Double dead

31 07 2009

There are no characters in Kinatay nor an engaging plot (unless you consider a series of languid non-events as entertaining) nor any emotional impact apart from the mild annoyance at the barrage of filth, noise and ugliness. Yet these are far from the reasons why Kinatay (The Execution of P) fails as a film. The biggest flaw is in the filmmakers’ unrelenting insistence on shoving down our throats their apparently profound ideas and messages about Philippine society, even to the point where they dictate and manipulate what we should feel and think as audiences. The most puke-worthy parts of the 105-minute film were not the gory, violent scenes but the ones where subtlety gets thrown out of the window in place of supposedly strong visual imagery, such as that shot where a truck of pigs gets juxtaposed with a police car. Yes, cops are pigs! We get it, okay!

On a positive note, the invitation to the premiere gave us a chance to gaze upon a massive constellation of stars that includes (in descending order of starstruckability for me): Alessandra de Rossi, Vangie Labalan, Ketchup Eusebio, John Regala, Liza Ranillo, Mercedes Cabral, Coco Martin, Ma. Isabel Lopez, Ricky Lo, Jake Cuenca, Pen Medina, Ping Medina, Direk Paul of Toni Gonzaga, Jhong Hilario, Lino Cayetano, Ejay Falcon, Deo Endrinal, Lucy Torres, Richard Gomez and that supporting actress from Tayong Dalawa.


Ginger is flirting with the Conejero

30 07 2009

There is beauty in restraint. Histrionics is evolutionarily unattractive, unmanly and repelling. There is strength in quelling interior dissent. Mastering the provocations of the chemicals in the brain takes skill, experience and a solidly stolid disposition. There is beauty in detached rationality. The range of emotional spectrum has now been reduced to mere objects of (pseudo-)scientific curiosity.

Thus, here today, we profess and proclaim these words in a quietly defiant chorus: Never again, right cerebral hemisphere! Never!

Ako’y tiwala sa ‘yo

26 07 2009

I’m gonna be drunk
So drunk
At your wedding

-Smog, Your Wedding


With only 13 discrete words for lyrics, Your Wedding is probably the most economical (and one of the most heartbreaking) love songs of all time. Smog, along with Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom, may be this decade’s best indie folk songwriter.

Manila, a vanity project more than anything, is a 90-minute worship of Piolo’s stiffness (as an actor). Ambitious and yet not ambitious enough with a bland lead at its core (strangely, the film would probably be stronger without him), Manila is a loose retelling of 70s realist masterpieces from Brocka and Bernal, segmented into ‘Day’ and ‘Night’ sections featuring two Piolos in different but thematically related roles. Alix’s half is watchable but safe and conventional while Martin’s is more ambiguous and interesting although lacking that powerful impact. With excellent black-and-white cinematography, the film ultimately works best as a cinematic travelogue that captures the beat of the city.

In other news, I got myself a new pair of glasses, which means discovering fresh details about the familiar world from fresh eyes for at least a few weeks. Also, how unfortunate that the complexity of things past can be reduced to a wayward arm and an overeager brain. But of course we already knew that and we don’t care.

On a happy (or sad?) note, presenting SOP’s Nobody Girls!

This is so bad, it’s almost good.

-Enid from the 2001 film Ghost World


25 07 2009

At the Hop by the lyrically-gifted artist Devendra Banhart. Ultimate departure song.

Put me in your suitcase
Let me help you pack
‘Cause you’re never coming back
No, you’re never coming back

Cook me in your breakfast
And put me on your plate
‘Cause you know I taste great
Yeah, you know I taste great

At the hop, it’s greaseball heaven
With candy pants and Archie too

Put me in your dry dream
Or put me in your wet
If you haven’t yet
No, if you haven’t yet

Light me with your candle
And watch the flames grow high
No, it doesn’t have to try
It doesn’t have to try

Well, I won’t stop all of my pretending
That you’ll come home
You’ll be coming home someday soon

Put me in your blue skies
Or put me in your grey
There’s gotta be some way
There’s gotta be some way

Put me in your tongue tie
Make it hard to say
That you ain’t gonna stay
That you ain’t gonna stay

Wrap me in your marrow
Stuff me in your bones
Sing a mending moan
A song to bring you home


23 07 2009

Occasionally in grade school, we were forced to dress up in costumes, stand in formation in a field, and wave some props while dancing stiffly. We call this rote, out-of-sync, embarrassing, and perhaps pointless exercise (performed for the pleasure of no one in particular) a field demonstration. And once again, I am especially grateful to that fantastic show SOP for letting me relive those grade school memories with this inspired and highly conceptual opening production number.

