Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Inception: Dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream

Mind-boggling and visually arresting, Christopher Nolan's Inception deals with the complexity of dreams and the subconscious. It centers on Cobbs (Leonardo de Caprio), a specialist in industrial espionage, who penetrates other people's dreams. Together with his cool gang of dream-walkers known as 'extractors', they try to persuade a young business tycoon (Cillian Murphy) to break up his father's wide conglomerate for the sake of global peace. Cobb's personal issues, however, put a crimp in their plan as her wife (Marion Cotillard) keeps on appearing in his dreams.

With its breathtaking cinematography, "Inception" is supposedly mind-blowing. But I was hardly blown away, if truth be told. Yes, it features fights that literally defy gravity and effects that are completely enthralling - that Parisian neighborhood ascending like a drawbridge is simply spellbinding. I find the film's take on dreams too literal and scientific. Maybe, I expected a Lynchian approach.

Keeping track of all the simultaneous realities intersecting and converging with dreams seems to be an impossible task. The film demands second viewing if you're intent on understanding its complicated subplots. It's intellectually provocative, no doubt about that, though it doesn't answer all the riddles. Not that it has to, but somehow it makes the film look like it's created mainly to be admired. I could imagine Nolan smirking while audience wrack their brains to solve a riddle that doesn't even exist.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cinemalaya 2010 - A Cinematic Dialogue

It's the time of the year when film enthusiasts flock the Cultural Center of the Philippines to witness new breed of films that mostly promise interesting and insightful stories. Now on its sixth year, the Cinemalaya Awards seeks to discover, encourage and honor cinematic works of Filipino filmmakers that boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity. Let's take part in this exciting event and see for ourselves what these film auteurs have to offer. 

What is the measure of true friendship? Jamir, a devout Muslim from Tawi-tawi, and Lando, a Christian raised in urban Cebu, are among an elite group of young recruits formed by military officers for a classified operation. These impressionable young men undergo intense and grueling training that will test their strength of character. Amidst the hardships, Jamir and Lando set aside their differences and become friends. But what happens when the institution they have sworn to protect becomes the wedge that will tear their brotherhood apart?

Wake Me Up When October Ends

It's an agony to wait for the first part of the last installment of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Five more months to go.

My personal review of the novel here.

Fully Booked's Book Grab Contest

Are you a book grabber? Then Fully Booked's Book Grab Contest must be for you. Five lucky contestants will be given a chance to race inside the store and grab as many books as they want!

For more details about this exciting activity, click HERE

God Knows Hudas Not Pay

It's 3am and the city's beginning to stir. I glanced at my wristwatch almost impatiently. The jeepney's barely occupied. Tapping my fingers, I tried my best to convey my message to the driver who was busy calling out for passengers - we should get going, it's getting late. Predictably, he looked unperturbed. I made some clucking noise while shaking my head in frustration. After what felt like eternity, he finally decided to start up the engine. People began to hand out their fare.

If there's one thing jeepney drivers are really good at, it's multitasking. Sometimes I imagine myself in their stead, taking charge of the wheels while attending the passengers' fares, watching out for traffic lights and potential passengers along the way at the same time. That's just too confusing. I guess we really should take it easy if they sometimes give us incorrect change, or drop us at the wrong street corner or if they play their music too loud or charge passengers fees much higher than the usual fare - oh wait, maybe the latter's just unforgivable.

It's just wrong and unfair. I've been paying 12.00 from Guadalupe to Angel Linao along Quirino Avenue so when this burly driver told me it's one peso short, I went ballistic - well almost. I gave out my spiel - Manong, araw-araw akong sumasakay, dose lang binabayad ko. But of course, he wouldn't listen. A man his size will not cower down obviously. Kulang ng piso. My first instinct was to get off from his effing jeepney but I've waited almost half an hour already and there were no other vehicles that passed by with the same route. So I indignantly shoved the one peso coin at his stubby hand, muttering "There's really something wrong with you" under my breath.

