Issue 18.4 Winter 2020

Cancelling the Apocalypse: Pacific Rim as Chthulucinema

By Jamie Uy & William Brown

Excerpt: “If this sounds like the standard fare of action-driven alien invasion movies, then ideologically the film would ostensibly embrace a similar logic, in that the kaiju come here only to fight, and so must be defeated – technologized humans thus sending packing alien invaders who, put simply, are not welcome. However, while this might seem like an open-and-shut case of conservative politics, one that is not least reaffirmed through the attempt in the film by humans to put up giant walls around coastlines in order to prevent the kaijus from reaching human terrain, there is in fact a more nuanced perspective on offer. For, these ‘alien invaders’ actually come from ‘this’ Earth via a dimensional breach in the Pacific Ocean as opposed to from outer space. As jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) explains in the opening voiceover narration, he used to ‘look up at the stars’ and wonder as a kid if there was ‘life up there’, before then discovering that ‘when alien life entered our world it was from deep beneath’. In other words, the kaiju problematize our notions of ‘the world’ and ‘our planet’ as anthropomorphic space or ‘human’ territory, suggesting instead that we share our planet with other lifeforms that arrive not from outside, but from within, via dimensions of our planet that are otherwise invisible to us, and which thus expose our understanding of the planet (and of our reality) as limited.”

The Monogamous/Promiscuous Optics in Contemporary Gay Film: Registering the Amorous Couple in Weekend (2011) and Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo (2016)

By Cüneyt Çakırlar & Gary Needham

Excerpt: “The specificity in our reference to ‘gay cinema’ and ‘gay film’ is both a speculative and strategically essentialist move in contradistinction to the ways in which the post-1990s uses of the term ‘queer’ attempt to revise and interrogate the identitarian regimes of gay and lesbian politics. This turn to ‘gay’ does not necessarily prioritise a contestation of the constructivist appropriations of what B. Ruby Rich defined as New Queer Cinema (NQC). However, as Rich also argued the queerness of NQC implies a historically specific moment rather than an ongoing and enduring definition of gay and lesbian cinema (Rich 2013; Aaron 2004). Thus, we would like this study’s framework to match with the specificity our chosen films address in their depiction of the contemporary experiences of gay sex and intimacy, which the use of queer, as the definitive marker of NQC’s playful ‘Homo Pomo’ aesthetic, would not effectively tackle. A key underpinning in our approach to sex, intimacy, love, and the couple in contemporary gay film is this dualistic tension between monogamy and promiscuity.”

Nathan for You and the New Sincerity Aesthetic

By Lucas Thompson

Excerpt: “Nathan for You repeatedly suggests that communication in the postmodern era is premised on manipulation and attempts to bypass reason in order to coerce, flatter, wheedle, or trick the consumer into buying particular products. Many of the small-business owners Nathan encounters are perfectly willing to employ such insidious methods to generate higher profits, but—crucially—they also seem willing to use these methods in other human interactions as well, thereby confirming Jameson’s claim that capitalism’s insatiable appetite for new objects, experiences, and bodies to commodify is at the heart of postmodernism. This transition, in which others come to be perceived as potential consumers, is often unconscious—as when a taxi cab driver tells Nathan that he values profits over customer safety. Nathan often draws such hidden and unacknowledged beliefs out of his subjects. A local car-wash owner, for instance, objects on decidedly odd grounds to the male stripper Nathan has brought in during a Punk’d-style prank. ‘A guy stripper, that’s not really going to be a cool thing to have,’ the owner Khalil says, stressing that his objections are solely due to his position as a ‘businessman.’ Similarly, a mild-mannered seniors’ travel agent agrees to what Nathan describes as ‘a last-ditch effort to squeeze out as much as you can from your customers before they’re gone for good.’”

Doubled Visions: Reflexivity, Intermediality and Co-Creation in Clouzot’s The Mystery of Picasso and von Trier’s and Leth’s The Five Obstructions

By Daniel Yacavone

Excerpt: “Diverging from most art documentaries, but in accordance with such processual reflexivity and intermediality, in its form as well as content and rhetoric, Mystery presents itself as a developing, mutable creation no less than Picasso’s improvisatory creations within it. Moreover, the film is constructed so as to appear directly responsive to the rhythms, subjects, and formats of Picasso’s pictures: dramatically changing in relation to them in style, tone, and even screen format as it unfolds. As also characteristic of participatory documentaries (Nichols 19912010), such seeming interactivity, in this case involving the nested works and the host film, is likewise present in Five, which stylistically and thematically evolves in ways that reflect and refract the form and content of the Perfect versions (e.g. as analysed by Smith 2008). More specifically, Five’s and Mystery’s process-based artistic nesting occurs on two levels. Through the basic recording capacity of cinema, we witness (in whole or part) the profilmic works being made. The distinctive stylistic means of their presentation within the documentaries, however, further situate the works within an unfolding, hybrid artistic-cinematic process and experience, ultimately equivalent to the films themselves.”

Recovering the TV Career of Korean American Comedian Johnny Yune

By Grace Jung


Excerpt: “When delivering his line, Yune intentionally mispronounces ‘Honolulu’ as ‘Honoruru,’ prompting laughter from the audience as well as his costars. Deliberate mispronunciation of words is a common gimmick in Yune’s routine. In this case, Yune specifically mixes up ‘l’ and ‘r’ sounds, which is a staple in his act but also a hackneyed stereotype that derides Asian English-speakers who cannot distinguish the two sounds. Such humor both racializes and genders cultural inferiority; it is an example of ‘racial castration,’ per David L. Eng, ‘in which the Asian American male is both materially and psychically feminized within the context of a larger US cultural imaginary’ (2001, 4). A display of Asian male incompetency or ‘differential lack’ suggests emasculation (Eng 2001, 154); thus, the parodied language incompetency of onscreen Asian male characters raises an intersectional question of gender and race. 4 Countless Hollywood films and shows deem an Asian character’s confusion over the ‘l’ and ‘r’ pronunciation as laughable. This figurative form of racial castration can be termed tongue castration, referring to the othering, infantilizing, and/or disabling of Asian maleness onscreen by means of a heavy accent that renders his words unintelligible, or by removing the subject’s voice completely. This form of tongue castration of Asian men in media is common practice in Hollywood, and has a longstanding history.”