When last I updated this blog Donald Trump was still the President of the United States, and it would still be a little over half a year before COVID-19 significantly made its presence known in North America. Since then life has undergone drastic, almost unimaginable changes, and as I make my entirely unexpected return to Culture War Reporters I thought it would be fitting to provide updates on the half dozen posts I wrote back in 2019 to underscore the ways in which time has moved inexorably onwards.
It’s laughable to look back on a post that explores J. K. Rowling’s take on representing the LGBTQ+ community given that the author has positioned herself as a bastion against what she views as the dangers of transgender men. How could I have known that at the tail end of the year she would tweet support for Maya Forstater, a British woman who was fired for her comments about that particular group of people? Since then Rowling has doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and so on, down on her stance, in many ways becoming a figurehead for the TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) movement. This has caused a rift in the Harry Potter fandom between those who would demonize the author and paint her entire body of work as being “bad” or “problematic” and others who would defend her writing to the point of adopting beliefs and stances that they might not otherwise.
Michael Chu, on the other hand, is no longer the head writer on Overwatch, and in fact no longer works for Blizzard Entertainment at all. He now acts as Narrative Director at 31st Union, a “San Fransisco Bay Area studio formed with a common purpose of crafting highly engaging entertainment and a commitment to putting fans first.” As far as his former employer, we’ll be digging into that oversized can of worms a little further down.
Posted in art, celebrity, film, internet, lgbt, media, race, television, video games
Tagged 2019, 2022, Black female character, Blizzard, Chris Harrison, F9, Hobbs and Shaw, J. K. Rowling, LGBTQ+, Overwatch, representation, Sojourn, The Bachelor
As laid out in the first-ever Evan Yeong Literary Awards, the purpose of these blog posts has been to provide a retrospective of the books read in the past year. Typically these have been written and published in January, but here we are. Better late than never, as I always say.
This is the first of these awards to be written during my relatively new career in publishing. While I wouldn’t say I have a strong understanding of the ins and outs of what’s hot in the industry, I certainly have a healthier grasp of things, especially compared to past years when I had none whatsoever.
The other notable difference is that the list of books read has been censored in part, due to a number of the books having been unsolicited manuscripts that I was asked to read during my time as an Editorial Intern at Penguin Random House Canada. A handful were also unpublished manuscripts or ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and have been marked as such. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.
ALMOST AS COMPLEX AS THEIR NAMESAKE
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
Those who aren’t as familiar with the works of C.S. Lewis should know that “Aslan” is the name of the Judeo-Christian-God-stand-in of that author’s Narnia series. The lion is a complex figure, embodying a dichotomy of a being that is “isn’t safe” while also “good”. Aslan himself is a likewise complicated man, having been raised Muslim, converted to Christianity in his teens, then back to Islam, a faith he continues to practice, and did during the writing of this book. A fascinating fact for both believers and nonbelievers alike is his statement that whether or not he was the son of God, the Nazarene definitively performed miracles.
SHOULD HAVE WON THE 2017 GILLER PRIZE
Brother by David Chariandy
One of many short, powerful works of fiction that I read this year, Brother is as unpretentious and beautiful a novel as you’re likely to find, and a worthy contender for Canada’s loftiest and most coveted literary prize. Shining a spotlight on Scarborough in the 90s, an area that I have (recently) shamefully joked about only “technically being Toronto”, this book would have served as a reminder of the real life stories that are overlooked and underheard.
The actual winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize was Michael Redhill’s Bellevue Square, which I read the ARC of. Brother was longlisted. Continue reading
Posted in art, Canada, Christianity, Comedy, food, Islam, literature, race, relationships, religion, review, science, sex, writing
Tagged An Ocean of Minutes, Anonymous, Beauty Queens, Blink, books, brother, David Chariandy, E. V. Cunningham, Evan Yeong Literary Awards, Horns, horror, Joe Hill, Joey Comeau, Joy Kogawa, Libba Bray, literature, Malagash, Michael Pollan, novel, Obasan, race, relevant, Reza Aslan, romance, satire, Ted Dekker, The Botany of Desire, The Case of the One-Penny Orange, The Incest Diary, Thea Lim, Zealot
With the 89th Academy Awards coming in just a few short days I’m grateful for the opportunity to interview director Juanjo Giménez and pick his brain about Timecode, which has been nominated for Best Short Film.
This comes roughly two weeks after my review, and I made the most of the occasion by trying to unpack so much of what I enjoyed about this particular piece of work. While I was only able to ask so many questions, I hope that Giménez’s answers help shine a little light on why Timecode was considered for this great honour, as well as why it might deserve it.
To start with, it’s almost no surprise that Timecode was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Goya Award given your impressive filmography. Has having written, directed, and produced so much award-winning work changed your approach with each new project?
I don’t think so. I think that no filmmaker thinks about awards or recognition when making a new film. In our case, financing every new project has always been difficult, even if the previous film has been a successful one. The only thing that is essential for approaching a new project is the need to make it.
It’s notable that much of the work you’ve received the most attention for are your short films. What is it that appeals to you about that particular format?
