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)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Now Here’s The Ultimate Indy Film!

When I saw the following trailer at Galleria, I felt like a kid again—in a good way.

video

When Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was first shown, I saw it a total of 5 or 6 times on the big screen. Yes, I loved it that much. I was in high school and by that time my parents allowed me to watch movies on my own. I especially got a kick out of the scene when they opened the Ark of the Covenant and the angels of death came out. The face-melting scene alone was worth the price of admission.



The second movie in the trilogy was also the weakest for me. Sure, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) featured a great opening song number and an opening sequence (stealing the diamond while drugged) that’s a tour-de-force example of Spielberg’s directorial skills.


(Unfortunately the only clip I can find on YouTube has several guys annotating, so you don’t see the whole opening number. But you’ll get the drift.)

But what made the movie weak for me was the general morbid darkness permeating the whole movie (in the DVD documentary, George Lucas confesses that he was going through his divorce at that time, which may have influenced the script; in an ironic counterpoint, Doom was where Spielberg met his future wife Kate Capshaw). That, and the presence of that irritating kid.

The third movie had an additional character that helped deepen Indy’s character. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) had Sean Connery playing Henry Jones, Sr.



It was a fine return to form for Spielberg, Lucas and company, combining whip-smart action sequences with snappy dialogue and a welcome sense of humor throughout the film. However, the third movie did not have the element of surprise and wonder that the first movie had, so it remains my second best of the trilogy.

Wait, what trilogy? There’s the fourth one, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and the cast alone is making my nose bleed. Aside from Harrison Ford (who was hilarious in the Jimmy Kimmel’s “I’m Fucking Ben Affleck” video), Karen Allen reprises her role from Raiders, Marion Ravenwood (for me, still the best and strongest female role in the trilogy). Then there’s the new Hollywood IT Boy, Shia LaBeouf (who’s my vote for Actor Most In Need Of A New Screen Name). And—gasp! gasp! gasp!—the inimitable Cate Blanchett plays the bad guy, er, girl (heck, she could be playing a guy here; after all, she’s already played Bob Dylan and Jon Stewart!), Russian agent Irina Spalko. Yes, she’s the girl with the black wig in the trailer.

Can’t wait for May 2008.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Honk My Horn If I Like McVie

I received an email from an online friend from Jakarta, and he wrote: “i met up a filipino guy in jakarta who is a photographer. U might know him. When i ask him about u... he actually told me that u r someone who is quite famous in town and ur blog is quite well-known amongst the gay society”

What the—?!

Alright, whoever you are, fess up! Have you been talking about me? Huh? I personally know only two (professional) photographers; neither is in Jakarta, as far as I know. My gosh, I’m just an ordinary bloke from a small town (okay, okay, city na nga pala) of Marikina. I don’t quite mingle with gay society (is there a gay society here?). My blog has much, much less traffic than Gibbs or Mig’s MGG. It’s never been nominated to any of the blog awards, big or small. I don’t get invitations to any of the blogger activities and events. And I have so much less detractors than some of my colleagues (you know you’ve got it made when you have detractors wasting their time and effort on you when they could have spent it on something more constructive, like world peace or something). I prefer a niche profile, if you don’t mind.

Then again, that’s Jakarta. Oh all right, blab about me in Jakarta then.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Whole Lotta Fuckin’ Going On

It started with comedienne Sarah Silverman making a hilarious music video “I’m Fucking Matt Damon” with—gasp!—Matt Damon himself. That clip debuted on her boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel’s talk show when she was a guest there.


Of course Jimmy Kimmel couldn’t let an opportunity pass. But he had to find a way to top the 8-million-and-counting views of his girlfriend’s video on YouTube. How? Watch the clip below and see for yourself if he succeeded:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar Go!

As a kid I always loved watching the Oscars. Back when I first started watching Oscar telecasts on Philippine TV, they were shown months afterwards—back then a live via satellite hook-up was too costly for any local TV station to mount. So I’d watch it not to be surprised by the winners but to enjoy the show. I took particular delight in watching the film clips of the different nominations, especially in the major categories. For a time I also looked forward to the live performances of the nominees for best song, until the production numbers got too tedious and overblown (the “For Your Eyes Only” set reached heights of silliness with tacky laser gun fire and onstage explosions). During Billy Crystal’s reign as host, I dared not miss the opening movie montage of him spoofing the nominated films of that year.

