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Notes from a lockdown
A few words on some of the stuff I’ve been reading/watching/listening to, culled from our weekly recommendations on CNN Philippines Life.
The Ju-On franchise hasn’t been Ju-On since it came out in the '00s. The hallmark of the J-horror franchise has slipped into parody status since the original director Takashi Shimizu bowed out of the film series. His last in the director’s chair was the hollywood version of The Grudge 2. Kayako and Toshio just won’t die — and that’s been one of the strengths of the franchise — believe me. The idea of evil that is relentless and cyclical has set “Ju-On” apart from its Asian horror contemporaries. Then, the succeeding films became a repository for jump scares. Even this year’s reboot/sidequel by Nicolas Pesce was a minor blip in the franchise’s radar. But now comes the Netflix series Ju-On: Origins.
Technically speaking, the six-episode show is not directly related to the film franchise and that might be a blessing. It doesn’t have the baggage of continuing the jump-scare spree by Kayako and Toshio — although their “spirits” are present in many of the characters. The set-up is the same though: a cursed house murders anyone who steps in it, even if it’s just a cute guy wanting to find a house for his fiancée-to-be. As is the norm in Ju-On, the stories in the six episodes occur in different timelines, from 1988 to 1998 and even as far back as the 1950s. Be warned: Ju-On: Origins isn’t stacked with ghosts or disembodied parts appearing out of nowhere, but it is replete with blood, guts, and gore. It was not what I signed up for. Within the first two episodes — spoiler-y things ahead —, there’s a rape, infanticide, and plenty of murder using ordinary household objects.
The T.V. treatment is a boon for Ju-On. It manages to lay out a complicated timeline within six 30-minute episodes and provides a better understanding of the evil that forms the core of Ju-On. The timelines often intersect and bleed into each other, like a house of deathly mirrors. The witness to all of this is a paranormal researcher who may or may not be involved in the original murder in the accursed house. “Ju-On” also places these events within the context of the real world — from the Chernobyl incident to the subway sarin attack in 1995. So whether it’s imagined or not, death is really just around the corner.
T.V. Series: "The Shipper"
I’ve written about the body-swap/BL show The Shipper even before it came out on the basis of the cast and the trailer alone. Six episodes into the season, the show consistently surprises me with how it manages to satirize the whole culture of “shipping” (as in love teams, not the maritime business) while operating within the same tropes. In the show, Pan (Prigkhing Sureeyaret Yakaret) is trapped inside the body of one half of her ship KimWay (or is it WayKim?) while Kim (First Kanaphan Puitrakul) is in hers, still unconscious due to a soul reaper's mistake after an accident. Pan/Kim gains more than just a perspective when it comes to living the life of the person that she only knows from a distance — even though she assumes the whole world when it comes to writing about him in her fanfic. As a fan of many Thai BL couples, the show reminds me that there is only so much you can know about a person who you see, basically, through social media. Fans of “The Shipper” keep saying that it’s underrated, and it is. Not enough people watch the show. Maybe because BL fans come to the shows for fantasy and not for a reality check? Nonetheless, “The Shipper” is a hilariously self-aware slice of BL/ship culture buoyed by charming performances. Come for the BL, stay for the cultural commentary.
Tilly Birds - When The Film’s Over
The idea of love, to many of us, has always been influenced by romantic movies. The Thai trio’s new single “When the Film’s Over,” sounds like it’s made for a music montage scene of a love story, but it’s more “Blue Valentine” than “Notting Hill.” It’s a sober recollection of a love that has ended its run, tinged with a patina of regret and a healthy dose of realization. The lines “I rewatch the scenes we embrace / The days we spent, memories I can’t erase / But you’re not here today, what else can I say” haunt me. There’s nothing like a clear-headed appreciation of a past relationship. It may be over, but that love still exists somewhere, like a film ready to be watched over and over.
The Pitchfork Review
The much missed quarterly magazine “The Pitchfork Review” only lived for 11 issues, from 2013 to 2016. It was a surprising move from the music website, turning to print while everything else was going digital. Each issue was packed with features, retrospectives, interviews, reviews, and even free records. It was thoughtfully designed and curated — distinguishing qualities from Pitchfork the website. Its tactility was somehow a nod to the comeback of physical records and a throwback to the golden era of music rags. When it eventually folded, run over by the rapid pace of online news, it became another relic of an era gone by.
Fast forward to July 2020 when the now Condé Nast-backed Pitchfork launched the podcast "The Pitchfork Review." The “Review” is their first foray in giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at some of their biggest stories or topics of the week. “I feel like the podcast allows for you to feel like you’re sitting at the bar with a bunch of friends talking about the new Lana del Ray album,” said Pitchfork editor-in-chief Puja Patel in an interview.
The first episode is an interesting look into how TikTok revolutionizes both pop music and the BLM revolution. TikTok has helped songs like “Say So” become ubiquitous while, on the other hand, giving BIPOC creators the opportunity to spread awareness about the current civil rights upheaval, despite the shadowbanning that’s been happening.