I shouldn't make it a big deal. Piso lang naman yun. But it's the driver's dishonestly that got into my nerves. I wasn't the only victim of his exorbitant fare (oh yeah, that sounds like a slogan in a school rally). Some lady had the same sentiment but unlike me, she was brave enough to stand up for her right, took her money back and got off the jeepney.


1. As with the previous installment, "Eclipse" is teeming with dialogues that are cringe-worthy and that might have only worked on paper, but not at all when people actually speak them. Especially if recited by Bella.

2. Apart from the cinematography, there's another improvement worth mentioning: the vampires no longer look like human espasol. Their skins are now devoid of talc. The make-up artists have done an excellent job. But then again, it could also be because we're used to seeing them so white that we no longer notice their abnormally powdery white faces.

3. I almost cheered when I saw Anna Kendrick early in the movie. I expected George Clooney to appear somewhere.

4. I actually enjoyed some lines. The most funny one for me is Jacob's "Face it, (talking to Edward) I’m much hotter than you.”

5. I'll trade Bella and Edward's high harlequin romance for the interesting love triangle of Elena, Damon and Stefan any day.

6. I'm no expert when it comes to vampires but don't they hide from the daylight? In Sookie Stackhouse series (and even in the defunct "Moonlight"), they still sleep during daytime. In "The Vampire Diaries", they wear rings that protect them from sunlight. In Stephenie Meyer's, they just glow. Weh?

7. I didn't know that you could easily break a vampire's head which turns into an icy rock. The Cullen-Wolves team should have thrown stones at them. Makes their job a lot easier.

8. But I learned something in the film: Don't be scared to make mistakes (or something to that effect) - as spoken by Jessica (Anna Kendrick) in her graduation speech. And no one makes a career by studying Philosophy.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Poseur Daw ang Blog na Ito

Nagpanting ang tenga ko nang mabasa ko ang komento sa shoutbox ng blog ko. Poseur daw ang blog ko. Ilang minuto rin akong hindi naka-imik. "ang poseur lang ng blog. kala sigur, pandisplay lang ang cultural capital. feeling cool. wala namang laman." Pinag-isipan ko kung bakit nasabi ng nag-iwan ng komento ang masakit na paratang na iyon. Ano ang ibig niyang sabihin ng "pandisplay lang ang cultural capital"? Nakakatawang isipin na puwede kang maapektuhan nang bonggang-bongga sa isang anonymous na komento. Baka isang kakilala lang na nangti-trip. Hindi rin. Sabi ng kaibigan ko, inggit lang daw 'yun. Or iba lang ang depinisyon niya ng laman. Baka naghahanap lang ng academe-type of depth. Nag-e-expect ng -isms. Baka nga. Siguro.

Virgin Labfest Theater Review 2010: Mga Dulang Makasalanan

Dalawang dahilan kung bakit paborito ko ang set ng Pecado Mortal sa Virgin Labfest - mapapaisip ka sa mga dula, (thought-provoking sa ibang sabi) at maayos at masinop ang karamihan sa produksyon. May pagkaselan ang temang tinatalakay ng lahat ng dula pero dahil sa swabeng pag-atake ng mandudula, walang lugar ang panghuhusga. Isa marahil sa pinakamabuting epekto ng mga dula sa manonood ay ang kakayahan nitong magpresenta ng ideyang pag-iisipan mo pagkatapos. Dito'y nagtagumpay ang pangtatanghal, dahil ang teatro'y medyum ng realisasyon at pagkamulat.