But what I particularly enjoyed were the speeches. My favorite types of speeches are: [1] heartfelt speeches, with the winner often genuinely moved to tears and consequently, me too; [2] sharp, funny and witty speeches; it’s especially exciting when the speech is done extemporaneously (or looks like it); [3] a combination of both.

You cannot imagine the number of times when, right after watching the Oscars, I’d imagine receiving one. Yes, that’s one of my secret guilty pleasures—imagining receiving an Oscar. The scene in my head often opens with me hearing the announcement while seated in the audience area; what would my reaction shot be when the camera zooms in on me? Usually it’s disbelief (“What?! Did they really call me?”) mixed with “Good lord, I didn’t prepare a speech!” and a huge dose of “OmigodIwonanOscarIwonanOscarIwonanOscar!”

What category will I be nominated in? I’ve already imagined receiving an award for acting (I always imagine being the supporting role category; lead role seemed too arrogant, even in daydreams), direction, best screenplay and best picture (with me as the producer accepting the award).

And what would my speech be like? I wanted it to be genuinely moving yet witty and memorable enough to be quoted and used as soundbite in a future Oscar montage. Oh, and I would insist on wearing a barong instead of a tuxedo. I’d also have a shout-out to Filipinos everywhere. Have I an actual prepared speech already? Of course not! I don’t know yet for which film and in which category I’ll be nominated in. Heller?

I have also fantasized being a presenter. I have also imagined being the host, although I often get bored with that fantasy easily because the job seems too thankless.

That’s why I still get a kick out of watching the very long and at times very boring Academy Awards. I watch it for those unexpected moments of genuine emotion and wit coming together to form a perfect television soundbite.

And I get to fantasize once again hearing my name called, kissing whoever is beside me (I hope it’s Colin Farrell), receiving that bald, golden man… and accidentally dropping him on my (left) foot just as I’m about to launch into my speech.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

If My Life Were A McMusical

Let’s take a trip down my musical memory lane.

The earliest piece of melody that I can remember (or it feels like the earliest) is The Beatles’ “Obla-di, Obla-da”. My memory of it is not really the recorded song but its melody—maybe when I was a kid I heard a cover version of it (during the 60s it was commonplace to find several covers of one song). Even before any nursery rhyme or bedtime lullaby, it was a song by John, Paul, George and Ringo which stuck in my mind first. So I’m not surprised why I instantly took to The Beatles, and they still remain up to this day my all-time favorite act. Back then it took months, maybe even a year, for a song from overseas (namely, the U.S.) to make its way here in the Philippines; that was pre-satellite and Internet days, kids. We were still living in an apartment in Cubao, so that must have been 1967-68.

The next oldest song/s I remember is the soundtrack of the movie The Sound of Music. Back then my dad had an open-reel tape player and a copy of the soundtrack on tape. He playing it every Sunday morning; I’d wake up to the sound of the overture swelling then Julie Andrews’ golden voice riding on top of it with a triumphant, “The hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiills are a-liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! With the sound of muuuuuuuuuuu-siiiiiiiiiiiic…!” I really liked “My Favorite Things” and “Do-Re-Mi”; I found “I Am Sixteen Going On Seventeen” and “Edelweiss” gently melancholic. I know my mom loved the movie and my dad’s not a big fan of movies, so I guess he played the soundtrack every weekend for her. My dad was more into Latin dance music (the samba and rumba music of Prez Prado and the like) plus a lot of Matovanni, James Last and his favorite, Ray Coniff. Those three did nothing but cover songs by other artists in a “big band” style—full brass and rhythm sections with lots of snazzy drumming; they insisted on calling them an “orchestra”—and had their own group of singers. Growing up I enjoyed listening to them, until that fateful day when I realized that I was listening to “fakes”; by that time I was also moving into rock and roll via The Beatles.
(This is what an open-reel tape recorder and player looks like.)

