Every once in awhile, on a week night, Eszter and I meet up at La Tartine for some dessert after work – usually before a flick or some other event. Today, we just decided to relax and chat before my 8pm class at Undisputed Boxing Gym.
Common conversations tend to start with “How’s work?” or “Have you spoken to [name of someone you love or dislike]?”. But with Eszter and I, we always start by asking each other,”What are you watching now?” For those that are left-brainers, we’re referring to films.
I’m currently behind on the flicks I should be watching: stacked on my drawers, shelves, TV, and refrigerator are Eyes Wide Shut (the unrated/director’s version), The Short Films of David Lynch, Alpha Dog (yes, with Justin Timberlake), Elizabeth, a copy of Heart of Darkness (The documentary about Coppola’s struggle with Apocalypse Now!), and the second season of Dexter – this is just from what I can see laid about around me as I sit here writing this. And there’s also about 180 movies in my Netflix queue.
This night, I tell Eszter that I’ve become an elitists when it comes to films. I’ve read far too many theoretical film books, journals, and screenplays, consumed countless movie reviews, taken a couple of 101 film classes way back in my early college years, educated myself on film literacy, and continously sell pieces of my soul as a Netflix whore (digital and satellite TV does not live up to equal effect to burn me in hell, sorry). And Eszter is of the same mind. I can’t think of many personal friends whom I can have a decent conversation about films without them speaking like a consumer who consumes movies – instead of savoring the flavor, and appreciating the tastes of the “cooks and chefs” involved in the filmmaking process – as much films as I watch, I am picky and critical of what is considered good film. What earns me the right to my opinions? Nothing much. I just have a mind for movies, and I speak it. I may not be correct in my assessment at times, for I am human (and therefore can be bias). But I am confident that I know, for the most part, what movies are (and are not).
During my childhood years, I grew up watching Creature Features and grindhouse style Chinese flicks. B-move camp movies are a good source of a beginning towards a raw movie life. And, I also remember the early years attending my first American movie theatre in San Francisco that was located on Kearny St., just below Chinatown and the adult strip of Broadway. Jaws, King Kong (the first remake in 1979 with Jessica Lang), Food of the Gods, Star Wars (my bro cried during the garbage dump scene), Death Race 2000, and The Deep are a few that have not left my memories. I would often requests my parents take me to watch the movies based on the posters that adorned the theatre walls. The scarier the monster being depicted, the larger the fangs, the more I wanted my parents to take me inside the theatre.
Eventually, it wasn’t until I entered my preteen years and viewed Oliver Stone’s Platoon that transitioned my perception of films, and had first experienced empathy and emotions for a film, esp. the scene involving American troops invading a Vietnamese camp. I giggled at the gunfire and violence displayed (I had watched Rambo II and too many Chuck Norris flicks by this time). But upon hearing only my own laughter in the packed theatre, I realized that I was a petty voyeur of escapism. I looked around and noticed the intensity of the audience’s eyes reflecting what Oliver Stone’s commentary of reality through his fictional narrative really meant. I matured.
I’m a first generation Chinese-American. The gap that persists between the immigrant and the US born is not only a barrier of traditional practices, it’s also language. It was the films of John Singleton and Spike Lee that helped add the fuel to the race consciousness, identity as an American, within a coming-of-age framework, that I began to see films relative to my existence as an American born. Being that we live in a visual, fast-paced society of MTV-style image editing, communication through the eyes was the only angst and pleasure that was universal – the people and their environment are their own symbols. I began to see life as a neverending plot, and memory served as chapter scenes. My reality became my day dreams, and my day dreams defined my reality. But, sometimes, I wished I could turn on the subtitles, tho.
I asked Eszter if she noticed there was a lack of hetero Asian American males in porn. Of course she denied she even paid attention to porn. (Liar! But she’s not on trial here.) Moral debate about pornography aside, I brought this issue as an example as a power of visual strength and identity (masculinity/sexuality, in this case) on how Asian American males are perceived in general. In contrast, Asian American women aren’t hard to find, in porn (Kobe Tai, Asia Carrera, Kaylani Lei, Nautica Thorn, Lily Thai) or the mainstream (Kelly Hu, Lucy Liu, Maggie Q, Tamlyn Tomita, Sandra Oh, Ming-Na Wen). Which, I am definitely not arguing against. I support my “sistas” wherever they be. But if Asian American male imagery appeared more often, then People‘s most sexiest faces and bodies will change. Okay, sorry, jumping on the pro-Asian soap box again…
Anyways, back on the topic of my love of films… cannibalism and torture flicks (the Japanese kind, Hostel is bit hokey) and the Girl With The Pearl Earring has been defining my paradoxical film reputation as of late. I can watch anything. Odd, being that my top favorite films don’t involve any cannibalism, or subtle romances. Torture is debatable whether they exists in my favorites, tho. But, come to think of it, I do see romance in all of them. For I love movies. So far, my favorites include: Baby Boy, Reservoir Dogs, City Of God, The Believer… are a few that I can think of that made me just believe. In what, you may ask. Being an atheist, movies helped me believe in an existence that does not require in the divine, but the will of Man to create his own existence.
It’s been a long time coming since I’ve dreamed of being part of a movie production. It’s somewhat a stroke of luck to be part of Jino’s Hand To Hand – I’ve gained the motivation, confidence from the experience, and can’t complain much. And, the next step, which I am ready – I am currently finishing up the first draft to a short film.
Eszter is part of the catalyst of my recent life that continues to inspire and motivate me to take film seriously. Others that are part of my propelling “movie machine” include Danton, Michael Kang and “The Motel”, Joy and Raven, Cathy Wong, Terrell, and, my bro, Stan… of course, being part of Jino’s film production… and a large good support system of friends (a lot of you know who you are.). Eszter, herself, was a former Hungarian film critic. So, you can see where the interests has spawned. You could read more of her and her thoughts at her blog – parts of which, you have to be able to read Hungarian, you un-European illiterate.
I’m a believer of free-will. And that our destinies are not set. The future holds what you make of it… blah, blah, blah… ever since the Big Bang (or maybe even during the Void, if that even defines the beginning of the universe). But, if I’m wrong… and instead I was destined to be, for the sake of argument, a millionaire – And I was offered to choose that path instead of my current state by some divine hand – then I’d forgo that destiny to keep my love, and nurtured soul, of my experience, knowledge, and wisdom of film intact. For this alone, I know I will die someday at peace for having lived this way.
“What time is it?” asked Eszter.
Looking at my watch, I realized,”Oh! It’s 8:10pm!” My discipline with my workout is not balancing out with my love of movies and conversation. Eszter once said to me that the story of our friendship could be its own movie. I never knew what she meant by this. But, I will always remember our friendship as being categorized in the drama/comedy genre. I’ll bring it up at our next meeting at La Tartine.