Sa SUOR CLARA ni Floy Quintos, na kanya ring idinerehe, nagpe-presenta ng interesanteng tanong ang mandudula: ano kaya ang nangyari kay Maria Clara bente taon pagkatapos silang maghiwalay ni Ibarra? Isang mapaghamong posibilidad ang nalikha ni G. Quintos na halaw sa tanyag na nobela ni Jose Rizal. Matagumpay na nailahad ang panahon at lunan ng dula sa pamamagitan ng diyalogo ng dalawang tauhan: sina Padre Salvi (Ronan Capinding) at Suor Clara (Frances Makil Ignacio). Parang sekretong unti-unting nababalatan. Muling pinatunayan ni Quintos na gamay niya ang naratibo pagdating sa dula. Noong nakaraang taon, nahumaling rin tayo sa dula niyang "Ang Kalungkutan ng Reyna."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Virgin Labfest 2010 Theater Review: Pas de Deux

Ganito ko ilalarawan ang ikalawang set (Pas de Deux) ng Virgin Labfest: kapos na pagtatalik. Hindi akmang metapora dahil walang kinalaman sa seks ang alinman sa mga dulang kasali sa set
pero ito ang pinakamalapit na paghahambing na naisip ko kaagad. Ayos naman talaga ang foreplay. Suwabe ang mga haplos. Kaya lang pagdating na sa sukdulan, parang bombilyang nawalan ng ilaw ang bawat dula. Nangapa ako sa dilim: tuliro at disappointed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Virgin Labfest 2010 Theater Review: Pirasong Paraiso

Bertdey ng kasamahan ko sa trabaho noong isang araw, Hunyo 22. Naisip kong ilibre siya ng isang tiket sa Virgin Labfest, bilang regalo kahit hindi kami masyadong close. Magandang oportunidad para ma-divirginized siya sa teatro. Mahilig raw kasi sa arts itong office mate ko. Nang ikuwento ko sa kanya ang tungkol sa Virgin Labfest at ipinakita ang line-up ng mga kasaling dula, nagpakita siya ng interes. Lalo na sa Pink Pestibal set! Natuwa ako dahil mukhang may mare-recruit na naman ako sa panonood ngayong taon. Bihira kasi ang mga taong nakakasalamuha ko na may interes sa teatro.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mammoth - The Family That Doesn't Pray Together

Mammoth, which stars Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain) and Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien), is about connection and disconnection. Its clean, pleasing and panoramic cinematography is deceiving - it hides the characters' guilt, fear and desire.

Leo (Bernal) goes to Thailand for a business trip, which sets off a chain of events that impact the rest of the family, including Gloria (Marife Necesito) - a Filipino nanny who left her own children in the Philippines. Her boys plead - Nanay, umuwi na kayo... but Gloria explains that she must make money so they can go to school.

Meanwhile, the kid she feeds, dresses and tenderly cuddles gets much closer to her, which fears the mother (Williams). So she advises Gloria to somehow keep some distance, which of course, hurts the nanny. In Thailand, Leo keeps himself distant from temptation but eventually gives in to a prostitute. The prostitute, in turns out, has also left her own child.

In the end, the families get reunited but nothing will never be the same again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Adventureland, Not a Usual Coming-of-Age Film

Adventureland is tender, sweet and more importantly intelligent. Not because its hero, the gangly and nerdy James played with sensitivity by James Eisenberg, is an intellectual with a literary bent, or his pal has a certain fondness for Gogol.

Greg Motolla, who also directed Superbad, treats his characters with much respect and maturity. Most of Jame's friends are considerably weird but they're charming and very human - they're not just there as props for silly antics or cheap humor.

I have to say that after watching the film, I've high respect now for Kristen Stewart, who plays Em here, a moody NYU student secretly involved with Connel (Ryan Reynolds), married maintenance guy in Adventureland, a small, sad amusement park. Stewart (yes, the famous Bella in Twilight and New Moon) knows how to act, her facial expression and delivery provide just the right moods and response.

Did I mention that the movie's sweet, charming and intelligent? One of the best movies I've seen this year.