Obviously after the Fab Four broke up, I followed their individual careers. Ringo didn’t do much. George was still into sitars and spiritual blah-blah with “My Sweet Lord” (which I first heard as a Ray Coniff version) so that turned me off. John was becoming more militant, which also was a turn off. So that meant Sir Paul with his silly and very accessible love songs. After The Beatles the next set of albums I collected (back then I could only afford cassette tapes) were by Paul McCartney and Wings (later on shortened to Wings).

Also around that time my uncle brought home a long-playing vinyl album that still remains to this day a classic favorite of mine. It was “Rhythm of the Rain” by The Cascades, and I swear for a time it seems like every Filipino household had a copy of that album, whether in LP or cassette form. No wonder a second incarnation of The Cascades still managed to draw in sizeable crowds in several (!) concerts here in Manila.

By the early 70s I had discovered the American Top 40 with Casey Kasem on radio (first on AM, then it moved to FM) and with it—disco! I liked every song KC and The Sunshine Band released, from “Shake Your Booty” to “I’m Your Boogie Man”.

I also was a huge fan of the songs of The Village People, though at that time I really thought that the song “Macho Man” was an ode to working out, “In The Navy” a tribute to the naval forces, and “Y.M.C.A.” a paean to a youth gym/hostel and male companionship (“You can hang out with all the boys!”). Boy, was I so naïve—and closeted—then.

Also in the 70s was an album that stayed at number one for the longest time (then) and generated several top 40 hits. “Rumours” was my introduction to Fleetwood Mac, which to this day remains one of my favorite bands.

But it’s no surprise that the next band whose albums I started collecting was another rock and roll band that copied heavily from The Beatles. Electric Light Orchestra, or E.L.O., was a traditional rock and roll band with an additional string and wind section of an orchestra thrown in (plus an occasional operatic aria or two by a back-up choir). But its chief founder and singer-songwriter Jeff Lynne cribbed a lot from the Fab Four (“Mr. Blue Sky” sounds like the interlude of “A Day In The Life” while the drums of “Don’t Bring Me Down” is lifted from the reprise of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”). It’s fitting that years later he would produce an album for George Harrison and, with the death of John Lennon, the last two official Beatles releases, “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”.

By the time the 80s rolled in, I was also into a lot of dance music as well. And with the second British invasion in the 80s, I started collecting albums by Duran Duran, The Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, The Police, Culture Club. Madonna was my very first female artist whose albums I started collecting. I began to notice Michael Jackson with his “Off The Wall” album, but I became an instant fan with “Thriller” his mega-monster hit. I already bought the re-mastered Special Edition released in 2001 so I’m not too keen on getting the recently released 25th anniversary edition (with matching bonus tracks and DVD).

With the emergence of the Internet and the further segmentation of music, it’s very difficult to find artists whose appeal can cut across different groups of people. So more and more I find people’s taste in music to be highly individualized and very specific. Still, “music makes the people come together,” according to Madonna.

So what was your music when you were growing up?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Have A Break

I was supposed to go to the bathhouse last night, but due to a change of plans I ended up watching Daybreak at Robinson’s Galleria. When I entered the foyer leading into the cinema, I saw around 7-8 guys standing around, looking furtively at one another and at me; one of the guys was busy fumbling at his unzipped fly. Eh di parang nag-bathhouse na rin pala ako.

Directed by Adolf Alix, Jr. and starring Coco Martin and Paolo Rivero, “Daybreak” is a simple, straightforward story of a break-up (hello, this is not a spoiler; see trailer and title), interspersed with numerous shots that we’ll conveniently label as “The Many Beautiful Scenes Of Tagaytay”. In fact, Tagaytay seems to be a central character of the movie, with more screen time than either of the two pretty-to-look-at leads. Omigosh my gulay, Coco Martin is sooo delicious in this movie! Beside him, Paolo—who’s also good looking and exudes a yuppie appeal in this movie—pales in comparison. Did I say pale? When the two are naked, Paolo looks pasty beside Coco’s golden brown, smooth skin. But wait, I was talking about Tagaytay.

