smiling. i don’t have much to say as usual and it’s that familiar awkwardness. and i fool myself into thinking i am so smooth – maybe she’s the exception.

john jung looking parisian classy wearing black turtleneck and fcuk blue gray jacket, cigarette in one hand and umbrella in another. i ask him to accompany me to the liquor store where i purchase a bottle of sauvignon blanc. we talk about whether or not i should grow my hair out. it’s getting long. john is considerate and puts his umbrella over me to keep me dry as well even though i do not mind the mist at this point. my glasses are like the front of a car window right before the windshield wiper comes by.

back to EC. i sit at a table in anil’s suite. some other RAs are there – rob, ashley, min, and then eliana and sean duffy. we drink a bit and talk. they like my wine. it’s nice and i love the diversity. we talk about race, celebrities, and RA experiences. i remember the first time walking into RA training as a junior – no friends, sorta intimidated by white people, dreading each minute. now i’m comfortable to call some of these people my friends and probably should hang out with them more in my final upcoming semester.

radio perfecto is a restaurant on amsterdam that opened last winter. i remember only a few days after its opening in january, me, mung and his grad student buddy jay sat at the empty bar and drank beer while chatting with the friendly, portly bartender. i walk, almost a year later, bustling with diners, i find wook and james waiting for me. we order our food. another bottle of wine, this time a pinot noir. it reminds me of sideways the movie because pinot noir is supposedly made from delicate thin-skinned grapes. i eat a salad – argula, black bean and shrimp with cilantro dressing. i like the feeling of not being stuffed but just satisfied enough. plus, i should get veggies whenever i can.

back in my room. i turn on all the lights. anil said when he’s coming home tipsy at night sometimes, he lets my bright ass lights guide his way back to EC. i live on the 14th floor and keep my blinds up at all times. it’s an office in here. ikea furniture. and my beloved plants – it’s been more than two weeks. a rubber plant, a small catcus, and a pothos plant. i have them on my outlook so i don’t forget to water them. wook caught me talking to my plants once when i watered them. yes, they’re living things too.

i watch Old Boy, a disturbing but very well made korean movie. i wonder if i could ever survive 15 years in soltitude confinement without knowing why i’m there and who is keeping me locked up. but i’ve been locked up for 21 years… haha sike. my nose clears up. no more blowing nose on rough napkins.

it’s a friday night and i think about messages in a bottle. yes, i am not alone at being alone. it’s a nice night.