In other matters, farewell Chocolat North EDSA! Thank you for serving as a delicious and well-lit setting for my countless hours of literary encounters over the last two years. The scourge of sense of place.

I’ve always enjoyed the catchy melody of Like Dylan in the Movies by Belle and Sebastian, not paying much attention to its lyrics that may well be about stalkers in the park. And yet somewhere in these dark lyrics we find tenderness (or cheesiness, it all depends):

Yeah, you’re worth the trouble and you’re worth the pain
And you’re worth the worry, I would do the same
If we all went back to another time
I will love you over
I will love you over
I will love you


21 07 2009

Carpe carpus! (Seize the carp!)

-Thomas Pynchon, from Mason and Dixon


There are plenty of filmmakers I admire. And there are those handful that I worship: Apichatpong Weerasethakul of Thailand; Tsai Ming-liang of Taiwan; Luis Bunuel of Spain; and, most recently after finishing And Life Goes On, Abbas Kiarostami of Iran. And Life Goes On (1991) is the second in a trilogy that also includes Where Is the Friend’s Home (1987) and Through the Olive Trees (1994; see previous post), and, like his other films, it is slow and virtually plotless. Kiarostami towers above most of his contemporaries in world cinema with his self-referential and postmodern films that seek to deconstruct cinema and blur the boundaries between art and reality. And Life Goes On, for instance, tells of a film director driving to a small village devastated by an earthquake in search of a boy who we know appeared as an actor in a previous film, Where Is the Friend’s Home. Meanwhile, the stories in Through the Olive Trees revolve around the filming of certain scenes we have seen before in And Life Goes On. The third film looks behind the scenes of the second film, which looks behind the scenes of the first film. Confusing and reflexive like Kiarostami’s other 90s masterpieces Taste of Cherry and Wind Will Carry Us.

It seems as if the well of sentimentality has finally run dry, after months of separation anxieties and memory dependence. I am sensing a growing thirst for excitement and adventure, and feeling the definite need for ditching the sweet/bitter aftertastes of the past and (sorta) starting anew. I am burying these petty absurdities; life in Aggieland (and those 40-degree summers) awaits.

Mang Tomas

14 07 2009

The rains have stopped. And my room now is filled with the sweet scent of ripening bananas. Lovely.

I don’t know what it is about films that gets me worked up. Even the memory of a good scene from a good film is enough to excite me. It’s similarly hard to explain, for instance, how I found endlessly entertaining every single minute of the deliberately slow Iranian film I saw tonight, Abbas Kiarostami’s Through the Olive Trees. This in spite of the overwhelming presence of Kiarostami’s trademark anti-entertainment tendencies like repetitive non-events and mundane car conversations, which are often peppered with subtly humorous dialogues. Through the Olive Trees tells the story of the rekindling of Hossein’s persistent pursuit of a young woman called Tahere during their brief stint as non-actors in a film. (At one point between takes Hossein argues that he thought they had a moment after that look she gave him in the cemetery. Delusional, like all unrequited lovers are.) Tahere does not respond and remains quiet thoughout until that wonderful final scene – a beautiful, distant and ambiguous static shot of Hossein running after Tahere among the olive trees.

We finally pushed through with the long-delayed summer solstice party last Saturday even though it ironically happened on a dark, rainy night. Still, had a good time consuming anchovies and garlic pizza, bowls of garden salad with lovely vinaigrette, and a bottle of blackberry wine. We decided to see one of the random DVDs I brought, and while watching the movie (Peter Jackson’s disturbing Heavenly Creatures, not something you would want to watch with friends for fun!), we heeded Jake Cuenca’s advice and also opened The Bar.