our last two sessions of D&D got cancelled so i'm on the verge of losing all verbal relativity. it's probably apparent that i already have. i've got to speak to somebody, so i guess it's you.

lately i'm having one of those moments where i remember i need to listen to a variety of music and not just the same five TWICE songs i queue up when i exercise. i don't believe in that thing where people try to "fix" their spotify wrapped before the year ends, but it does indirectly encourage me to branch out my music taste, lest i have my metaphorical nose shoved in my metaphorical shit. i like music (hot take), but it's a form of media i have very little confidence in when it comes to my taste. i'm just a very visual person, and a very bad listener!!!

i had a conversation with a musically-inclined friend* about a year ago where she realized/pointed out that i have a strong preference for EDM. this explains a lot. i feel embarrassed whenever people can name actual bands that defined their middle school experience, because i was listening to, like, brony dubstep and electro swing and YTPMVs.** it's given me a taste for songs that are less like compositions and more like abrasive collages.

in a poetic continuation of this, lately i'm trying to invest more deeply in some electronic stuff that i've previously enjoyed at an entry level***, like nine inch nails. my initial encounter is one of my most thrilling quarantine anecdotes: i was walking back from campus one day when i found a loose CD of the downward spiral in the grass that i decided to listen to out of a respect for serendipity/a need for stimulation. i don't feel the need to explain why, but it was a textbook case of a piece of art finding me at the exact right time.

i was all teed up to get into a NIN phase, and then i didn't. like so many other people self-medicating through quarantine, i went for the nostalgia cope. in my personal case, this was a kollywood spiral, soundtracks included. but it didn't help that the next NIN album i listened to-- the fragile, IIRC-- seemed less to speak to the dark pit opening up inside of me and seemed more, um, dorky.

i think a lot of my disdain came from finding the lyrics groan-worthy, which is apparently not an unpopular opinion regarding that album. going back to it now, i've been able to appreciate it otherwise, so i'm inclined to blame a lack of fresh air and sunlight. but lyrics feel like the only aspect of music i've got the capacity to have an opinion on, so i think i'm naturally gonna feel the most strongly about them. (not that i'm reading much poetry otherwise.) this might be at least half the reason why i like steely dan so much.

i feel kind of embarrassed about this, because calling this kind of grind-n-break gorecore "dorky" feels just as compensatory and pearl-clutching as taking genuine offense to it. and i'm on neocities of all places, where cringe culture is supposed to be dead. i don't doubt that there are a couple edgelords high on the self-importance of shock value, but i fear i'm too unkind to honest expression. there's another classic Art Dilemma for you; the thin line between gut-scraping electric emotionality and being traumadumped on by a stranger at a party.

anyways, being reminded of NIN's tie-in song for the movie, among other miscellaneous signs from the universe, compelled me to watch natural born killers. though the song's perspective is decidedly different from the movie's: the former concerns the internal torture of its protagonists, whereas the latter is externally focused. namely, that the titular killers are only stupid rambling animals that have to be edited into poetry.

they're comparable in aesthetic approach, in that the sensory effect is supposed to be shockingly violent. but natural born killers differs in its ultimate point, which is that its chaos is representative of the media landscape to which we are accustomed, now reduced to an unremarkable desensitization (e.g. parental abuse played out to a sitcom laugh track). its consistency of chaos grows a bit dull by the time we get to the close; this is probably unintentional, but you could argue that it's a bit of a damnation, especially towards a contemporary viewer's attention span. insert sentence about how a modern remake would be about tiktok and feature songs from machine girl (which would be an even better aesthetic pairing re: aggressive superposition and intercutting of "samples").

but i don't think natural born killers is necessarily more intelligent; once you get to the big Statement moments, its lack of subtlety seems like a innate shortcoming as opposed to a deliberate rhetoric. (here's where NIN's catalog pulls ahead; the lack of subtlety is an expression of pure honesty.) also, there's a bit of irony in satirizing mass media reducing complex horrors to sexy simplified narratives, and still throwing in what appears to be a played-straight wise-old-indian. but whatever, i still had fun. i'm sheeple too.

okay, here's a conspiracy for you: quentin tarantino writes the story for natural born killers (and disowns it after the rewrites go from sincere to satirical). i noticed some similarities between natural born killers and the indian movie aalavandhan, though moreso inspiration than plagiarism: the hallucinatory sequences, the question of the born-or-made killer, and the bald tatted-up freak with a snake motif. in a purported anecdote from director anurag kashyap (often described as the indian tarantino, har har), tarantino watched aalavandhan, and stated that the animated sequences from kill bill were inspired by it...?! the thread is thin, but i like to believe it. if i found out i'd earned the honor of an unsanctioned filmi adaptation, i'd be stoked to watch it. tarantino seems like that kind of guy as well.

