Tag Archives: film

Roqué Recommends: New Suggestions for Books, Films, and Music to Enjoy

August 17, 2020

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

As I noted in last week’s post, we are all stuck in quarantine one way or another in this age of the Coronavirus. Maybe you’re looking to be entertained, comforted, or inspired to help you cope with this new normal? Well, I have some suggestions for you. When I am not making short films for my YouTube channel every week, I seek out various forms of entertainment and inspiration. I generally stay away from television and episodic-style shows because of all the time they take up, but beyond that, everything else is fair game.

The following recommendations align with my tastes and sensibilities. Have a look at some of them and try them out if you are intrigued.


BOOKS:

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
by Ocean Vuong


I loved this book. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I understood within the first few pages why it became an instant New York Times bestseller. Particularly if you are a poetry enthusiast, you will truly appreciate what author Ocean Vuong has written. This book is a poetic memoir about Vuong’s upbringing as a Vietnamese immigrant who migrated to America with his mom to live with his grandmother and auntie in Connecticut. His entire family lives with the trauma sustained from the Vietnam War, and this book chronicles the healing (or lack thereof) from such a devastating set of circumstances in the war-torn villages of their homeland. Family struggles and an immersive first love between two boys fill this book’s pages with many tense and tender moments. If you’re looking for something fun and lighthearted, this is not the book for you, but if you are looking for a masterful work of nonfiction that is as transcendant as it is honest and brutal, give this book your full attention in a quiet space.

The Night Tiger
by Yangsze Choo

Twists and turns, whimsy, and intrigue infuse this novel that is set in 1930’s colonial Malaysia. There is a mysterious and terrifying beast roaming through small villages at night and slaughtering the bodies of villagers beyond recognition. If this sounds a bit too gruesome, rest assured that it’s only one component of this beautifully written story that intertwines the lives of two separate characters who you will find yourself cheering for and worrying about until the end. I’m not going to give anything away, but I enjoyed reading this book for all of the exotic adventure and rich mystery that it brings.


MUSIC

Seven
by Taylor Swift

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never been a big Taylor Swift fan. I can appreciate her talent as a singer and songwriter, but outside of a couple of lovely ballads and catchy pop songs that I liked from previous albums, there has not been anything in her output that has fully gripped my attention. Fast forward to this summer with the surprise release of her new album “Folklore”, and I found myself listening to many of its songs and buying a vinyl copy of the album. One song in this collection has been on repeat for me, and if the summer of 2020 had a personal soundtrack, this song would be its centerpiece.

Swift’s vocals subtly shift between lilting resignation and plaintive vulnerability in a delivery that finds a tonal sweet spot that is perfect for this song. It is a quiet and pensive marriage between melancholy and hopefulness. Personally, everything about this song is reminiscent of something Tori Amos would manifest down to its engaging piano riff. The lyrics convey a conflicted longing for a childhood past and a desire to recapture the spirit of those times. The song crescendoes at the end with piano and strings taking center stage in a gorgeous melodic outro. This song is a gentle work about innocence lost and the promise of possibility. It is a piece of art from an artist finding new heights in her craft. I was not expecting to find such an unassuming little masterpiece as this, but I am quite happy to have it now.


FILMS

This Beautiful Fantastic

I have a thing for movies that are sweet and whimsical. Recently, I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole that led me to this film, and thank goodness for occasional rabbit holes. This film has a lot of elements that I generally enjoy such as beautiful gardens, intelligent British people, striking and rich set designs, and obsessively neurotic characters. Its story embodies a personal journey that a woman experiences in order to find her own footing in the world . Central to the plot is an elderly and certifiably grumpy misanthrope who becomes a mentor and friend to his neighbor. He teaches her how to become a gardener. An unlikely cast of characters forms a family around this relationship. So much about this film—from its script to its colorful aesthetic, performances, and cinematography—is incredibly well done. If you share my sensibilities, watch this movie. You’re welcome.


There you have it. These are some of my recommendations for you to enjoy. Whatever you choose to do, be safe and kind to yourself.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week.

My newest film release is a preview of “The Preservation of Self”, which is a short film I created that comes out on my birthday on 08/28 and expresses some more of my thoughts about colonialism. Have a look right here:

Details About my New Short Film “YUP”

September 1, 2019

Culture and Society / Roque Recommends

This past Wednesday (on my birthday), I released my short film YUP on Youtube! It was one of several film projects I worked on in the past year and a complete departure from anything I had ever done in the past. This week on my blog, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts about the project:

If you have not seen it yet, here it is:

Maybe you have a bunch of questions. Such as . . .

  • Where are the Chihuahuas?
  • What do the gym members drink when they enter the space just before getting slapped?
  • What is the code?
  • Why is Minerva besieged at the end?

I will tell you now that every detail of this little film serves some purpose. I put a lot of thought and intention behind the script and visuals. Entry into the space where everything happens is only granted by at least one swallow of the mystery liquid and a violent slap on the face. The answers to all of the other questions relate what happens further down in the story. If and when the sequels are made, all will be revealed.

When I was developing this piece, I had a few goals I wanted to accomplish:

  • I wanted to be bold and adventurous with the story. This meant creating a narrative that, in the long run, would not be linear in a traditional sense. There are a few elements that seem random, but this is by design.
  • I wanted to work with the immensely talented artists in my community here in middle Tennessee. Out of their willingness to help me tell this story, there was a synergy that bonded us together. It was magical.
  • I wanted to experiment with movement and dance. Again, I chose to express this in a non-traditional way. The stretching, the “reach for Satan”, the Versatile dance, and the “sinister approach” by the three spies near the end all reflect my ideas in this regard.
  • I wanted to use rich jewel and neon tones in the costuming and make-up. There needed to be bold splashes of color in as many shots as possible.
  • I wanted to take a stab at creating music made exclusively for this film. “WAWA” was the direct result of this. It was the first thing I worked on before filming, and I connected with my friend (and producer) Rob Tonini to record it shortly after filming wrapped.
  • I wanted to be creative with the dialogue by building frames through the movement of the arms and body.
  • Mostly, I wanted the film to be quirky and swim against the tides of convention. The opening sequence features what appears to be a man with a purse and wearing a tutu. A woman named “Laxatavia” wears strange make-up and seems to have violent tendencies. Another woman has the name “RaRaaa Kaka Kaka!!!” and uses kitchenware as a weapon. And then, of course, you have the “gently abrasive exfoliating skin creme”. What’s up with that?

Originally, this film was an assignment for my Single Cam II class at my university in which I simply had to film a conversation of any kind. I let my imagination run wild with this piece, and I gave myself permission to delve deep into dance and movement, make-up and costuming, and comedy well beyond the actual conversation in question.

I understand that this film was a creative risk. It may certainly be an acquired taste for some more than others, but I am okay with that. I was (and still am) vastly more interested in the creative process and development of this piece than its reception.

Sometimes, you simply have to create purely for the sake of creating. I am happy that I did just that.

-Roqué