Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Sunday, June 01, 2008


(PLUS: An additional reaction to the movie Sa Pagdapo Ng Mariposa at the end.)

* * * * *

Movies, not sex. Sorry to disappoint.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. For months I’ve been stoked on the trailer. After all, the last movie was released almost 20 years ago. But I couldn’t watch it on the first day it opened, so I waited for the weekend to watch it with the rest of the family. The absence of buzz around it on its first few days was an ominous sign that the Spielberg/Lucas fan in me conveniently ignored.

The opening sequence re-introducing Indy and introducing new baddie (played by Cate Blanchett) plays out beautifully, at once reminding us of the sheer joys of popcorn movies and the giddy propulsion of a great action sequence pumped up by a master director. And when Indy blasts out of the hangar, a partially-wrecked crate reveals the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark, a wonderful nod to the movie that started it all.

After that, unfortunately, is when the movie started to flatline. And this despite a literally atomic scene, the introduction of Mutt (played by It-Boy-of-the-moment Shia LaBeouf), the re-introduction of Marion (welcome back, Karen Allen—where have you been?), lots of nods to former characters now gone, lots of sword-fighting, lots more ants and an extra-terrestrial mystery that I felt should have been more mystery and less extra-terrestrial. Maybe the script spent so much time trying to explain the whos and the whats of the plot. Maybe over-the-top is not as fun when it’s not propelled by sheer kinetic energy that sweeps logic aside. (Really now, Indy in a refrigerator with nary a broken bone? Three times falling off huge waterfalls and no one goes missing or drowning?)

And what do we get in the end? It was X-Files: The Movie all over again. Maybe the joys of the franchise are as old as Harrison Ford. Maybe it’s time for new blood to kick the franchise into high gear again. Indiana Jones by way of Jason Bourne. Maybe that would be something.

Boy Culture. As co-adapted and directed by Q. Allan Brocka based on a novel by Matthew Rettenmund, this movie zips by efficiently and entertainingly. And he knows how to maximize his actors, from their talents to their torsos and tushes. The movie is an interesting take on commitment and taking chances. And it does have interesting insights on the gay culture, especially regarding hook ups and the bar scenes. But as often with these kinds of movies, you get the oh-it’s-so-difficult-to-be-with-him beginning, the complicated dance in the middle, the seemingly sad deal breaker, the last-minute revelation, the wonderful kiss and the fade out in the end. Not all of them are predictable, but you could feel the hand of Fiction in the twists and turns. Nothing about the difficult, boring, messy, tedious every day Reality that happens in between scenes and, more importantly, after the fade-out. I guess that’s why writer/director Broka’s screenplay calls it for what it is: folks, this is just a movie.

Once. On the other hand, this small Academy-award winning movie (for Best Song, “Falling Slowly”) is surprisingly real. The performances (by real musicians and first-time actors) are real. The hand-held camera work feels real (as opposed to jittery-distracting). And the songs are genuinely moving. What’s more, the relationship that develops between the two lead characters feels real. While I was watching their closeness unfold, I was ready to jerk back at any moment, wary of the cliché falling-in-love moments that a million Hollywood movies have done before. But the movie would teeter towards it—and then surprisingly it shifts, like well-placed chord progressions in any one of the magnificent tunes (I gotta get me the soundtrack!) featured in the film. And most importantly, the resolution in the end feels real. Unlike Boy Culture, this movie kept me wondering what will happen next. As unexpected as it is moving, this movie is worth watching, even only once.

And then I watched Sa Pagdapo Ng Mariposa.
The movie was too episodic, but I suppose that helped lull the audience from anticipating and predicting the movie. There were too many peripheral characters, though in fairness the director was able to juggle all of them without confusing the audience much. And there was too much music that a lot of times sounded inappropriate for their scenes and called too much attention to themselves.

But this movie earns major brownie points for going off into unexpected directions and eventually pulling the rug from under my feet. Throughout the movie I was going: So this is a gay film. No, wait; this is not a gay film, this is a seriously-fucked-up-guy film. Hold it—oh, it is a gay film. Wait a minute—it’s a murder mystery?! And then: WTF?!

When the revelation of crying game proportions occurred, my jaw fell on the floor. Suddenly it was, where the fuck is this movie going? And I mean that as a compliment. In one fell swoop this film turns the recent gay-indie mini-trend on its head.


Marcus: Bading Down Under said...

I have yet to see Once. Heard good things about it.

Saw Boy Culture. *groan* I hope "Shelter" won't follow this trend. I'd love to see some meat (no pun intended) in the plotlines of queer films... but maybe I ask for too much.

Indiana Jones? I'll pass.

Quentin X said...

Saw Indiana Jones on the weekend. Please-pass-the-popcorn movie. I got Boy Culture on DVD. It was an ex-rental I bought for $9.95.