a complaint i've seen from exploitation fans is that, for anyone vaguely familiar with the genre, tarantino's filmography is a bit of a rip-off. i've got the mixed feelings on tarantino that any far-enough-along cinephile probably has, but i think there's something to be said for his genuine enthusiasm for what might generally be considered "trashy" cinema, and his recontextualization of its language as Artistically Bold. i wouldn't disagree with criticism of his approach, but unlike lichtenstein, there appears to be a sincerity to tarantino's homage. (maybe that's part of his distaste for the revised version of natural born killers-- turning something sincerely twisted into a farce about how juvenile that sincerity is.)

never considered what my favorite colors were beyond my particular favorite pink, but this movie's radioactive green made me start contemplating a list of runner-ups. (if i had to pick a shade of green, though, it'd probably be closer to the minty one on the website title.) this movie's probably-symbolic red-green lighting muds up where it blends, which reminded me of a very specific elementary school memory: i was building a house of lego bricks with my friend, and she asked that we didn't put the red and green bricks together, because her brother told her those were the colors that bodies turned when they decomposed.

oh, also, i watched knowing over the course of 5-6 days, because i have nothing better to do. you know, the nicolas cage movie where he has the paper with all the numbers? something about this particular kind of film where i feel myself animorphing into an early-internet channel-awesome-esque movie critic. (you happen to know some remote caves off the highway you can take shelter in? that's CONVENIENT.) which is ironic, because this movie makes apparent how much genuine creativity went into the similar signs, contrary to its internet derision and weird evangelizing.

but i genuinely need to watch more movies like this: the sub-mediocre forgotten blockbuster that's an artifact of the cultural zeitgeist. like most proper 00s hollywood movies, this has got post-9/11 all over it. it's almost sickeningly literal that the reason nicholas cage initially realizes what the paper prophecy is because he recognizes the "09/11/01" date. a watershed moment leads to a sudden hyper-awareness of global tragedies.

this (extremely underrated) line from die hard, which i think about all the time, is supposed to play as a joke on media sensationalism, lol.

first, in looking back: as he obsessively fact-checks the rest of the paper, it's like the curtain has been pulled back, and suddenly america is as vulnerable to and aware of terror as the rest of the world. then, in looking forward: now he's obsessively glued to the news cycle awaiting the next news of a major disaster, and fruitlessly attempting to circumvent it. maybe if this movie had starred mark wahlberg, it wouldn't have gone down the way it did. i haven't seen spielberg's war of the worlds, but it appears to jack some of its swag as well, re: loaded imagery of mass death and destruction.

i do not doubt 9/11 was crazy for anyone that was there; a lot of people died in a very short amount of time. but the sense of danger it prompted was moreorless unprecedented to an american, and provoked a disproportionate amount of hysteria. i don't want to sound more worldly than i am, but i've found that you can look at just about any other country on earth and find a source of national trauma that's quite lived-in in comparison. the proximity of the movie's events are vaguely chalked up to the new england protagonist's Destiny, but, at risk of overthinking a simple storytelling convenience, it's easy to read it as a bit of american narcissism.

P.S. Personal Stuff:

events are underway, but i don't want to talk about them yet because i'm jinx-prone.

(a mini mixtape, in footnote form)

*the friend was a fellow k-pop enjoyer trying to dissect our different tastes. this is my latest favorite k-pop song, which i think is a good example of my inclinations.

**i think i could trace this back even further to my childhood exposure to disco and whatever AR rahman was doing in the '00s.

***i'm still emphasizing that my music taste isn't to be trusted, but a few years ago i heard a track that introduced me to TORIENA's album PURE FIRE, and it's still exactly that. heed my words: you never know when that spotify link someone posted will change the trajectory of your life. and vice versa.


spoilers for black swan, and later on, perfect blue. also, discussion of a scene where someone is drugged.

watched black swan, and i didn't like it. i mean, whatever. that's fine. i don't have to enjoy every movie i watch. it doesn't make me stupid (or worse-- contrarian) to not resonate with something. art's a very personal thing, after all. right?