The alternative summer capital of the Philippines when Baguio was still reeling from the 1990 earthquake, Tagaytay is populated by summer vacation homes, inns and hotels. This transient nature of the place echoes in the relationship William (Paolo) has with JP (Coco), since the former is a married doctor whose wife is on the family way. The backdrop of the still-active Taal Volcano also acts as a metaphor for the “explosive” revelation that William intends to spring on JP that night (and no, it’s more than just having a pregnant wife). It’s quite telling that as JP showers, William goes to the sink beside the shower and washes his hands. Oh my gulay, grabeng ang sarap ni Coco! Butt shot kung butt shot! Tapos ang sarap pa niya tumawa, parang little kid. Ang cuuuuuuute! Ay teka, back to the movie.

The setting of two men alone in an almost empty house is supposed to be claustrophobic, to further force them to confront the issues in their relationship. But the director kept cutting away to wide shots of mountains, the lake and the vast open skies. And he did it way too often. So instead of being pulled into the main story, I was always pulled away into appreciating the beauty of Tagaytay. Heck, I wanna see Coco’s beauty! Playing the proverbial provincial lad, Coco’s JP has that simple appeal that’s catnip to urban, closeted yuppies. In other words, he’s infuriatingly cute—and I really mean that in a good way. As in, you want to bottle him up and bring him home. In one scene, he refuses to eat the spaghetti carbonara because he doesn’t like the taste—JP is used to the banana catsup-type of spaghetti served only during special occasions. But there was no other food there except the spaghetti. I wanted to jump onto the screen and into the scene, plop myself up on the dining table, and tell JP, “Eat me!” And JP’s wearing sleeveless shirts the whole time! Argh! Back to the movie.

In fairness to the two straight actors (don’t they all claim to be?) they attack their kissing/love scenes with determined effort. There has been a recent explosion of indie films that are blatantly gay-themed, but I have yet to see a sex scene between two men that actually sizzles. As in, ka-level nina William Hurt and Kathleen Turner in 1981’s Body Heat. But I guess that’s asking too much for our straight actors.

Still, on opening day the theater was packed (“packed” being a very relative term; here I’m referring to the usual number of indie film viewers per showing). I guess it’s because of Coco, who may be on his way to inheriting from Alan Paule the crown of Go-To Actor For Sodomy Scenes (Giving And Receiving) In A Non-Porno Film. I forgive you if you go loco over Coco after watching this movie.

And thank god they used a tripod.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Quote Of The Week

Nay, of the century!

“This is the tyranny of marriage: the vows which bind us allow us to become our worst selves. Thrown dishes, slammed doors, faces contorted like an infant’s—all part of the contract. No one tells us this. No one tells us that the only unconditional love in this world is between parent and child…. But passion between a man and a woman is finite. If it lasts a thousand days, count yourself among the lucky….

There [is] no loneliness like marriage.”


—Dani Shapiro, Picturing The Wreck

* * * * *

The above was quoted by Gordon Livingston, M.D., in his excellent book, And Never Stop Dancing. The book is a collection of thirty truths “about life and how best to live it.” The quote appears in the chapter entitled, “Marriage ruins a lot of good relationships”. And the point of the chapter is simple: Dr. Livingstone refutes the idea that marriage or any intimate relationship is hard work and that there are endless compromises. He says that at the heart of a meaningful relationship is an astute choice of partner who’s “got ample reserves of kindness and a willingness to place us in the center of his or her life” plus cultivating in ourselves the same virtues. And the irony there is that if the choice is astute, then a relationship is an endless, effortless renewal of joy.

It’s so deceptively simple. Jumping into a relationship because of a need to be in one is a mistake most people commit (the younger the person, the more likely). We have to remind ourselves that this need to connect with others is something we all can achieve easily, but committing to an exclusive arrangement is something only fools rush in.

I especially so agree with the line, “No one tells us that the only unconditional love in this world is between parent and child”. Give your parents a hug tonight.

And since I started on a quote, let me end by quoting the Carpenters’ song “I Need To Be In Love”, a song so full of melancholy and irony. Enjoy.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done is keep believing
there’s someone in this crazy world for me.
The way that people come and go through temporary lives,
my chance could come and I might never know.

I used to say, “No promises, let’s keep it simple”,
but freedom only helps you say goodbye.
It took a while for me to learn that nothing comes for free.
The price I paid is high enough for me.

I know I need to be in love.
I know I’ve wasted too much time.
I know I ask perfection of a quite imperfect world,
and fool enough to think that’s what I’ll find.

So here I am with pockets full of good intentions,
but none of them will comfort me tonight.
I’m wide awake at 4 a.m. without a friend in sight—
I’m hanging on a hope, but I’m all right.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Three Films in Two Days

Because I had work/life imbalance this past couple of weeks, I purposely went out of my way to watch three local movies, two in Robinson’s Galleria and one in Glorietta.

Ang Lihim Ni Antonio is about the sexual awakening of a 15-year old guy who discovers he’s attracted to other guys. The movie is fairly well made with kudos in acting, production design and cinematography. Over-all direction is also competent. What also made me hooked the whole time is the fact that the movie is set and shot entirely in Marikina, my home city. The locale/milieu plays an integral part in the movie, and it’s refreshing to see familiar places from a different perspective.

The script treads a familiar storyline—the coming-of-age/coming out story—but to be fair, there were certain scenes that brilliantly capture the confusion and awkwardness of that uncertain stage. And it was quite daring to show graphic sex scenes especially since the character/s involved are minors (which leads me to suspect that the actors are just playing characters much younger than their real age, otherwise… paging DOLE!)

Two quibbles I have with this movie. First, I could see plot points coming from a mile away. Maybe it’s just me; maybe I’ve seen too many movies for my own good. But when the mom talked about rape, I just knew. When the kumare told Antonio’s mom about catching her husband and his mistress in flagrante delicto and she cried, “I should have stabbed them to death!”, I just knew. It’s as if the movie itself had built-in spoilers. Well, maybe they’re spoilers only for oldies like me who’ve seen too many movies. The other quibble is the tragic bloody ending. Yes, yes, yes, it happens. But, but, but! Sigh, why do most gay-themed movies end up with blood spilled? Our stories aren’t all tragic, you know.

Selda stars Ara Mina (who also produced the film), Emilio Garcia and the yummilicious Sid Lucero. Odyssey Flores’ excellent cinematography here is further proof that he is an award-winning director of photography. Over-all the acting of the three leads are better than average; even Ara gets to go beyond her comfort zone. She plays the wife of Sid, who is incarcerated for accidentally killing a minor. While in prison he meets Emilio, who takes on a liking for him; something happens between the two. Several years later, Emilio seeks out Sid who’s now living a simple life in the fields with his wife and daughter. Emilio stays with the family, and this leads to a tragic ending.

The movie can be divided into two: the prison scenes and the farm scenes. It’s a brilliant contrast, a claustrophobic and brutal first part versus a wide-open, idyllic setting for the second act. I also gather that it’s the filmmakers’ intention to depict being inside a provincial prison versus being trapped in a personal prison—a prison of the mind, of the heart. The first part I have no problem; it’s the second part that I found iffy.

The events that lead to the tragic ending are triggered by Sid’s discomfort at having Emilio around. “May asawa ako, may anak, at may—” then an awkward pause; that is his fumbling attempt at making sense of the situation. What got me puzzled is: why was Sid so bothered with Emilio’s presence? Is Sid really happier that Emilio was there? Is he terrified and bothered that he’s falling (or has already fallen) for Emilio? Here the film is silent, asking the audience to just infer. But given what was shown, I had a hard time figuring out Sid’s motivations in the second part of the movie. Nowhere did the filmmakers show or imply clearly that the two guys had another go at brokebacking; if Sid’s attraction to Emilio is more emotional than sexual, then what’s the big deal? The presence of the dead boy’s spirit only confuses me further regarding Sid’s feelings: are they of attraction or of guilt? Or both? I don’t mind double motivations but I wish that was made clearer. That’s why I thought the ending was too extreme, its Shakespearean tragedy out of proportion to the conflict at hand. But again, just like in Lihim, it could be just me.

Endo stars Jason Abalos and Ina Feleo, two contractual workers who jump from job to job; the former also from one girlfriend to the next. The movie is one of the better indie films I’ve seen recently. Sure, it can stand a bit of trimming and tightening. Director Jade Castro charts with sureness and finesse the trajectory of Jason and Ina’s love story, from awkward beginning to deepening realization and maturity in the end. Also laudable is his juggling of the subplots involving Jason’s family and friends.

Much has been said about the performances of the actors and actresses who populate the film. Ina in fact won Cinemalaya’s best actress award. While I do agree that she is an exceptional talent, I was bothered more than once by some slight slips in her speech pattern. At times I could hear the voice of someone who studied in an exclusive school and took ballet lessons. Am I being unfair to her? To be honest, I could be; it doesn’t help that I know her to be the daughter of Laurice Guillen and Johnny Delgado, and those slips only remind me while I was watching her. But again it looks like my problem; other viewers may have an easier time accepting her character.

* * * * *

Here’s one request I have to future indie filmmakers: I know budgets are tight, but can you guys invest on a tripod? “Indie” doesn’t automatically equal “handheld”; see Selda. I can understand how a handheld look adds to cinéma vérité, but more and more it’s quickly becoming a fall-back style instead of an integral creative decision. And in several instances it calls too much attention to itself. Please draw me into the action; do not just jiggle it in front of me.

The smaller the video cameras, the easier they are to carry but the more jiggle we get. If we can’t make cameras heavier again, can we at least make them steadier?

* * * * *

Do try and catch the three movies, either at Galleria or at Glorietta. Or if you miss them onscreen, catch them when they come out on DVD (please buy the original!). Despite my quibbles, these movies are great proof that Philippine cinema isn’t dead, it’s gone indie.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Good Morning!

Monday, 18 February 2008, 10:07am, at the office. As I approached an open door, I saw my two AEs, Sandy and Flow, talking animatedly. Apparently someone had a great weekend, I thought. Sandy saw me and said, “Oh, here’s Joel—come here, come here!”

As I entered the room Flow turned to me and asked: “So what are you, top or bottom?”

?!?!?!

I’m a guy who’s rarely unflappable. In fact, it’s often my passengers who yell and scream at some close call while I coolly, silently maneuver the car away from danger. But at 10am on a Monday morning, a question like that can throw me off the loop.

“And good morning to you too, Flow,” I replied, chuckling.

“So what are you?” she insisted. “We want to hook you up with this guy, so we wanna know.”

“What?!”

“So are you top or bottom?” Flow repeated.

I decided to play safe. “I’ve done both, though I prefer top.”

Both girls’ eyes lit up. “Perfect!” Sandy said. “The guy we want you to date, he’s a bottom!”

This was getting too much for me on a Monday morning. “Girls, ewan ko sa inyo, ha,” I said, with matching eye-roll. “I’m gonna go and brush my teeth.”

And with that I left.

Fabcast with Danton Remoto

Actually this Fabcast was recorded several weeks ago, but I waited for Migs to put it up on the MGG site before I posted it here in The McVie Show.

AJ, Migs, Tony and I interviewed Danton Remoto. It was an interesting free-wheeling discussion that touched on the anti-discrimination bill, Ang Ladlad, practicing lesbians and Inday Garutay’s pink peso. (And in part one, when Danton was talking about closeted gay guys caught by the police, you can hear the heavy downpour in the background.)

Here’s PART ONE:


Here’s PART TWO, where you hear about Tony’s macho-dancing, Danton’s embarrassing fall in a dance bar, and gay labels:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cut To The Chase

This happened years ago; exactly when I won’t reveal, only that I was driving a different car then.

I picked him up at a movie house. He convinced me we could do it in my car. It was past ten in the evening; there were very few cars left in the open parking lot behind the mall. I parked there and we went at each other. Luckily some sixth sense warned me to look up from his crotch area and peer into the side mirror. There was a vehicle quietly coming up from the rear; the lights on the roof were unmistakable. Shit, a police car! He had his pants down and my fly was open. I told him to pull his pants up as I hurriedly zipped up.

The police car came to a stop and the cop on the passenger side got out and started walking towards my side of the car. I placed my hand on the key, which was in the ignition. I kept looking at the cop through my side mirror coming closer and closer as I prayed that my engine would start with one click. When he stopped at my door and knocked on the window I turned the key, heard the engine purr immediately to life, and then I floored the pedal.