Timecode is my ninth short film as director. I learned that short films usually fit the way I approach filmmaking better. And what’s more important, there’s nothing wrong with that! That doesn’t mean I won’t make a feature film again, but shorts provide a great platform for experimenting without the financial struggles that usually constrain a fiction feature. Even if I speak as a producer, in terms of financial results, my shorts have always been more profitable than my features. Continue reading
Posted in art, dance, film, interview, media, writing
Tagged Academy Awards, acting, actor, Best Short Film, choreography, cinematographer, composer, dancer, dancing, interview, Iván Céster, Juanjo Giménez, Lali Ayguadé, music, Niccolas Ricchini, nominated, Pere Pueyo, performance, review, score, security guard, short film, Timecode
“Actions speak louder than words.”
That’s a difficult motto to live by on a blog, but a crucial one in regards to short films given their limited run time. Considering the fact that you could fit the dialogue in Juanjo Giménez’s Timecode on a single sheet of paper only elevates its importance.
With a handful of award-winning short films [including Rodilla and Maximum Penalty]
already to his name the Spanish director’s latest features two security guards who work in an underground parking garage, one taking the day shift and the other the night. Playing Luna and Diego are Lali Ayguadé and Nicolas Ricchini, respectively, and although their shared acting experience is limited there’s no question of their being talented performers.
Both Ayguadé and Ricchini have impressive careers as dancers and choreographers, and their remarkable control over their bodies causes them to imbue every movement with purpose, whether it’s stiffly brushing past each other or jogging back up a hallway to clock-in to work. This even extends to the corner of a mouth being raised ever so slightly. This largely wordless short film might collapse in on itself with different talent, but the duo make it look effortless. Continue reading
Posted in art, Europe, film, music, relationships, review
Tagged acting, actor, choreography, cinematographer, composer, dancer, dancing, Iván Céster, Juanjo Giménez, Lali Ayguadé, music, Niccolas Ricchini, Pere Pueyo, performance, review, score, security guard, short film, Timecode
An earnest, plaintive piano melody opens as desperate figures stare out into the middle distance. A woman drops in on an old flame, using some flimsy pretext neither of them believe for a moment. What follows is a terse, tense, and incredibly human exchange as our two protagonists verbally fence over decaf and destiny.
And it’s good.
It’s really, really good.
Two individuals of differing (but equally compelling) perspectives clash over tea. It’s as simple a set-up as you can imagine, but director Mark J. Blackman manages to wring both depth and emotion from it. Sienna (Katie Goldfinch of Crucible of the Vampire, Genie in the House) and Elliot (Johnny Sachon of Cloud 9, Late Shift) examine each others’ lives, what they themselves have become in their time apart, and what they could have become. It’s a beautifully ****ed-up My Dinner With Andre, keeping in mind that I’ve never seen My Dinner With Andre and all I have to go on is Wallace Shawn’s showdown in The Princess Bride. Continue reading
Posted in art, film, review
Tagged Animus, art, film, Johnny Sachon, Katie Goldfinch, life, Mark J. Blackman, NEON, philosophy, relationships, review, short film
As I say at the beginning of every year, you can look back at the first-ever Evan Yeong Literary Awards in 2014 for a fuller description of my relationship with reading, which in turn led to their inception.
While eventually I’ll run out of ways to write this, the purpose of the third installment of the Evan Yeong Literary Awards is to shine a spotlight on an artistic medium that has taken a bit of a back seat as screen media becomes increasingly more prevalent, calling attention to a select handful of books I read these past 12 months. In 2015 every pick was objectively a winner, but given the rocky year following it’s no surprise that these awards have their ups and downs.
In 2016 my resolution was, just as it will likely be every year moving forward until it becomes unfeasible, to read more than the year before. That said I was devastated to do the final count to see that I read exactly the same number as I did in 2015. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.
wokest novel, PRE-2000’s
The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
Although it’s fallen out of fashion since the time of its coinage in 2015, “woke” is still the most concise way to say “aware of racism and social in justice”. Throughout a novel that could serve merely as a cautionary tale of public transportation Steinbeck communicates time and time again that even though he lived as a person of great privilege, during an era where those privileges were even greater than they are now, he wasn’t afraid to pen several scathing indictments against the very class he was a part of.
most disappointing, though by no means awful
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
The fault with this YA novel can be laid at the feet of those who framed it as a solid example of an interracial relationship in the genre. Although the titular Park is half-Korean the fact is that this is not something he personally relates to as a character, and certainly isn’t a factor that others take into consideration when viewing him [save for Eleanor, who gushes over his features in a way that borders on the fetishistic]. Apart from that this book very competently portrays the familial issues that can plague teenagers, as well as the most authentic depiction of how intense young love can be that I’ve ever read. Continue reading
Posted in America, art, history, race, relationships, review, sex, writing
Tagged Celeste Ng, Eleanor & Park, Ellen Ladowsky, Evan Yeong Literary Awards, Everything I Never Told You, history, How to Dump a Guy: A Coward's Manual, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jill Lepore, john steinbeck, Judy Pasternak, Juneteenth, Kate Fillion, Kody Keplinger, Let It Be Morning, literature, novel, race, Rainbow Rowell, Ralph Ellison, relevant, romance, Sayed Kashua, Sunjeev Sahota, The Day I Shot Cupid: Hello My Name is Jennifer Love Hewitt and I'm a Love-aholic, The Duff, The Name of War: King Philip's War and The Origins of American Identity, The Wayward Bus, The Year of the Runaways, wokest, YA, Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed