15 Films That Made Me Who I am Today

Fifteen Films

“You are the movies you watch.” There is a lot of truth in this cliche. Although we are still the ones who make our own decisions, choose our own paths and live our own lives, the motion pictures we’ve looked at in our past greatly define who we are as individuals today. Which is why I decided to think about the fifteen films that profoundly impacted me in so many ways.

Now this isn’t the complete list, but most of these captured my heart at one point in my life and put me in another world where I had gotten to know myself on a soul level. These are the films that have similar themes and characters I feel a deep empathy with. The connection that I have with these films is much stronger than I would like to believe, and there is this strange yet beautiful comfort that comes with it.

So yes. In every move I make, every cup of coffee I drink on Sunday mornings, every discoloring strand of hair on my head, every joke I crack, every thought I think, every idea I get, in every breath and in every molecule present in every part of my body, there is a Richard, an Edward Bloom – an energy that causes me to venture the depths of excitement and fear, of stories that are larger than life. There is a John Keating, burning candles of passion and freedom, a Christopher McCandless wanting to break free from society and the community that only eats me up alive. In all of my stupid-impulsive decisions and in all of my seemingly idiotic attempts at escaping the so-called labyrinth, there is a George Zinavoy that screams of identity and honesty, loneliness and pain; there is a Ben Tyler managing a smirk, knowing that the best things in this life are not things, but people. Moments, nature, even death. There is a Keith Zetterstrom in me – depressed, sick and cynical. But capable of love; a lot of it. There is a Jack Twist in all of my love stories – the one who speaks the most, feels the most and sees the most, but also the one who’s gone the soonest.

There is every bit of story, every bit of character in me, that is palpable. I can see it, I can feel it… until such time I am it.

Such is the power of the fascinating art that is audiovisual storytelling.

This is a Hate Rant

My Symphony: The Way Home by Sleep Dealer

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Taken from my personal journal, dated Sept. 11th, 2012

I walk along the road right in front of my house every morning, and I see little kids playing, sledding, running and laughing, and they all look like they have life all figured out. They all look like they don’t have any problems or any greater wants and needs other than fun, love and friendship. And so everyday, I would take a moment to observe these kids and I would think to myself, “These kids will grow up someday. And someday, these kids will have the same problems that I have now. They will get hurt, and they will change, and they will go their separate ways, and they will have their hearts broken.”

I always thought life was so much simpler and easier when I was little. Probably the biggest problem I had as a kid was the fact that I didn’t really have a lot of playmates. But that wasn’t really that big of a problem. I would just sit alone in my room and talk to my toys, or lie in my bed and pretend that I was floating through great numbers of clouds. But growing up? Growing up has made things a whole lot convoluted – growing up has fucked me over. It has scared the living daylights out of me.

The last time I remember I was genuinely happy was when I was ten and playing with sand and stones at a construction site. I was just this pure, genuine, blissful entity. I didn’t know much about politics, the government, society and all that comes with it. But I was always smiling.

I don’t know what happened. Oh, I remember! Life happened.

I look at myself in the mirror and each time, I am just disgusted of who I’ve become. But no, not really. I actually think that I am a way better person now than I was for the past 18 years.

If I could tell my young self one thing, it is to “go fuck yourself!” Every time I remember the awful things I’ve done to my friends, my family and my lovers, I just can’t help but regret how evil and shallow I was. I regret being a disloyal, self-absorbed friend. I regret breaking so many people’s trust and friendship. I regret the fact that I’ve never really been genuinely in love with anyone in my past, but acted like I was. I regret not being appreciative of the love and the care that my friends and family gave me. I just do. I regret all of it. Because now? Now I know what it’s like to be taken for granted. I know what it’s like to hurt so much that I can’t even sleep at night without having thoughts of how I’m so worthless and of how I deserve every bit of heartache that I’m feeling right now. Shit!

So… hate. What is it that I hate?

