Here’s what I watched, read and listened to this past week that I think might be of interest to you!
As my favorite podcast, Plan A will most likely have a guaranteed spot on the digest every week. I listened to one of their more recent episodes “Stonk Market Fundamentals” which analysed the now widely known phenomenon of WallStreetBets vs Melvin Capital battle of last month. Hosts Jess and Teen only discuss the modern David vs. Goliath showdown for a little under half of the episode before quickly shifting topics. It’s not in the title, but Ep. 223 is interested in unpacking the (psychological, economic, and social) consequences of living in a world where almost every element of our life is or is becoming marketised. How does such a reality, where life is work and work is life, influence our friendships, relationships, families, and our perception of work? Ep. 233 tackles this questions and provides some of the best economic analysis of our current dystopian neoliberal order I’ve come across. The hosts point to a raising anger amongst working-middle class and younger M/Zillenial people have been enduring for much of their lives. We’ve hit all the suggested checkmarks to obtain “The American Dream” (school, college, “hardwork”) but yet the only freedom our paychecks provide is the ability to just barely meet our bills. We just work, work, work for less and less pay every year. Jess notes that we aren’t far from a widespread societal snap and I couldn’t agree more.
Noroi: The Curse (dir Kôji Shiraishi, 2005)
A life spent watching awful found-footage films has brought me to the crème de la crème of the form, Noroi: The Curse. The film within the film is a brilliant take on a sub-genre I often dismissed for its lack of verisimilitude and its faux horror elements. But Noroi feels real because it’s a film about a documentary which explores the disappearance of a (fictitious) famous paranormal ghost-hunter, Kobayashi. The footage that we are watching is the last “recorded” material from Kobayashi’s final work which sees him searching for a clairvoyant school girl who went missing. Noroi never leans back on cheap jump scares to terrify its audience. Just look at the still above. There’s always something lurking in the shadows and an evil entity, Kagutaba, that’s never captured on camera but constantly infecting your headspace as you try to imagine what it is, what it has done and what it wants. The paranormal isn’t the only horror in Noroi, but the real horrors of having a missing child, the real horror of facing inexplicable levels of grief, isolation, and loneliness. This one is for all the horror heads like myself who want to scar themselves on a lonely Wednesday night. Catch Noroi on Shudder or The Shudder Amazon Channel. It’s also on AMC Plus and Itunes but who tf has that…
All The Dead Ones (dir. Marco Dutra & Caetano Gotardo, 2020)
Period pieces set during a slave era, regardless of their national cinema, have a tendency to explore the time with a lens that conforms to a white, liberal gaze. This ritual is absent in All The Dead Ones which explores a post-slave era Brazil with a sophisticated understanding of race, class, and gender dynamics during the time. When the film’s White female lead asks her Afro-Brazilian servants to heal her dying mother with their “African religion”, said spiritual practice isn’t demonized—as most polytheistic religions usually are in The West—and there isn’t a “good” White archetype to save the day.
For much of All The Dead Ones I was a snobby film watcher who thought they caught a silly and obvious editing mistake the filmmakers ignored. But in its very last minute, the film candidly pulls back its veil, what I stupidly thought was a continuity error, and reveals itself to be sophisticated allegory about how embedded and permanent racism is throughout The Americas.
Streaming now on Mubi.
Forest of the Dancing Spirits (dir. Linda Västrik, 2013)
Director Linda Västrik is able to destabilise her viewers spiritual and social orientation with their world and transport them to the rich society of the Aka people situated in deep rural Congo. Forest of the Dancing Spirits features some of the most beautiful images of nature, love, spiritualism in their purest forms and, at the same time, sees some of the most horrific depictions of these phenomenons. Absent of any narrative voice, it’s a documentary which captures life with an immersive level of reality and rawness. Warnings for some as the imagery can get extremely graphic and mature.
I’ve never acted a day in my life, but I’m the first person to tell someone what is or isn’t good acting. The art form has been a silent interest for much of my life. I’ve studied alongside my father, who directed me to all The Greats he cherishes, but much of my knowledge on acting stems from informal research. In other words, I study films like crazy and analyse every single thing I possibly can about film. Slowly, I’ve developed a sense of what makes actors “good” just by paying close attention to an actors body and voice for well over 10 years. I think I know what makes a great actor now, but I can’t vocalise it as well as Cinema Beyond Entertainment. In this entry he pulls dozens of scenes from Indian films, the national cinema native to him, and Western/Hollywood films. Initially I thought this was going to be a bashing of the former and typical celebration of the latter, but he provides a fair amount of critique and praise for both movements. What’s most impressive is the catalog of archival footage of notable actors speaking about their craft and the dozens of scenes from a great deal of movies CBE pulls together in order to get his points across. It’s yet another strong entry in a growing and diverse catalog from CBE.
I warn any prospective viewer before watching that this is not at all a fun or humored video-essay. Salari’s “Why are the Japanese so Lonely” is the second media entry on this list that explores the deep psychological malaise and detriments late era capitalism posits on the contemporary worker in Japan. Although Salarai’s essay examines the issue from an outside-in perspective as a UK resident, a point he’s auto critical of, I think the video handles the subject matter with sincerity and respect. It’s a well produced essay segmented into chapters exploring how various realms of Japanese society have shifted in response to an obscenely unhealthy cultural work ethic. Again, the subject matter might be a little dark for some but other videos which showcase Salari’s command over the video essay, and are much lighter in material, include Oldboy – Narrative Economy and Queer Eye – Healing Through Consuming. I recommend the former for those who a familiar with Park Chan-wook’s masterpiece and the latter for any prospective viewer.
Luna’s memefication of Marxist material, as well as its orthodox followers, is exactly the type of humor that needs to be injected into the often too-serious, humorless, overly academic world of leftist spheres. I’ve graduated college, antiquated myself with a decent amount of literature and will begin my pursuit for a Master’s by this Fall. Not a single book, article/essay has been able to explain to me dialectal materialism, and its importance in how we view and want to change the world, as well as Luna does above. She explains it in a very clear without any unnecessary academic jargon. If we want to liberate the masses, speak and write for the masses and not for a faux revolutionary academic elite. Luna is one of my favorite YouTubers from BreadTube (Leftist Youtube), because she not only understands this overlooked point but provides rich, and seriously funny, political-economic analysis without a dogmatic or nationally bound lens narrowing her point of view. Alongside this essay, I’d recommend Is Vietnam Socialist? and Vietnam War from a REAL North Vietnamese Perspective, two more videos that showcase Luna’s style that I hope will turn you into a subscriber or frequent visitor of the channel. Viva la Revolución and Viva Luna Oi!