Friday, May 30, 2008

Deformed skulls and counting cards.

I find myself increasingly less and less tolerable with a theatre crowd. So I haven't really enjoyed the summer blockbusters without some assholes lurking in the dark theatre. So I am for the passage of a law that will establish cinema/theatre ethics. A legislation that is based on common sense, with utmost regard for respect of the other and mere delicadeza. It would penalize those whose cellphones ring to the tune like FUCK YOU MY PHONE IS RINGING AND I DON'T GIVE A SHIT in the middle of an important conversation in the movie knocking your concentration off or those who can't seem to shut their sorry vile-stuffed mouths from tendering their own analysis of the movies or the stars in it or those whose knees are kept pounded by an imaginary reflex hammer because they constantly kick the chairs in front of them. The penalty would be simple (and depending on the gravity of the offense): the perpetrator of assholeness owes the aggrieved party one year to a lifetime free movie tickets to the theatre of the aggrieved party's choice or be subjected to A-Clockwork-Orange-type of viewing/conditioning.


After watching 21 last night, I passed by a local hotel here while aboard on a jeep and saw a huge tarp with the super-imposed face of Bayani Fernando and 2 seconds after I saw him coming out of the main door. Anyway…

It's typical, but think I enjoyed 21 better than Indy 4. Jeff Ma, the real Ben Campbell, does not resemble the actor Jim Sturgess, which points again to the stereotype that geeks can't be fuckable-looking. Jim, who's British and who debuted in Across the Universe, looks like a famished young Paul McCartney.

21 is just okay. I lost track of the techniques because the couple behind kept shitting about the movie. 21 needs more to dazzle though. Something that would jump off the page, right? Life experience, anyone? The sex was not hot too. Meanwhile, the good thing about Indy 4 is Cate Blanchett, who plays a Russian dominatrix. Cate can play anything, as Oscar host Jon Stewart said. I can't believe they survived the falls and I knew the moment I saw the deformed skull that there was something fishy, E.T.-fishy.

Iron Man kicked ass though. I mean, Mr. Downey did some major ass-kickin. I bet the robotically geeky had a major hard on with that one. Also, notice how Gwyneth maintains her poise and elegance as she runs while everything is exploding behind her like she's walking the red carpet. Speed Racer was fun too but structurally flawed. It was eye-candy which basically is the main ingredient for a family popcorn movie. Street Kings is violent enough but lacks the grit of Training Day. David Ayer keeps on repeating the same themes, he need some major re-tracking.

I'm now rooting for Kung Fu Panda and The Dark Knight. Every time the DK trailer is on, my heart pounds like a sledgehammer. The cast is so big time and Maggie Gylenhaal! I'm looking at a post-mortem nod for Heath, he's so disturbing. Here's to the caper!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Davids

In a matter of minutes, the next AI will be crowned. There is no single doubt that the show’s influence has seeped into pop culture so easily that we now call this generation the Idol generation. What just unfolded is season 7, the first time that I actually watched the show. So I don’t really have an inkling as to the progression of the previous seasons which already spawned Grammy-award winning artists Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

But, besides them, who has actually gone to the level of musical superstardom that Idol promises. It is important to look at the facets of Idol and I believe that this season, culminating with the 2 Davids, provides the perfect two-pronged analysis of this pop culture phenomenon.

One is consistency which can also be translated to predictability and stringent adherence to Idol norms – song choice, arrangement, even the icky pitch – and of course extreme likability which basically prompts the people to twiddle with their fingers to text or phone in. The other one is artistry, a certain level of craftsmanship and sincerity to the music that renders originality and flexibility, which roughly, could mean that it poses a level of unpredictability that excites another parcel of the voting populace. Taking into account the winners of previous seasons, the former still prevails.

Archuleta has an annoyingly good voice and has chosen smart songs. Clearly, he’s in it for the win. Cook, on the other hand, is the most sincere, most creative, and daring enough to shake the ground of predictability.

But whatever right? Staying in the scene is what matters. And Defying the Convention is always given a premium. Go Cookey! ‘Nuff said.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The 61st Cannes

After 24 years, Philippines got into the prestigious Cannes IFF with Serbis directed by Brillante Mendoza whose Foster Child was featured in Director’s Fortnight selection last year. It was the late Lino Brocka (was it Orapronobis or Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim?) who was the last Filipino director to enter into competition which can also mean that the Filipino film has been in a quandary for 24 years unlike its other Asian counterparts like the Koreans and Thais who have been consistently greatly raved globally.

The 61st Cannes IFF offers some serious formidable contenders: the Eastwoods, the Soderberghs, the Kaufmans, the Salleses, the Dardennes, the Egoyans, the Wenderses, the Meirelleses. An important trivia: the Brocka film was in competition with director Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas who won the Palm d’Or that year and Wim Wenders’ Palermo Shooting is also in this year’s lineup.

I’m particularly excited about Fernando Meirelles’ Blindness despite the so-so raves of very few critics. I’ve been a fan since City of God and The Constant Gardener. Looking good is Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York which will feature another powerhouse performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman. This man can’t be stopped.