I hate people who come and go just like that! I hate how you can talk to someone for hours and the next thing you know he’s just ignoring you like you’re an insignificant piece of shit. I hate people who are so caught up in their past that the people in their present suffer because of it. I hate people who don’t think they deserve to be loved. Like, seriously, what is that?! I think that’s bullshit! It’s bullshit because there are actually people, like me, who believe in you! People who actually care about you. And you just shrug us all off your shoulders because you think no one can be trusted? Because you think we’re all the same? Because you think people are temporary? Well let me tell you one thing – you’re the one who’s temporary! Gawd, I just hate this. I hate people who are selfish about their feelings – people who just can’t seem to let anyone love them, and just love them back. I hate it because it sucks! It sucks that you feel so connected to someone but then all of a sudden fear, and ego, and society, and whatever crap it is, come into the picture and destroy what could’ve been a genuine human-to-human relationship.

I think that the way the majority view life is simply disgusting. People always say “Oh! That’s life. It’s normal. People leave, new ones come. And you move on!” Well I think that’s just ridiculous. Because I know that I am someone who actually learned to value people – friends and family, especially. I have learned that true love and true friendship don’t happen everyday. They’re rare. And I learned all this the hard way.

Now I know why people are so sad and lonely. People are sad and lonely because they are a bunch of cowards! They are alone because they are so focused on money, career, success, fame, or that feeling of being “cool and awesome and accomplished”. But fuck that! Even if I die young and unaccomplished, I will die happy because I at least managed to actually be honest to myself and to people about my feelings and of who I am.

I am convinced that this is me – this is who I am. I write a lot, I read a lot, I think a lot. I am moody, I am emotional, I am melodramatic. I have a messy, un-styled wavy black hair, I don’t do sports, I don’t have ripped muscles, I don’t like action movies, I indulge in a lot of over-feeling and over-analyzing, I drink too much coffee in the morning, I don’t own a mansion by the ocean, I tend to come across as weird and quirky but in a creepy way, I despise the taste of beer, I am erratic, restless and yes, maybe I care about things and people a little too much and too often. And I can be many other different things, but I do know what I’m not: I am not numb, and I am not insensitive. And I may not be everything, but at least when I tell someone I’m a friend I actually mean it. And if you think that that’s not enough – that I’m not enough – then that’s just too damn bad for you.

I was that person before, and I hated him. As a matter of fact I still do.

So to all the people whom I’ve considered friends but decided that I’m just another speck of dust on the floor, I don’t know where you are, or what’s going through your minds right now, but I think that you should be ashamed of yourselves. You really should.

Life’s too short for me to waste my time with selfish little self-absorbed assholes.

This is a Love Rant

My Symphony: Walk In the Park by Beach House

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Taken from my personal journal, dated Sept. 4th, 2012

I’ve always believed that I am someone who is capable of love, and I probably always will. Even as a child, my mother told me I already had so much affection and sincerity in my eyes. But I think that after the things I’ve been through as a teenager, my view on love has changed as much as have changed. You know, I used to think love was easy, that it entailed all of the bright, marvelous things and everything else which is peachy (e.g. bunnies, butterflies, flowers, chocolates, heart figures and jellybeans… or whatever). But apparently, just when I thought I had love figured out, reality bitch slaps me across the face and leaves me wondering if I’ve ever really come to know, understand and feel love on the first place.

I’m not going to deny it – I am a sucker for love. Since I was fourteen, I had always been in relationships. Non-stop. As soon as one ended, I immediately got involved in another one, and it was all a never-ending cycle of what I believed were lasting relationships.

It doesn’t mean that it has been easy. It wasn’t easy. A lot of things about my past relationships were hard (or maybe difficult is the right word to use… or maybe at this point it doesn’t really matter). So yeah. Things were hard. It was hard that they all started and ended, it was hard that I had to move on literally thirteen times, and it was hard having to bear with the momentary feeling of being unworthy of a real relationship. But the hardest part, I think, was the series of nights and days when I was just spacing out, wondering if I would ever feel that feeling again — that feeling of being looked after, of being valued, of being thought about; the feeling that someone actually genuinely wants to get to know you, to be there for you no matter what.