Haruki Murakami at ang mga Nagsasalitang Pusa

Brown-out noong Linggo ng matapos kong basahin ang "Kafka on the Shore" ni Haruki Murakami. Matagal-tagal na rin akong hindi nakakapagbasa ng libro. Kapag gusto kong magbasa, kahit anong volume ng Harry Potter ang binabasa ko, o kaya Fudge series ni Judy Blume. Minsan, kapag mabigat ang librong binabasa ko, sumasama ang tiyan ko. Ang labo, di ba? Di ko alam kung bakit. Hindi ko mahanapan ng koneksyon.

Iyan ang hinanap ko sa "Kafka on the Shore" ni Murakami. Koneksyon. Medyo disjunct kasi ang exposition ng nobela. Isang tin-edyer na lalaki, si Kafka Tamura, na naglayas sa kanila para hanapin ang nawawalang kapatid at ina. Sa pagitan ng first-person-point-of-view niya, me nangyari dati sa World War 2 Japan kung saan ay isang grupo na mga bata ang nag-field trip sa bundok at biglang nawalan ng malay. Pagkatapos, ipinakilala si Nakata, isang matandang lalaking may kahinaan ang utak pero nakakapag-usap sa mga pusa. May katagalan rin bago mo makikita ang koneksyon ng dalawang karakter na ito.

Monday, October 19, 2009

PAGKAMULAT SA PANAHON NG TAGSIBOL: Isang Rebyu ng "Spring Awakening"

HINDI AKO PALATANONG na tao. Isang katotohanang minsan ding nagpakaba sa 'kin. Sabi kasi nila, senyales daw ng pagiging matalino ang palagiang pagtatanong. Hindi totoo 'yan dahil first honor naman ako mula grade one hanggang grade six, depensa ko sa sarili ko. Masyado akong mahiyain kahit noong bata pa lamang ako - na marahil ay produkto ng palagi kong pag-iisa. Ang madalas kong kasama ay mga pocketbook at komiks at mga lumang diyaryo na inuuwi ng mga pinsan ko galing Maynila. Ang mga tanong ko'y nakaimbak lang sa utak ko. Dito'y nagsisiksikan ang hindi mabilang na tandang pananong. Bukod sa nahihiya akong magtanong, wala akong maisip na taong maaaring sumagot sa mga bagay at pangyayari na hindi abot ng aking kamalayan. Ang mga tao sa nayong kinalakhan ko ay abala sa pagpapabuti ng kanilang mga buhay. Wala silang panahon para pag-isipan at pagnilayan ang mga bagay na hindi naman makakatulong sa pag-unlad.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Upbeat Gen: Howling on the Road

(Note: Kerouac and Ginsberg are not Jack and Allen. They're more like Calvin and Hobbes, without the comic art, of course. I met them a few years ago in a short story by Bobby Flores Villasis entitled "Elegies from Another Book" then I stumbled upon Kerouac's "On the Road" a couple of years back and Ginsberg's "Howling" thus my title. They are, by the way, among the writers who introduced the beat generation. But then again, these vignettes/conversations are not about them. I wish I knew how to draw. )

Kerouac: Gins...
Ginsberg: Hmm?
Kerouac: I don't get it.
Ginsberg: Don't get what?
Kerouac: This Bulilit song playing right now inside a crowded train.
Ginsberg: Simple. It's cute and it catches everyone's attention.
Kerouac: It's completely annoying when it's crowded though. A salt in the wound if you ask me.
Ginsberg: Kerouac, it's an effective ad. Gives people a real deal how uncomfortable it is to be in a cramped space.
Kerouac: I don't believe you Gins. You're actually saying that it's okay to taunt people in their unfortunate and miserable condition? This ad doesn't only stab you with a pointed knife, it also minces your flesh into pieces.
Ginsberg: Sheesh, it's just an ad.
Kerouac: But you feel my sentiment eh?
Ginsberg: Uhm...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lulu, an Emotionally-Draining Play: A Theater Review

I had no idea who Frank Wedekind was. I didn't know he was a playwright. So when Jacqui, a college friend and a theater buddy, and I went to watch Dulaang UP's "Lulu" last Sunday, we weren't expecting anything. But she was excited to see Tuxs Rutaquio, who was simply amazing in ZsaZsa Zaturnah as Ada, play a different role. And I - I just hoped I'd enjoy the play.