The cop took a few seconds to register what had happened then ran back to his companion, who waited for him to climb into the car before giving us chase. I heard the wang-wang switch on as I turned into the street and headed for the main intersection. Thank god traffic was light. As I approached the intersection with the police hot on my trail, the traffic light turned yellow. I looked at the cars to my left and right as they started to move then I flew across the intersection. Several of them braked in surprise; others obliviously continued on. I dodged a couple of them and crossed the intersection intact; the police car was left at the intersection, blocked by a couple of cars.

My passenger was yelling, “Shit! Shit! Shit!” the whole time. Several seconds after we crossed the intersection and there was no police car behind us, he stopped muttering under his breath.

I dropped him off at a corner near his house; we didn’t even bother to finish what was interrupted. Driving back home, I promised myself: Never in the car, ever.

And no more car chases.

Over Here

Taking a break from last week’s hectic workload and schedule, I decided to have dinner by myself at a Japanese fastfood in our building. It was already close to 8pm, so there were no other customers in the place when I arrived.

I was happily eating a bowl of something-don (I forget now) when two women entered. One of them ordered for take-out. Then the two of them proceeded to sit at the table immediately next to mine, going against the Law of Empty Seats At A Public Place. The LESAAPP states that in a roomful of empty seats, two strangers will occupy seats that are far apart from each other. Normally I’d ignore them but then they started talking, not bothering to adjust the volume of their voices.

I soon gathered that one of them (the one who ordered take out) was seeing a married guy who’s separated from his wife. She recounted how she struggled with seeing this guy. I didn’t really bother to catch the exact words she said, but the following line she uttered so caught my attention that I had to pretend I was sending an SMS to someone when in fact I was saving her quote in my phone. She said: “We’re Christians so we live by the Bible. But we’re mature adults too, so may mga pangangailangan din.” Then she proceeded to tell her friend how she justified going with a married man by saying that the man’s wife also fooled around.

While she was blabbing, I kept thinking, “Is this for real? Is this a set-up? Am I in Wow, Mali!?” I tried to keep a straight face and avoided looking at their direction.

Then her take-out arrived. They both stood up and left, leaving me wondering and with a blog entry.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Photo Me!

Because I rarely have my picture taken, here are some of my favorite recent photos:






But here’s a shocker: a photo taken in 1985!

(Can you guess who the ones with the speech or thought balloons are?)

Monday, February 04, 2008

.mov

Sorry McViewers, I’ve been quite busy the whole week. So when Saturday I had unexpected free time (I was scheduled to work over the weekend), I took the chance to go on a movie marathon. I ended up watching three movies—two in the cinemas, one on DVD—in one day.

WARNING: Spoiler alert!

* * * * *

I trooped to Robinson’s Galleria to watch Indiesine’s latest offering, Jun Lana’s Roxxxanne, starring Jay Aquitana Janvier Daly and Sheree. Jay is the blooming homosexual teen with hidden desires for his friend Janvier. Sheree plays the new tenant in the compound where Jay lives who eventually becomes a victim of a sex scandal video.

The movie is about how these .mp4s and .movs (passed around thru cellphones) ruin the lives of the three leads. A clip of Janvier semi-naked and asleep ruins the deep friendship between him and Jay. A clip of a woman being forced to show her breasts is attributed to Sheree, ruining her reputation (and more) amongst her neighbors.

I particularly found the ending disturbing and moving, when the director shows in full the sex scandal video of the girl showing her breasts. You strain your eyes and ask: Is that really her or just someone who looks like her? Even the viewer’s assumptions are challenged.

The movie would have had more impact had it been produced and released several years ago, at the height of all these sex video/tape/viral scandals supposedly involving celebrities. But now the issue is dead, with the public more blasé and skeptical of such video grabs. And this puts the movie in an awkward place. Had Lana made the movie’s script more timeless instead of timely then the impact would have been greater.

Janvier needs more work. He does his best, but the strain in his efforts show. Jay fares better; his acting is more natural and unforced in most of his scenes.