Over the past six years of my life, I had my own share of grief, joy, laughter, sorrow, pain, pleasure and wonder all because of love. Love, love, love.

It hasn’t left my mind at all. The idea of it, the concept of it. It hasn’t left my mind since I kissed my first love in that old hotel room one fateful night in November of 2007. I still remember every detail – how dark the room was, how soft and tender his lips were, how fast my heart was racing, how the bed itself was so messy, how new and unfamiliar the moment was and how all of it, at the moment, screamed “forever!”

I have loved and lost so many times in my life. And quite frankly, I am surprised that I am still able to feel love now. I have grown amazed at how the human heart operates. I’ve put my heart through a hard labor, and yes it is already beaten up, worn out and exhausted, but I find, in all of my heart’s exhaustion, that no matter how hard I try to put up walls and pretend that I am a selfish, cold, bitter, self-indulgent cunt, at the end of the day, I know who I really am – I know that I will not survive alone.

So yeah, I have already established that love, indeed, may just be the central theme of my life. I have established that it can be weird, crazy and sometimes ridiculously hard to fathom. But now I ask myself: what is love?

Right now I’m wishing that time was infinite so I could write on and on in an attempt to discover and rediscover the bittersweet realities and surrealities that love brings to my mind. I know that I can never put a final period on a writing about such an abstract and incredibly peculiar concept.

Four months ago, I had my first encounter with a human being at a soul level. This is probably the deepest and truest connection I have ever been able to generate with another person. And I didn’t see this coming. I didn’t plan this. And I sure as hell didn’t want this. This is the first “relationship” I’ve been in where I legitimately do not know what the fuck I’m doing or what on earth is actually going on. Every time he and I talk, and laugh, and exchange moments of absolute trust, friendship and connection, every time I look into his eyes, I just instantly forget about everything I knew about love. I forget that I was ever in love before. Because every time we are together I feel like an infant, a newborn, a kid… just learning his first steps and his ABC’s.

I cannot ever fully understand whatever it is that I am going through right now. All I know is that for the first time in my life, I feel completely vulnerable. And I just simply do not know where to go from that. I just don’t know. At all. No idea.

Blank. Void. Hollow.

Addressing Ares and Constantine

My Symphonies: Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It by Stars 
Open by Rhye

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“You smile and the world goes away.” –  Cliff, The Woolgatherer 

For those of you who do not know (which I guess is pretty much everybody), I have two imaginary friends. Well, they aren’t exactly my friends, but they’re more like my alter egos. And in line of my being a Gemini, I’ve always treated these two as twins, mainly because they look very alike in my head anyway. One is basically the evil twin, and the other one is the cherub. And as I went through all those processes of self-search and self-creation, I found that I am in fact the sum of both characters. It is almost like I am both Ares (the abrasive, vindictive twin) and Constantine (the gentle, more open twin), and as I keep on reading the two of them, it’s starting to sound like I am talking to myself – my full self; my conscious self. We are looking at two very dissimilar beings here. One, the dreamer who has chosen to make love to his imagination and fantasy, in what is non-existent, because he has lost faith in reality, and the other, the realist who acts tough but also knows in his guts that he is lonely and is also in need of love—a real one. However, in all their differences comes this one thing I am sure is common about the two of them: they’ve both been hurt big time. It’s just that one grew miserable and desperate and the other grew cold and bitter. I find it very interesting, how these two characters within me throw sentiments of love and grief at each other but at the same time conceal what it is that they both seem to really want. It is undeniable, the dramatic amount of intellectual tension and emotional desire between them throughout this entire existence so far. And today, I have decided to actually talk to the twins in my head in a form of a letter.