“Lulu” is a story of a person who has no qualms about her body and her sexual needs, which means she able to explore and express her desires without compromise or guilt. She is highly adored and lusted by men and she takes them on a dance of bodily freedom and utter ecstasy. She, in other words, is a whore. But in this adaptation, directed by Dexter Santos with Joel Saracho's Filipino translation, she becomes a he, a transvestite (wait, we're not too clear whether he's a transsexual or a transvestite) who can easily transform men into hungry beasts.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cinemalaya Cinco Goes To

  • Veronica Velasco and Jinky Laurel’s “Last Supper No. 3’’ for Best Film in the full-length feature category “for its treatment of comedy as an accessible and artistic form, its satirical depictions of individual naivete and the social fabric, and its ability to give us something to laugh and think about at the same time…”
  • Special Jury PrizeColorum by Jon Steffan Ballesteros, "for portraying the moral differences between being idealistic and having principles in a captivating road movie about a young rookie and an aging ex-convict…” and Ang Panggahasa Kay Fe’’ by Alvin Yapan “for its mediations on the plight of Filipino women in a provocative tale that blurs the boundaries between the mundane and the mysterious, the real and the fantastic…”
  • Best Actor award - Lou Veloso for his role as an aging ex-convict Pedro in “Colorum.’’
  • Best Direction - GB Sampedro for “Astig’’ which also won the Best Supporting Actor (Arnold Reyes), Best Sound (Ditoy Aguila and Junnel Valencia), and Best Editing (Charliebebs Gohetia).
  • Best Actress - Ina Feleo for “Sanglaan’’
  • Best Screenplay - Vic Acedillo for “Nerseri’’
  • Best Supporting Actress - Tessie Tomas for “Sanglaan’’
  • Best Cinematography - Pao Orendain for “24K’’
  • Best Production Design -Benjamin Padero for “Mangatyanan’’
  • Best Original Musical Score - Francisbrew Reyes for “Dinig Sana Kita’’
  • Short feature category - Best Film, “Bonsai’’ by Borgy K. Torre; Special Jury Prize, “Blogog’’ by Milo Tolentino; Best Direction, Dexter B. Cayanes for “Musa;’’ and Best Screenplay, Mark Philipp Espina for “Behind Closed Doors.’’
  • Baseko Bakal Boys’’ by Ralston Jover won the 1st Cinemalaya Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (Netpac) prize, a new section of the Cinemalaya.
  • Michael Sandejas’ “Dinig Sana Kita’’ was winner of the National Council for Children’s Television Award which is given to the film that promotes family values. The award hopes to encourage young filmmakers to create quality content for children. “Dinig Sana Kita’’ also won the Audience Choice Award in the full-length category and as such won a P50,000 cash award.
Catch Cinemalaya as it moved over to UP Film Institute in UP Diliman from July 28 to Aug. 4.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cinemalaya 2009 Fearless Forecast

I was able to watch 9 out 10 films in the competition category. Not bad. Last year, I was only able to watch 7 out of 10. My top 3 favorite: Mangatyanan, Nerseri and Colorum.

Best Picture: Mangatyanan, directed by Jerrold Tarog
Special Jury Prize: Nerseri, directed by Vic Asedillo Jr.
Best Director: Jerrold Tarog, Mangatyanan
Best Screenplay: Sanglaan

Best Supporting Actress: Glaiza de Castro, Astig
Best Supporting Actor: Alwyn Uytingco, Nerseri
Best Actress: Che Ramos, Mangatyanan
Best Actor: Sid Lucero, Astig

Best Production Design: Mangatyanan
Best Editing: Mangatyanan, Nerseri
Best Musical Score: Mangatyanan
Best Sound Design: Mangatyanan
Best Cinematography: Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe

Audience Choice Award: Astig

Cinemalaya 2009 # 2 : Astig, Not Very Cool

GB Sampedro's “Astig” (Mga Batang Kalye), which tells the story of four tough guys trying to make ends meet in the slum areas of the city of Manila, feels like a remake of a Brocka film. Unlike Brocka, however, Sampedro's cinematography doesn't capture the rancid smell of the city.