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Then I went to watch another movie wherein cameras (or in this case, a camera) also play a big role. Cloverfield, a movie by the creators of TV’s Alias and Lost, recently opened huge in the U.S., grossing much higher than expected. The buzz and hype for this movie was done mostly through word-of-mouth, generated at first by a shocker of a teaser shown before the movie Transformers and then passed on via YouTube. Plus JJ Abrams and company placed clues in a website designed to intrigue; soon dozens of theories were bouncing all over the blogsphere. This snowballed into something of a buzz-phenomena that peaked the week before it opened.

Great marketing strategy, but is it a good movie? I have to admit, it’s quite engaging once the ground starts trembling. The problem is that the characters—while nice to look at—aren’t the kind whom the viewers will invest in. At the start they were too numerous; when they’re whittled down to four, they’re still not too interesting enough. And so the “I love you’s” in the end don’t feel earned.

But the whole exercise is really for the YouTube generation, they with the familiarity of the jiggle-heavy hand-held camera and the grainy videos. Sure, this is Hollywood so the jiggle and realism is reduced for the sake of comprehension (How could the guy keep shooting the whole time? Don’t the batteries run out? And give me the brand of that video camera—the night footage is excellent!).

Reviewers have commented that Cloverfield’s docu-style evokes the urgency and immediacy of video footage—both amateur and news—taken during 911 (don’t invite anyone over 50 or those suffering motion sickness to watch this movie). But while Cloverfield is an exciting exercise in cinematic kinesis, in the end it really is just the 2008 version of a 1999 movie wherein strong word-of-mouth buzz, an Internet-savvy marketing, and fake “raw footage” about a witch got people’s imagination and attention. In 1999 it was a horror movie; this year it’s a monster movie. Yes ladies and gentlemen, Cloverfield is really The Blair Monster Project.


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I watched Sa Aking Pagkakagising Mula Sa Kamulatan, the digital movie directed by Ato Bautista starring Carlo Aquino. It’s a multi-story, multi-character movie that jumps almost effortlessly from one vignette to the next. At first it unfolds like the usual “people-in-the-slums” story, but as the movie progresses it actually blooms into this tapestry of tales on how nobody is who they seem to be, that behind the obvious surface are back stories that change the way people and events are seen.

Rey (Carlo Aquino) gets brutally mauled by tambay-sa-kanto boys Pogi (Ketchup Eusebio), Jopet (Cholo Barretto), Kahoy (Empoy Marquez) and Taba (Hector Macaso). At first this seems to be a cut-and-dried scene of wanton brutality. But as the movie tackles the stories behind each individual, the singular event takes on a deeper, sadder implication. It’s a bloody consequence of a series of unfortunate events. And what happens next is but the brutal ending to a brutal beginning.

The acting is first-rate. The cinematography is excellent, although I find the use of the fish-eye lens bothersome because it reminds me that we are watching a movie. The movie quietly but steadily builds up to a climax, amply aided by sparse music that, thank god, avoided the singular-keyboard sound of most indie projects.

The movie isn’t near perfect, but it does nicely cap a day of movie marathon-ing.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I’ve Been Tagged!

“Wha’? You talkin’ to me?”

At first I thought an existing photo of me squinting (thanks to the sun) would suffice. But upon review, I realized my brow was too relaxed to be angry.

I was tagged by Mark Xander Fabillar aka The Vegan Prince aka Hari Ng Negros 2006 to this photo-tag: The Face of Anger. At first it was a daunting task—where can I find a photo of me in an angry state that was actually caught on camera? First of all, while I do get angry I’ve learned not to show it so blatantly. Second, through the years I’ve developed several anti-anger mental gates that switch on even before my emotions reach “angry” levels (humor is often my first line of defense). And third, I rarely have my picture taken! In the family I’m the official photographer, so in most of our family pictures I’m not there. And if I were there, what reason would I have to be angry during the picture taking?

So to fulfill Mark’s tag, I had to shoot myself. (On the foot! No, on the head!) And while I have acted before I realized it was very difficult for me to get myself worked up in front of a camera. Why? Because I had no reason to be angry. I tried to think of things that made me angry in the past; most involved stupid and inconsiderate drivers (“Oh Anger! Thy name is Road Rage.”) It took me several takes to get one which I thought showed anger. Where did I see it? It’s in the eyes.

“My brother is not a peeg!” (Yes, this is my Ate Guy—just when the drugs kick in—moment.)