First, for my old friend Ares…

Dear Ares,

I dream. I know it’s probably quite bizarre. Kenn has dreams? Yes, I can feel the skepticism from you right there. But seriously, I do have dreams. I have always dreamed of actually being in university (specifically Yale), getting a degree in Literature, getting a job as a junior editor for a Lifestyle magazine right after graduation while working on my first novel, and then working my way up the social ladder, finally achieving my secret dream of becoming a best-selling author. You know, the “right path”, as they say. But everything turned out very differently now. None of those things were even close to happening on the first place. And so I guess it’s safe to say that those “dreams” have drastically turned into fantasies—the hardcore ones—the ones I know deep in my guts I will never ever get the chance to experience in reality. However, this hasn’t stopped me from dreaming once and for all. No, I haven’t achieved any of those things in the “right path”, but I don’t blame anybody for that. It was a choice—my choice. And so I continue to dream every time I travel for long hours across the country. As the sun’s warm rays hit the train’s glass windows every morning, and as the fresh breeze of air brush through my hair and into every corner of the vehicle’s interior, and as flocks of birds grace the skies in all their free glory as they disappear from my point of view, I begin to fantasize about having the most romantic dinner date of my life—the one I’ve been dreaming of since I started admiring people, which was probably when I was nine or ten. See, I dream of an epic moment on a yacht on a warm Saturday afternoon, just as the sun begins to set. And I have organized everything for this perfect moment to actually turn out perfect. There is a dinner table set for two, an ice sculpture that says “Kenn+whatever the lucky guy’s name is”, an acoustic local band I hired to play songs by Angus Stone, Radiohead and Edwin McCain, and a cute little kitten that wears a locket that contains a picture of me and ‘the lucky guy’ around its neck. And the only dominant colors are white and red, except for my suit, which is black, and except for the kitten which is beach blond, and except for the guy who plays the harmonica, who wears a beige sort of vest and a blue tie, and except for the sun, whose orangeness has touched the ocean’s innocent shade of gray and dark blue, as its rays caress the still water, creating an illusion of glittering, shining bubbles and sparkles which, after a moment, begin to appear like countless of golden floating lanterns spread generously all over the massive body of water upon which the yacht floats. And then there’s this familiar sound: the sound of Calvin Klein leather shoes nearing, and then a blurry image of a guy in a red-and-white suit appears. And then I look away for a second and a half to see the sunset at its most colourful, and then I look at the image again and it is now clear: the boy I love, in his most beautiful, and me, in my most romantic. The two of us sit beside each other, looking into the sea, as dinner is being prepared and as the band serenades us. I sit right next to him, with my hand on his knee, as we fall in love all over again.

See? I dream. And I know that I told you before that I don’t believe in commitment? Well, that hasn’t changed. I just said I dream of that perfect date, with someone I love. And it can last longer or it can end the very second after the band played Creep by Radiohead. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I love. And even if I lose, so what? It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

And now, for the loving Constantine – the less of the two evils…

Dear Constantine,

You’ve always been there. Even on those times when I built walls around my heart, you were there. You chose to sit against those brick walls and patiently wait for them to crumble. You’ve just always wanted to be free, to just get everything over with so you can dance in the air like you dreamed of. But dear, what does being free mean? What does it really mean? I live in a world where there are limits, boundaries, rules. How can I ever be free? No matter how hipster-ass I try to be, there will always be that stinging gut feeling that I haven’t done everything I wanted to do in life. That something is lacking. And then I realize: it’s love. It’s the factor that’s lacking in all of my freedom-filled life. I think that love is what will set me free. And I know that I’ve been quite skeptical about the notion of true love, but that’s only because I’ve been hurt too! I’ve had my heart broken just like everybody else. I just can’t believe he wouldn’t stop bitching about how he could bleed to death if he got cut. Hell, I’ve been cut and I’m still living. Because I still have hope that someday, somehow, someone out there will find me. And we will find each other. And the moment we do, we won’t lose each other ever again. And we don’t have to possess each other. We just have to love. Freely. The way that you love birds, and his sweaters, and the way we love the sunset, and the long drive along the coast, and the way we love the sky, and the ocean, and the breeze of fresh air. And we don’t even have to be together forever. Forever doesn’t exist. But this moment does. This very second. And that’s what matters. A reason to trust in love again.