Its cinematic style reminiscent of Inarritu's "Amores Perros" and "Babel" isn't entirely fresh and you'd somehow begin to doubt the film's originality. The cameos of several movie personalities are irritatingly distracting. If anything, they never help in the development of the plot and only compromise the film's believability. Imagine Mariel Rodriguez clad in a nurse attire working in Fabella hospital. You can't help to think, of course, that the main reason of these stars' inclusion is for market viability.

Mr. Sampedro's narrative, however, provides a good acting venue for its ensemble who fortunately delivers a decent performance. Special mention to Sid Lucero whose depiction of an overprotective brother juggling between school and household responsibility is hearfelt. I have a feeling that he'll bring home the award for Best Actor. Dennis Trillo equally delivers an earnest performance as a con-man responsible for the suicide of a young girl he used. He speaks in a believable street tounge, his dialogues always bursting with vulgar expressions. Edgar Allan de Guzman shares the drama as a young father trying to build a family who is forced to take desperate measures when his wife gives birth. The characters these actors play are mostly too sketchy and their connections somehow contrived, especially Arnold Reyes' part, to crystallize into an incisive piece.

Cinemalaya 2009 # 1: Mangatyanan, Impressive

Jerrold Tarog's "Mangatyanan" is the most impressive entry in this year's Cinemalaya Film Festival. It is a tour de force of mood and emotion, its techniques and sensibility feel very organic, evoked from the scene at hand and its plot so tight that I won't be surprised if it wins the Best Film award.

We first see Laya (Che Ramos) gasping for air as she emerges from the sea. From a distance, she sees a mirage of a man, its distorted figure reaching out to her. She wakes up. It's 3:30 in the morning. She has been dreaming the same thing since she was 12. Something always bothers her sleep. That something turned out to be her father, a famous photographer (Pen Medina) whose constant sexual abuse of Laya tore her family apart. Now at 27, working as a travel photographer, she is tasked to cover a dying harvest ritual called Mangatyanan in Isabela. What she finds there is a strong connection between the tribe's predicament and her own troubled life. Eventually, Laya is forced to face the ghost of her past.

That, in a nutshell, is the dramatic arc of this impressive film that is both enjoyable and gripping to watch. Mangatyanan is part of Mr. Tarog's Camera trilogy which features people with camera. Here, the camera doesn't function as part of the technical aspect of the film. It doesn't click and shoot. There are no still shots. It's just a mere gadget which is dear to the protagonist. This, among other things, is a clear indication that Mr. Tarog doesn't rely on technical cliches but creates his own technique and style. His shots never judge - they simply observe and follow with unclouded and sincere concentration. Best of all, they're hardly boring.

Everything in the film works - from editing to musical scoring. Except perhaps for its attempt to resolve all problems, you can consider it a flawless cinematic work - in an 'indie' level, of course. But you shouldn't trust me with such statement - I'm just probably drunk and too impressed with "Mangatyanan." I can assure you however that you'll get your time and money's worth watching the film. It's too beautiful beyond words. What makes it more impressive is the powerful performance of its main protagonist, Laya played by Ms. Ramos (who was remarkable in her role as a mother of two who's in relationship with the same sex in Virgin Labfest's "Boy/Gel ang Boypren ni Mommy".) In "Mangatyanan," she possesses a cold facade that hides torrents of pain. With her strong frame and evocative portrayal, she is able to hold the film together.

I can bet my bottom dollar that she'll bag the best actress trophy.