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 A handful were also unpublished manuscripts or ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and have been marked as such.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
Last week, CWR was given a chance to review Devil Town, a short film in the spirit of classic 60s horror.While Devil Town’s protagonist may have been unwittingly cornered, the fiendish flick’s creator was more than happy to speak with us about his inspiration. Here’s our interview with director Nick Barrett.
Could you tell us a bit about what inspired the story behind Devil Town?
As with most film ideas it’s usually a collision of different thoughts and influences. In Devil Town’s case I was given an old fashioned whistle as a present and just had it lying around my room, I kept picking it up and thinking why someone would pull it out of their pocket. I’m also a huge fan of the old fifties Twilight Zone as well and always loved their ‘containment’ episodes, ones that were set entirely in say a train station waiting room, a roadside café or, infamously enough, a plane journey at 20,000 feet. These kinds of shows were known as ‘bottle’ episodes (episodes designed to save money by using limited props, actors and locations) but they’re some of my favourites as well – and the concept lends itself perfectly to low budget shorts. When done well the viewer won’t even be aware of the contained environment, or it just becomes so integral to the narrative that it isn’t an issue – you can see it working brilliantly in recent films like The Invitation or Green Room or a TV show like Inside No 9.
Harold Pinter was a big inspiration too – the concept of a stranger invading another’s space, the power struggle between two characters, conflicting class systems, you see all that in things like The Homecoming, The Servant, The Birthday Party and The Caretaker – and I’m sure the concept of a rather sinister tramp was subliminally lifted from the great man’s work. Continue reading
We open on a late afternoon as a ragged street preacher prophesies impending death and doom to disinterested passers-by. Among their number is Patrick Creedle (Matthew Hebden of Cartwheels and The Basil Brush Show), a character as fantastically despicable as his phone conversations are loud and abusive.
Which, for the record, is very.
Creedle steps into a local cafe for a coffee, unaware that the street preacher has followed him inside. Cornering Creedle at his table, Rime of the Ancient Mariner-style, the street preacher demands a few minutes of his captive’s time to relay a tale of creeping horror.
Hebden’s performance is definitely the highlight of the film, appearing instantly despicable without being cartoonish. He’s very much the self-absorbed ***hole that we know to well, and in his more sympathetic moments, Creedle could very much be us if we were caught on a bad day.
Our street preacher (Johnny Vivash of The Creature Below and The Collaborators) does a decent job of portraying a schizotypal vagrant who might not be quite as crazy as he first sounds. His insistence that a dark conspiracy is afoot grows increasingly eerie with every desperate whisper. Continue reading
Posted in film, science fiction
Tagged Devil Town, Elina Alminas, film, horror, horror movies, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Johnny Vivash, Matthew Hebden, review, short film
Well my repellent readers, after a horrific hiatus Culture War Reporter’s is back from the grave to fight for your faithful following. And we start with one of my personal favorites, our fourth annual Halloween movie recommendations! Now let us feast!
The Perfect Host
As a rule, I don’t consider “comedy horror” to be a legitimate subgenre of horror. Things are either scary or they’re funny and mashing ’em together in a movie usually makes sure that it’s neither. That said, 2010’s The Perfect Host may well change my mind about that. Imagine if Hannibal was a black comedy and you pretty much have this delightful hidden gem. We bear witness to an evening of strange events as a conman knocks on the wrong door and gets more than he bargains for. And since you’re wondering, yes, that is Niles from Fraiser. He actually makes a pretty compelling villain.
They Look Like People
This is, without a doubt, one of the single best movies I have ever seen.
I cannot sing its praises enough. I’d spend a whole blog post breaking down all the things that make it awesome, but I don’t want to give away a single second of it. Know only that a young man receives a surprise visit from a childhood friend. What follows is a slow-burning, subtle, and staggeringly realistic film in the vein of such masterpieces as Stoker and It Follows. Amazingly written, beautifully shot, and utterly compelling. If you watch literally nothing else on this list, watch this.
We Are What We Are
It’s about a family of cannibals. But you knew that. You’d know that from the trailers, from the first five minutes, or from having watched even an episode or two of X-Files. But fortunately, the folks behind We Are What We Are know that you know that, and spend their time making this film less about any cliched twist (though there is certainly an unexpected jolt at the end) and more about painting a vivid and haunting picture of American Gothic. Beautifully shot, amazingly acted, and with a much needed degree of self-awareness that raises this film head and shoulders above it’s just-for-the-fans brethren. Continue reading
Posted in America, Asia, bizarreness, film, history
Tagged black comedy, comedy horror, Crimson Peak, CWR, Found Footage, Fraiser, halloween, Hannibal, horror, horror movies, movie, the blair witch project, The Perfect Host, The VVitch, The Witch, They Look Like People
This past Friday the short film Ophelia
began screening at the 2016 LA Shorts Fest. The piece touches on fear, expectation, pressure, and ambition through a the first few minutes of a job interview with the title character. I was able to view and review the film for myself not too long ago.
Answering a few questions himself is Anthony Garland, the director. Garland has acted in a number of small film and television roles, and assisted other directors in filming such music videos as Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness”.
What did you want to be when you were seven-years-old?
THAT question! … A superhero. Super strength and invulnerability would be preferable but I definitely had to be able to fly. I was obviously past the age where you know that powers don’t exist, but I remember being pretty sure that I’d be the exception. I grew up reading comics before the characters had this cinematic renaissance; that was really my education in storytelling, art direction and frame composition.
What was the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in a job interview?
I’ve actually been relatively safe in interviews and auditions thus far… I feel like I’m the one asking the strange questions a lot of the time, but that’s deliberate! Just the nature of status and hierarchy, we forget that we’re all just individuals, regardless of position, and a job interview is as much for you as it is for the people that might hire you; so questions, however wacky, are a good way to set up a back and forth rather than sitting through an interrogation, which is what most bad interviews feel like.
Do you have any strategies when it comes to interviewing for a job [or auditioning for a role]? [How do you deal with pressure?]
Sure, and maybe this comes from having a background in acting, but so long as the focus is on something external, like engaging with the person opposite you by asking those questions, or really taking them in, then there’s no space to be self conscious. Continue reading
Posted in art, film, interview, writing
Tagged Anthony Garland, character, Dan Katz, directing, director, editing, horror, interview, Jeremy White, Ophelia, pressure, questions, short film, writing
In a world fraught with fears there are few experiences as anxiety-inducing as job interviews. While a failed date resolves in an extended period of loneliness a botched interview affects your very livelihood. In its first few moments Ophelia opens up with the titular character cautiously entering a derelict hallway, the sounds of her heels punctuating each step towards a room of other applicants.
Given the inherently terrifying nature of the event his piece depicts, director Anthony Garland fittingly chose to shoot the film like a horror movie. There’s a constant air of tension, which succeeds due to it never growing too overbearing. Ophelia‘s most unsettling moments might have been flashier and more overt in other hands, but there’s an admirable amount of restraint that extends from the cut from shot to shot [Garland also edited the film] to the sound direction.
As for the interview itself, the theme appears to grapple with the director’s chosen genre. If job interviews, like horror films, are frightening then how do we address and manage that fear? Continue reading
Posted in film, work
Tagged actor, Alan Blumenfeld, Ali Mueller, Anthony Garland, director, horror, interview, job interview, Larry Cedar, Mary Pat Gleason, Ophelia, review, short film