Hugs, kisses and axe kicks to you both,
From your master

Twenty-one Love Letters

My Symphony: Dead End Kids by Joe Purdy

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I missed that last Voice class. You know, the one where you all sat in a circle and took some time to think of the great things about each other, and to say your brief yet meaningful thank you’s to the people you’ve been with through this journey. Sheila sent me an e-mail containing the S’s messages to me. I read them just now, and I can’t help but be in a state of bliss.

That we have gotten to know each other in a way nobody else has is what makes that one year so special. I know that this isn’t the end, but I also know that things will never be the same again after graduation. So this is it: A parade of gratitude to each of you.

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride. I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
– Pablo Neruda

Twenty-one Love Letters

Dear Travis,
Thank you for the poem, for every single smile. Somewhere along the momentary highs, lows, cynicism and introspection, you made me feel not alone.

Dear Simon,
Moments of rage, moments of bleakness, of chaos, pain and lethargy—that’s when I think of you and everything I feel just changes. Thank you for your generosity and your kindness, and for never failing to bring love into any room you walk into.

Dear Aaron,
Gone are the days of wondering if someone so pure and so warm-hearted exists out there. The knowledge that you’re right there, seeing the same stars I do at night, makes this world so much safer than when I first found it.

Dear Daniel,
I know you. No, I don’t mean you on your Friday nights, or the way you like your steak, or how you react to the sight of a snake. I do not know the specifics. But I know your energy, I know your passion, I know your genuine kindness, your goodness. And sometimes that’s all that matters.

Dear Arochi,
The wisdom, the laughter and the warm embraces will always be remembered. I’m glad you are the way you are. There’s no other way better than that.

Dear Emma,
Sometimes I see myself in you; how you are always on top of a precipice, letting the wind move you gently to and fro as the dark clouds delight in your inner pain. And then you smile.

Dear Yuji,
What you are had always been wonderful, but it wasn’t until I’ve discovered who you are that I saw something beautiful.

Dear Navshin,
You are an inspiration. I will forever be grateful that the universe has been formed and created. I know you will always be a part of it. We are one.

Dear Jesse,
You, sir, are a leader. Thank you for your dedication, your fearlessness and your undying hunger for what it is you want to achieve. You have brought to those sixteen months a kind of a showcase—an exhibition of guts and glory.

Dear Janine,
You are a walking book of compelling stories, a woman who can never be aware enough of her sparkle, her gift, her strength, and the tantalizing truth that she has to hold on to that fairytale dream—that one true love she truly deserves.

Dear Riley,
Thank you for those small talks that momentarily brought up jolts of clarity and misery. Getting to know you to a degree has given me an experience of life, love and everything in between. I know you will keep radiating.

Dear Toni,
I think I know the reason for my recurring dreams. I can never thank you enough for the nostalgia, the danger and the pain. You showed me what it’s like in the other side… how it is to soldier on… what it is to burn.

Dear Rodrigo,
Your free spirit never fails to fascinate me. Teach me how to see the world in Technicolor, to brave the days without remorse and perplexity. You are amazing.

Dear Richard,
I look at you and I see someone I can potentially fly kites with. Thank you for your generosity and honesty; for those times the whole of you was screaming, “Freedom!”

Dear Liam,
You saw me when I was invisible. There is this vitality in you which I hope will never wither. You are the rock upon which the bravest soldier stands. Throughout those twelve months, you have become multidimensional in my eyes.

