Hereditary (2018)

The Mechanism: While watching a horror film, particularly in a theater, they say audiences anxiously laugh to combat a certain dread or apprehension. It is a defense mechanism. It is in our nature to react in such a way because we usually do not want to be in an unsettling state of fright and despair. We rather react in a celebratory manner, especially unifyingly, to allow ourselves to not be overwhelmed. This might not always work for all horror films and most importantly, this might also restrict our enjoyment for the horror genre. Not allowing us to be attentive, when we need to be, will probably remove any aspect of heeding into a film’s plot or story, that would only create a hindered experience. They also say, to tell a good story, you would need compelling characters, with nuances and complexities, and the horror genre is not exempt from this rule.

The Advert: While Hereditary is dividing most filmgoers, there is a certain lure to the film’s marketing. From the set photos to the trailers, it is obvious that A24 is evoking some of its hits, when it comes to their horror films, like The VVitch and It Comes at Night, and those films were specifically designed to create uneasiness, and perhaps perplexities in their characters, in understanding what is happening by being thorough and deliberately quiet. But films like The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, and Suspiria, have paved the way, prepared us to interpret such mosaic and interesting films. But what if you were not interested in those films that came precedent? Why would we need to watch dozens of films to enjoy one particular film? This is where the film’s writer can connect us to their characters. Allow us to draw experiences of our own trauma, our own fears, our own horrors, so when we are immersed, we are not only immersed in the film, but also immersed with the character’s lives. Although the marketing of the film have been superb when it comes to concealing the character’s motivations and the overall plot, filmgoers probably wanted a different experience. They perhaps projected something more accessible and less broad, something easy to comprehend. And it looks like the main focus of audiences’ gripe is usually the last act of the film.

The Last Laugh: This is where the laughter comes into play. When Annie Graham’s (Toni Collette) chilling revelation happened, filmgoers were either totally into it or 100% resentful of it. They perhaps didn’t appreciate the artistry of director and writer, Ari Aster, has constructed, or they felt they were duped. Either way, it was a bold undertaking. Hereditary is not a family drama dealing with the horrors of grief, suffering, and the uncertainty of our offspring’s future, it is horror, with a capital H, about the dynamics and failures of our family’s uncertainty, and how it is not fully secured, no matter how much you take care of each other, how much money you have, or how loved you are, it’s all uncertain for the future. That’s the connection Ari Aster is building in the film, and yes, there are supernatural elements, but to use the genre in an allegorical fashion, evoke the aforementioned films like The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby, it instills that in our minds, the closest people we love and care for in our lives, can just perish, is truly frightening.

So, the audience laughed instead, not because it was funny, but because they were perhaps concerned about their future. And if laughter is their way to expressed the future they want, a defense for the future’s uncertainty — then who are we to argue otherwise?

Game Night (2018)

Immediately after the opening credits, I was intrigued.

The Look: The cinematography by Barry Peterson and how particular scenes were framed and lit, boggled me. Hats off to the directors, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, each scene seems to execute in this avant garde direction that we usually don’t see in comedies. Mesmerized by the specification of each shot, you would wonder, “is this necessary?”, then gaily come into terms, “YES!”. In the middle of the film we get a wonderful yet zany long continuous shot of the characters being chased, while still illustrating their quirks and revealing a sense of atmospheric claustrophobia along the way. It would’ve made Alfonso Cuarón proud. And this is just how appreciable the direction was, it was just icing on the cake. The scenes didn’t need to be biting and imaginative, but the filmmakers utilized the tools, and that was admirable.

Glass Tables: The comedy is quite charming. The entire film is anchored by the leads, played by Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. You understand their chemistry, their connection through trivia, board games, and film references, not one moment you’ll feel detached by their relationship, and that was adorable. McAdams gives the most memorable performance between the two, and perhaps because we rarely watch her in this strange element. Although she is a great dramatic actor, seeing her doing similar roles would be quite enjoyable, and not to say she wasn’t great in such comedies as Mean Girls and her infamous role in The Hot Chick (the latter was a joke, please don’t watch and support The Hot Chick), seeing her in highbrow comedies would be refreshing.

