To be honest... April 2022
Magic realism, existentialism, and other -isms
Actually Certainly is now crossposted at the Boston Hassle. Click here for a daily guide featuring independent & (sub)cultural music / art / film scenes and communities in Greater Boston and New England and the often marginalized cultures that comprise and support them.
Honestly, April flew by so fast and I have been feeling a little uninspired with music. So, instead of a music review for this month, I decided to feature a past article I’ve written on blog. If you have any recommendations on what I should listen to, reply to this email or comment on this post!
And of course, thank you to my new subscribers! This newsletter has been keeping my writing skills sharp for future projects (stay tuned for more). Any feedback and recommendations on what to review next are much appreciated!
BOOK: The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez - ⭐⭐
In the Philippines, I grew up listening to stories of magical beings, like the hitchhiking white lady ghost or headless nuns. So, magic realism became one of my favorite genres to read. And something high up in people’s recommendations for magic realism books is Mariana Enriquez’s first horror collection The Dangers of Smoking in Bed.
I was excited to finish the book because of its compelling beginning with “Angelita Unearthed”, a story about a granddaughter perpetually haunted by her dead infant great aunt. One of Enriquez’s strengths is pacing and descriptiveness. Longer stories like “Rambla Triste” and “Kids Who Come Back” leave the reader with a lingering feeling of dread and anticipation.
But while it was less than 200 pages, the anthology felt like it was dragging to read. Many of the stories felt incomplete so it became tiring to re-immerse myself in hastily thought-out plotlines. Stories like “The Well”, “Our Lady of the Quarry”, and “No Birthdays or Baptisms” seemed more like interesting musings, as if Enriquez casually recalled them in writing.
It also becomes tiring when most of the plots are driven by human desire and passion in different forms. I thought it was interesting to experiment with macabre magic realism and the limits of human desire, whether it was lust, envy, or greed. But Enriquez stops at nightmarish perversions and doesn’t follow through with their consequences. The anthology ends with an underwhelming retelling of what can go wrong when four girls play with an Ouija board.
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed might not have been Enriquez’s best start as a short fiction writer but I still look forward to reading her more famous short horror collection Things We Lost in the Fire.
MOVIE: Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) seems to be director-duo The Daniels’ answer to Hollywood’s dilemma with originality. Instead of mulling over how everything has already been made into a movie, the Daniels ask how to include everything into one movie, within about 2 1/2 hours.
Within the first 20 minutes, everything is clearly established that even younger audiences could easily follow. Evelyn, a Chinese American laundromat owner is being audited by the IRS. But, her visit to the IRS is interrupted by forces that exist in the multiverse. Somehow, she becomes the only option to defeat a being seeking to destroy all universes. The remaining time in the movie gives more than enough room to explore those infinite possibilities.
The struggles that Evelyn faces, like being a mother of a non-heterosexual child, a daughter seeking approval from her parent, and an immigrant in the US, are narratives already told before. There are also nods to Evelyn’s actress Michelle Yeoh and her robust acting career, as some multiverse Evelyn’s are some of her iconic roles. Lastly, the multiverse theory has also been explored in Hollywood, especially with the most recent Spider-Man installment.
Yet, the film’s originality comes from combining all these storylines in a heartfelt, absurdist, and fun way. While Everything Everywhere delves into themes of generational trauma and cosmic existentialism, it doesn’t forget to take a step back and lean into the ridiculousness that exists because of the multiverse. This doesn’t downplay these conflicts but rather allows viewers to breathe, laugh, cry, and engage again.
It’s been a while since I felt fully immersed and excited watching a movie. Everything Everywhere All at Once isn’t just a masterpiece in a technical sense. It is more of a commendable endeavor taken on by earnest filmmakers who still believe in the experience of movie-watching versus the success of a movie.
BLOG: Beyond Bullets and Blades: Female Rage in Film
A while back, I wrote this article that examined how female rage is explored in different Hollywood films. When it comes to portraying weapon-wielding women on the screen, people seem to either see the protagonist as empowered or anti-feminist. The distinguishing factor might actually fall on the woman’s motive. Click below to read more.
P.S. And on the topic of feminism, please consider donating to funds that support women’s rights to abortion. It’s important that we keep vigilant on these attacks on women’s bodies and find ways to act in our own capacity.