...no. it's darren aronofsky who's wrong.

for all i know this bad-faith reading could be misdirected frustrations with my daily life, or a buffalo wild wings cheeseburger going straight to my head. see, this is why i like using neocities. if i was using a writing-centric forum like medium or dreamwidth or something it might insinuate that i think my writing is something more valuable than it is. conversely, the little-corner-of-the-web is the exact level of dignity i'd prefer. film criticism: This Time It's Personal.

not to say i think writing about film should be impersonal. i just wouldn't want to masquerade my personal writing as anything more than just that. actually, i find that all my favorite film writing is often 1. highly poetic, and 2. highly personal.* if "writing about film is like dancing about architecture", the only logical approach is to transmute art into different art.

i probably should be personally resonating with this movie. nina's initial innocence belies a neuroticism that's present well before any supernatural corruption; a controlling mother, kleptomaniac tendencies, compulsive scratching. i hope i don't sound like i'm demonizing anyone that struggles with these things, but i don't think it's incorrect to say she's not in a good place prior to the events of the film. my situation wasn't nearly as extreme as nina's, but i can empathize as a repressed child turned late bloomer. (if running a film blog for fun counts as blooming.) and from where i'm standing-- a few paces ahead of nina-- she so obviously needs to break free.

thus appears the inciting incident: in order to properly perform the part of the seductive black swan, and not only the innocent white swan, she's compelled to explore the black swan of her own identity. the movie, though, presents this as a descent into madness rather than a liberation. and i mean, sure, (female) coming-of-age as supernatural transformation is a classic horror trope. maybe there's a reading of this where the "descent" is a matter of personal perspective: feeling unwarranted shame over breaking nonexistent rules, becoming a new person feels like becoming a monster.

one of the recurring appearances of the (metaphorical) black swan is a hallucination of nina's rival, lily. (this doppelganger occasionally switches faces to nina's-- i think this functions as a visual shorthand to differentiate between the true and fake lilys upon a rewatch.) the true lily is characterized as a carefree party girl, but effortlessly perfect in a way that nina fails to embody. it's apparent that lily is the better fit for the role of the black swan, and nina feels threatened by her.

it makes sense for lily to be the personification of nina's insecurities, in terms of both talent and character. in actuality, though, the real lily is obviously only ever kind to her, and nina's jealousy and suspicion of her seems generally unwarranted. this is my strongest evidence for a POV reading (as opposed to an omniscient director's judgment) of nina's corruption. this character that embodies everything that nina fears is just, like, existing harmlessly.

the worst thing lily does is secretly drug nina's drink; lily offers nina the same drug earlier, and nina refuses. obviously this is a fucked up thing to do. but after nina watches this happen, she drinks it anyway (and proceeds into a night of debauchery). at this point in the film, she's finally breaking free from her mother's control and seeing lily as her liberator, trusting and befriending her for the first time. so this could be a character moment of misjudged priorities: in for a penny, in for a pound.

characters are allowed to make bad decisions in the midst of heightened emotions. i don't wanna be that guy. plus, it would sabotage the rhythm of what is obviously being set up as a midnight odyssey.** but nina doesn't treat this drugging incident with as much gravity as her other delusions of lily's deliberate sabotage. this includes the very next morning, where she (mistakenly) fears that lily has deliberately failed to wake her up in time for rehearsal. so why does every other incident confirm her worst suspicions, but this one doesn't?

i digress-- i don't usually bother with critiquing narrative inconsistencies because it's not as fun. nina eventually kills the doppelganger-lily, just before nina is about to perform the black swan. (this is a scene i'll return to later.) whether it's because of her guilt, or her True Inner Evil, or perhaps the POV cocktail of both, nina's physical and metaphorical transformation into the black swan is finally consummated. nina goes on to perform the on-stage black swan to perfection. but when nina leaves the stage, and prepares to play the white swan once more, she finds that the doppelganger-lily's body is gone. nina, who is now de-transformed into the white swan, realizes that she has instead impaled herself.

i was going to put a clarifying screenshot here, but this moment immediately afterwards is the kind of virtuoso performance that feels like it should have been turned into a reaction gif for when i listen to a k-pop song i like.

killing the old self, sure.*** but i do get hung up on nina's dying words: "i was perfect." in the end, has she not overcome her need for control and purity? was her transformation into the black swan a farce; that she never truly changed, because she only ever wanted perfection?

it feels like black swan is more interested in the cruelty of nina's dilemma, as opposed to having any empathy for it. maybe my dislike is a defensive reaction-- what do you want from her!? but then again, i don't always mind when a movie is abjectly cruel. carrie ends with a mean-as-hell jumpscare, and i still love it! it's not often that i'll be turned off from a movie just for its questionable moral standing. and when i am, i like to think it's because its other parts don't make up for the difference. in the case of carrie, feminist critique gets outpaced by sheer outrageousness. black swan could qualify for the same stylism-loophole, but discussing this would require discussing perfect blue.

the easy answer here is that black swan is an imitation of perfect blue, and so cannot qualify for plagiarized points. but, as we all well know, all art is inherently derivative. (the wicker man and midsommar make for a good example, IMO, of expanding on the stylistic philosophies of a progenitor.) also, it would be hypocritical for me to say originality is the end-all-be-all of quality, and then claim to be an appreciator of commercial indian cinema.

i think it's at least worth looking at how both movies use their imagery. a point of comparison in both the movies' climaxes: a doppelganger impaled on a reflective surface.