Contrary to its title, Mendoza’s film is not entirely that of being “serviced” neither does it really talk about the “industry” that is oft-depicted in most Filipino films that enters into international film competitions. Serbis is about a family who operates a rundown theatre which screens boldie flicks and the events that will unfold after a bigamy case will finally be decided. I hope it gets some attention (an Actress trophy perhaps for Gina Pareño?), but as it is, man, 24 years is no joke - it’s already a feat.

Last May 19, also the day Indy 4 was screened, the cast walked the red carpet during the director’s call. You can look up the photos as well as the Official Selection in the Cannes official website.

The winners will be announced May 25. The chairman of the jury is actor-director Sean Penn with some of the jury members including actresses Alexandra Maria Lara and Natalie Portman, directors Alfonso Cuaron and Marjane Satrapi and Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The Cannes jury is known to pick low-key films for Palm D’Or as in last year – the Romanian abortion drama 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days by Christian Mungiu.

The official poster is photographed by director David Lynch. It reminds me of Patricia Arquette in Lynch's Lost Highway.

By the way, Serbis is not the only Filipino film in the screening lineup. Raya Martin’s Now Showing will be screened in the Director’s Fortnight and in the short film list is TV personality Joaqui Valdes’ Bulong. How’s that for a Pinoy French invasion.

Update: Serbis has been lashed out by critics who recently saw the film's premiere last Sunday. Despite a couple of few good raves, critics say it's "rambunctious and noisy", "c'est chaotique", too much explicit sex which may have diminished its social value, and a "head scratcher". A French chart shows Serbis scores the lowest among the films just shown. Uh-oh. But great raves for Gina Pareño though. But it should be noted, as Jessica Zafra said, the critics are not ignoring it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

History lesson

I find myself engulfed by an inexplicable obsession with the past. It’s like being trapped in some imaginary time capsule that involuntarily catapults itself into some time in the past.

With music I guess it was because of too much Buble in college. So I’m talking Frank Sinatra-old, Elvis Presley-old. As a kid of 10 or 11, I used to listen to father’s collection of oldies cassettes. I never got to like Tom Jones or Engelbert Humperdink but was fond of his “ultimate” collection of Abba and listen to famous songs of The Beatles. And I used to sing with this song called “It’s My Party”.

Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrics appeal to me a lot. I think The Boxer and The Sound of Silence are among the most beautifully-written songs in history along with Don McLean’s American Pie. The film Almost Famous is also memorable because it added to my zest in learning and discovering more of the classics. The soundtrack has one of my favorite songs, It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference by Todd Rundgren. But still, I have a lot to catch up with: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Who, Janis Joplin, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, the early Santana, the early blues and jazz etc. etc.

With books, my favorite one is a classic – William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the classic apocalyptic tale of innocence lost and survival of the fittest. There’s also F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, George Orwell’s 1984 and Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.

In photography class, our professor let us watch Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane which then I didn’t know is the greatest film of all time. Watching the classics is not only essential for any film buff, it’s also fun. I like Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950), Preston Sturgess’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941), Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). One of my all-time fave is Francois Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows, 1958). I also like Michaelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960) and Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950), which I first saw during a literature class.

I’d also love to have a turntable or a phonograph, the vinyl records, a Corona typewriter like that of Robbie’s in Atonement, a convertible or any vintage car, and more vintage shirts.

Care to give me some of the old stuff?


Besides a very poor diligence and adeptness in math, I find myself with a lack of sense of world history. High school history was forgettable, I can’t remember if world history was actually taught and I can’t even remember the date the katipuneros tore their cedulas and cried freedom. But I guess it’s more important that I remembered there was a tearing. I liked that during the first semester of college when we had Philippine history, it was more introspective. Our professor was much more concerned about how we thought of the events of the past. Which should be the case, right? I just thought that because of too much attention given on details, we lose track of the whole essence of history, which is a study of events. And details like dates and figures are too much of a distraction that you end up not retaining much of it, say when you’re twenty-something.

In one of my favorite 2006 films, Half Nelson, Ryan Gosling plays a druggie grade school history teacher. The kids he teaches were mostly Hispanics and African-Americans in a working-class suburb. In the introductory lecture, Dan, Ryan’s character, describes history as a study of oppositions, an examination of contradiction, of opposing forces – which make up the events in history. I never saw it that way but it was refreshing and striking. And these were grade-schoolers.

They always say history repeats itself. When you think of major political upheavals, environmental catastrophes, world wars, corrupt regimes and governments, you cannot even gasp as you begin to imagine the old adage. Even in Scream, the famous slasher film of all slasher films, the resurgence of psycho-killers is attributed fatalistically to the saying. But I guess history has its destiny too. And maybe that’s why it sometimes creeps up stealthily to devastating effects, is because we are always bound to never learn from it.

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family, Choose a f—king big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose a three piece suit on hire purchased in a range of f—king fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f—k you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f—king junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f—ked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose a future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

Renton, Trainspotting