Lastly, praise Mark Perez’s script. It was witty, quirky, and never halfhearted. Each scene had its own punchline yet, the entire film as a whole, was never stagnant. Everything worked well, in this Rube Goldberg kind of way. The entire supporting cast also delivered with some memorable moments too, most notably, Jesse Plemons character. One of today’s great character actors, he immersed himself in this film, and the payoff is great.

Wouldn’t be a surprise if this film will have a cult following. It’s deserving. A hilarious experience overall.

Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein
Written by Mark Perez

Instagram.

Hello. Here are some photos from my Instagram. It’s a ongoing project I titled, LIKOD. Enjoy

A post shared by @benjaminabaya on

A post shared by @benjaminabaya on

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Safe travels.

The Magnificent Rant: Part IV

I haven’t had the time to write on the this site, but when I do, I get stuck. Not necessarily writer’s block too. So much of it is pondering, delicately trying to convey my thoughts into words, but not just any words, words that can justify the amount of excitement, frustration, and pure love I have at the moment. When I write I usually listen to a  particular film score, especially a score that fits the mood of my writing style or even my existence. It’s an existential experience when notes of music are neatly defining your presence in the world. This happens to be the score to Interstellar by Hans Zimmer. Granted, I listen to his score often. There’s this sense of religious nascent that intertwines with how grand yet desolated the universe is. It’s scary yet reaffirming.

Off the soundtrack, please listen to the track, ‘Mountains’, From the get-go, there’s a sense of urgency and a sense of unsettledness. From the rambunctious ticking to the pressing melody of the organ pipes, It buries you like a massive tidal wave. Though that is not my favorite track. That goes to ‘Cornfield Chase’. The track is only two minutes long but it certainly feels like eternity. And like the chase, it feels like the track is either ahead of you, or you’re ahead of the track. The Journey is intense yet pleasant. I usually listen when I’m about to write or when I am preparing my schedule for the month. It is awfully reassuring when it gets to the end of the track too. Anyway, that’s about it. Please go out your way to listen if you haven’t yet. Indulge yourself.

Until next time, safe travels.

VOX Musica’s Nisenan: A Cultural Music Project

 

Here are several photos from our project. At the moment the film is untitled. I was the 2nd Unit Cinematographer. Very thankful for the opportunity and the experiences. The entire team was wonderful. Happy to be in such a defining and personal project. The following photos are from Shelly Covert’s Nisenan collection of artifacts and behind-the-scene photos of the VOX Musica’s Nisenan: A Cultural Music Project. Hopefully people will one day watch the film. Anyway, enjoy.

Special Thanks to: Shelly Covert, Rob Fatal, Daniel Paulson, and Sabian Lawlor.

Camera: Minolta X-700
Film: Fujifilm Superia 800 Speed 35mm

A Minute in the Woods

Grass Valley & Nevada City.

Recently I’ve been working on a film project with some cool folks. Can’t say what we’re exactly doing yet but I shot some 35mm film of Grass Valley and Nevada City. The experience, so far, has been unbelievable. Very grateful for this opportunity. Can’t wait for y’all to find out, but in the meantime, enjoy the photos.

For those curious souls, I used my Minolta x-700 with Ilford HP5 Plus Black & White 35mm film.

A Minute with Noise in the Attic

Chicagoing.

Camera: Minolta X-700
Film: Ilford HP5 Plus 400 Black & White

Best Films.

Here’s the list of the best films, by every year, since I was born. Enjoy.

1984: Ghostbusters
1985: The Goonies
1986: The Fly
1987: The Princess Bride
1988: Coming to America
1989: Do the Right Thing
1990: Goodfellas
1991: The Silence of the Lambs
1992: Malcom X
1993: Jurassic Park
1994: Léon: The Professional
1995: Toy Story
1996: Independence Day
1997: Jackie Brown
1998: The Truman Show
1999: The Sixth Sense
2000: Memento
2001: Amélie
2002: Adaptation
2003: Old Boy
2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2005: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
2006: Children of Men
2007: There Will Be Blood
2008: The Dark Knight
2009: Fantastic Mr. Fox
2010: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
2011: Attack the Block
2012: Life of Pi
2013: Short Term 12
2014: The LEGO Movie
2015: Mad Max: Fury Road
2016: Moonlight