in perfect blue, mima's hallucination-doppelganger represents her projected image as opposed to her true self. during the final chase sequence, when she encounters the window that eventually impales her doppelganger, she recognizes the true image in the reflection: herself as herself, her doppelganger as her manager.

back to black swan's version of this scene, the death of doppelganger-lily. nina returns to her dressing room to find the doppelganger-lily, who contemptuously offers to dance the black swan in nina's place. this becomes a physical struggle-- a stray mirror is smashed-- lily says it's her turn to dance-- nina says it's her turn-- lily is stabbed with a stray bit of mirror. when nina kills this lily, she's initially thought to be the true lily, and nina hastily hides her body in the closet, before that transformation into the black swan. when nina returns to the dressing room, we find that the true lily is alive, and that there is no body in the closet.

i'm sorry if my description of the black swan scene seems comparably literal, but like, it kind of is. there's not much of a thematic revelation-- or, if there's one that i've missed, then it's not nearly as important as the dramatic tension. and i find that this is emblematic of my overall problem with black swan.

i found it a little patronizing that perfect blue was so wildly hallucinatory, only to cap off with a succinct explanation for the whole thing. but at least that explanation still provides thematic closure. black swan takes the opposite approach, and revels in narrative ambiguity and open-endedness. the audience experience lies in trying to figure out what's going on (and even the positive letterboxd reviews seem to corroborate this). is lily really trying to sabotage nina? did nina really kill lily? and i do resent a movie that hinges upon the puzzle of itself. at least i could excuse westworld as a show that wasn't my thing-- this movie acts like it's so much more.

narrative ambiguity is fine! thematic ambiguity is fine!**** but this movie's approach feels just so disingenuous. it's throwing in all these heady, artistic themes-- the obsessed artist, female coming-of-age, power imbalances-- but it's more interested in the shock value and suggestion than properly engaging with them. like an instagram cake covered in fondant. good luck taking a bite.

P.S. Personal Stuff:

got a disheartening message from my last fortune cookie.

not gonna stop me though!

my mom recently returned from a visit to india, which means there are a statistically disproportionate amount of snacks in my house. i have the extremely biased opinion that south asian cuisine is the best kind of global cuisine. (i specify south asian instead of indian because i'm nothing without mutton biryani.) the equivalent exchange for this is that most of the (indian) sweets kind of suck. but i'd like to give a shoutout to the notable exception that is kaju katli.

in the same way that i grew up with ghajini and didn't find out about memento until i was a preteen, i had fudge for the first time a couple months ago and thought "oh, this is like if kaju katli was trying to kill me." kaju katli is a form of barfi, and the wikipedia page for barfi links to the wikipedia page for fudge, so there you go. kaju katli has a cashew flavor, and is a bit grainier than fudge, but i think its lack of decadence is appealing.

speaking of decadence, i found out the other day that the silver decoration that's on top sometimes (called "vark") is just actual silver leaf...? i'm not gonna deny my financial privilege as an american-born-desi, but in defense of my ignorance, this is more of a tradition than, like, gold-leaf cheeseburgers. nowadays they use machines to make it, but apparently the traditional manufacture used animal parts. me and my parents were surprised by this, since there's such a strong veg/non-veg divide in india, and upper-caste veg hindus would probably freak out about this. they banned the use of animal parts in vark manufacture a couple years ago, but my political belief is that they should unban it. fuck 'em.

*experience curation is an important tenet to maintain for a healthy relationship to social media, but i also find that some of my favorite analyses come from people that-- as with so many artists-- i find more fascinating than likeable. they will occasionally say something that i think is completely unhinged. if you can harness the strength to meditate upon an insane take, you'll find that it's something that can be beautiful, too. i'll try to bring myself to chuckle and say, haha, oh you. this may be an extant coping mechanism i had to employ when doing group projects in a 2:1 male/female engineering school. that being said, when i say something contentious, it's because i'm underread and internally built to the point of delusion.

**find it very emblematic of this movie's surface-level sensibilities that the conclusion of this depraved odyssey to the darkest impulses of nina's soul is.. let me check my notes... having lesbian sex.

***one time i was trying to explain the central metaphor of videodrome to a friend that didn't enjoy it as much as i did, and she responded, "oh, i watched a TV show, so now i have to kill myself?" i did not have a counterpoint.

****i'll even like a movie that comes at me with a bunch of thematic notions and COMPLETELY fails to deliver. i'll enjoy movies for reasons beside literary intent, and if it's a generous enough love (or other strong emotion) i'll macgyver my way into a reading. it's exciting. i'm free-climbing a cliff face, though i'm not saying that anyone ought to follow me up here. i'm participating in reckless self-endangerment as a coping mechanism.