Dear Travis,
That hug could’ve lasted a second longer, but I just had to break free from it so I could see the sensitive, loving gentleman that you are. You are worth it.

Dear Julia,
I can never thank you enough for being one of those flowers that bloom in adversity. You are someone I always wanted to meet in the visible world, and I finally did.

Dear Graeme,
The last time I looked into your eyes, I saw a little boy in pyjamas and a valiant man holding a gladius. You are a riveting ball of love, hope and dexterity. I cannot express enough the joy I found in getting to know even just a fraction of you.

Dear Mallory,
I do not know how someone can be so delicate and vigorous at the same time, and how in all of this fallen world’s woe and entropy she finds a quiet place of happiness. Your authenticity and compassion are undeniable.

Dear Audrey,
Maybe it was that pink shirt, or because I am nineteen. We somehow found our way down memory lane and laughed at what once felt like the end of the world for me. I found a big sister in you. You are a firework. I miss your light already.

Dear Carlos,
Anyone who has gotten to see you is so lucky. Since day one, I’ve seen in you a man who can thrive and not just survive. You are a friend, a brother, a student and a mentor. But most of all, you are ray of sun, giving warmth, lending light, keeping me company through this journey.

You are all special. Thank you for the rollercoaster ride. It has been the best one yet.

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Being Someone and Something Else

2:49pm Vancouver BC time

This is the term’s first weekend, and we were already given a project to work on. But instead of getting all noxious about this, I actually find this project very interesting, mind-stimulating and mostly,eye-opening. It’s a project unlike any other I’ve worked on in my life by far. Our mentor entitled this project “The First Weekend Project”. Here is what she wanted us to do:

These next four months are all about learning what you don’t know. To get you started and because we have a weekend, here is your project: Try 8 new things.

So here. I came up with a list, and I’ve done each one over this weekend.

1. Sleep on the left side of your body.

2. Make long long distance calls with your very “restrictive” phone plan. 

3. Pimp your notebook.

4. Watch an old film (1970′s or older).

5. Eat something really spicy and actually digest it.

6. Go on half a day without using your right hand.

7. Take out the garbage.

8. Literally talk (out loud) to nature (trees, stones, the air, the skies, the rain, etc.)

Personally, the best thing about this project is the realization that comes with doing the things that are not part of your habits. Because of this experience, I have come to see and live life in a totally different way for 48 hours. It’s also very closely associated to being something and someone else in a period of two days. Say for instance when I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s yesterday. It’s a film directed by Blake Edwards in 1961 starring Audrey Hepburn. Not only did I discover how great and glamorous Audrey Hepburn was and how old films are also very incredible in their own respect, but I also, for an hour and 49 minutes, was watching what my aunts, uncles and grandparents were most probably watching three quarters of a century ago. For an hour and 49 minutes, I was a 60′s boy enjoying a 60′s movie. When I went on for 11 hours without using my right hand earlier today, I not only found out how difficult and ridiculously impossible it is to enjoy life without my dominant hand; I also, for 11 hours, felt what it’s like to be one of those handicapped people with only one arm to work with. It’s not easy at all. And that’s what I learned.

Often times, we are drowned in our own world with our own habitual acts and ways. And maybe life is easier for us this way because this is what we are used to. We don’t take out the garbage and do other mundane chores, we’re not the ones who had to bear with low-quality films in the 60′s, we don’t really have to suffer in carrying things and lifting things because we are gifted with two arms, two hands and ten fingers and maybe we are just lucky enough that we know at least one human language that enables us to communicate our thoughts and ideas to other people. But let us keep in mind that there are other people and things that exist in this world completely parallel to ours. We cannot really do much about them, but we should at least be empathetic. This project may seem all simple and shallow to some, but it has taught me a lot in two days. It has made me experience being someone and something else for a bit. And it has been a wonderful couple of days in my life.