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)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lintik Na Tiktik!

I’m happy that Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles is doing well. At least, that’s what their press releases are saying. (Of course, box office grosses of Philippine movies are routinely padded, but hey, let’s not rain on their parade.) So let me applaud the producers behind Tiktik for daring to go beyond the usual trends. (Imagine had they made Natiktikan: The Secret Aswang Affair. One shudders at the thought.) But let me also tell you why it didn’t work for me.

I am not sure if Tiktik wants to be a horror-comedy movie, or a horror movie with comedy. The nearest template I can think of is Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. It takes its time setting up the situation (two brothers hijacks a family and find themselves in a bar full of vampires) before all hell breaks loose. Dusk succeeds because the audience isn’t sure if any of the leads will survive ‘til dawn. And its over-the-top gore actually makes sense: the gore keeps things horrifying, while its outrageousness adds comedic value.

In contrast, there was never any real threat to Lovi Poe or her baby, especially when the latter was dropped from midair (rendering the slow-mo effect superfluous). You knew that Dingdong Dantes will manage to save the day despite, or precisely because, of his aggressive nature, and will do so while looking like the Bench model that he is, with sexy soiled sando and shoulders shiny with sweat. (In fact, I think the movie missed an opportunity here. The filmmakers should have knocked his character done a notch or two.) Even the death of two major characters did nothing but merely increase the body count. 

For a horror-comedy to succeed, the horror should be solid. And for horror to succeed, the audience must accept the set-up. Dantes is a fairly competent actor, and in this movie he manages to be both an asshole and likable. But his excessive gung ho attitude in the first part fizzles. Was this the filmmakers attempt to make him more palatable? It would have made more sense (and a more interesting movie) had his character’s hot-headedness continue to put them is peril throughout the movie, and has to rely on his quick instincts to undo his mistakes.

There has been much ado about the technical aspects of this film. The CGI landscape are marvelous, and really effective in adding to the movie’s mood and tone. The CG creatures, though, need to be less cartoony, and their movements are still as stiff as wire-frame. And we really need to invest in make-up and prosthetics. If it’s not believable gore, it won’t work.

But mostly it’s really the tone which can make or break a film like this. Erik Matti huffs and puffs to push adrenaline levels up. But all that movement isn’t moving. What made me stay was mere curiosity to see how the movie will end.

Honestly, I do want to support local movie makers who dare to push the envelope and offer something new to audiences. But pushing the envelope per se is not enough, and if we as an audience want better movies, let’s not just settle for “at least it’s something new,” or “but the filmmakers were passionate about it.” Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles is but part of the necessary steps in the right direction. I hope that the next ones will get it right.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Friendship Conundrum

How should one behave when his friend is doing something that one doesn’t agree with? Are there friendship rules on that?

My take on the matter is simple. As friends, we need not agree on everything. Thus, we can have differences in terms of tastes, likes, and even morals. As friends, we appreciate our similarities and tolerate our differences. Just like with boyfriends and partners, irreconcilable differences are deal breakers. If you can’t stand to have a friend who doesn’t share the same values as yours, then it’s time to reassess your friendship.

Let’s consider several scenarios:

[1] What if you suspect that your friend who is in an exclusive relationship with someone else is fooling around? Suspicion is not yet grounds for accusation. If you and he are close enough as friends, then you are in a position to bring it up with him. You can tell him something like, “Hey, I’ve heard something that concerns you, and it’s quite sensitive. Can we discuss it?” If your friend says that nothing is going on, give him the benefit of the doubt. If you can’t give him the benefit of the doubt, then either you’ve judged him to be incapable of staying on the straight and narrow path, or you should reconsider your friendship with him.

[2] What if you have undeniable proof that your friend is fooling around? As a friend, you have every right to bring this up with him. If you don’t agree with what he’s doing, you can tell him that. (If you agree with him fooling around, well then, no wonder you’re friends!) You can advise him on what to do, but basically you will have to honor his decision. As a friend, your duty ends there. How your friend moves forward and addresses it with his boyfriend is a matter that’s between the two. Better keep a respectful distance.

[3] What if you’re close to just the one who’s fooling around? Then as a friend you can talk to him, but only to him. If you value his friendship, or if you prefer an uncomplicated life, under no circumstances should you squeal to his partner.

[4] What if you’re close friends with both parties? In general, rule number 3 applies here. The spirit of the rule is simple: Talk to the one who is fooling around, not the one who’s being fooled behind his back.

However, this situation is quite tricky, because ultimately you will want to be fair to both since they are your friends. You may ask the one being cheated on, “Hey, how are you and your BF?” Or depending on your skills, you may choose to drop hints. But if he asks you outright if his partner is cheating, then I believe you have the obligation to tell the truth.

Which is why, if I’m friends with both parties who are in an exclusive relationship, I think I’ll want to ask them ahead of time, in front of the both of them: “Hey guys, we’re all close friends here, right? If I find out that one of you is fooling around behind the other one’s back, WHAT WOULD WANT ME TO DO? Is it okay for both of you that I squeal on the other?” By turning the question on to them, you’re forcing them to decide what their expectations are from you as their friend. Then it becomes a clear-cut agreement between all three of you.

It also sends a clear message to both of them: If one of them wants to fool around behind his partner’s back, he should also make sure he keeps his fooling around a secret from you. Then you’ll be oblivious. Ignorance is indeed bliss.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Okey Sinister, Okey Sinisis

Once upon a time, there was a little movie called The Blair Witch Project that coughed up big scares and bigger box office returns. Thus the found-footage genre became legit. The genre (is it?) has produced some hit and misses, but so far it has thrived very well with horror and suspense. The appeal there is obvious; it allows the viewers to have that “OMG, did I just see what I saw?!” mimesis, having seen what seems like real footage. The intrinsic difficulty then of found footage films is that there’s added burden on the filmmakers to make the set-up feel real.

Sinister finds an ingenious way to sidestep the found footage difficulty by making it a movie (or movies) within a movie. So you get the delightful shocks of both found footage and traditional horror genres.

I must admit I got through several scenes by squinting my eyes. Mid-film I turned to D and said, “Nasi-stress ako sa pelikulang ito, ha.” It is a fun horror ride, yes. In fact, it really delivers some pretty disturbing images that linger long after you’ve left the theater. But the script also contains inconsistencies and illogical turns that often mar my enjoyment of scare flicks. Horror should have the smarts to keep things real, otherwise you have an incredulous audience going, “Now why the eff did he do just that?!”

Sinister stars Ethan Hawke, and while he is a good actor, I think the intrinsic smarts he exudes as an actor doesn’t work well for him here. His Ellison Oswalt is a novelist desperate to write another bestseller, and he places his family in danger by renting the house where a family was hanged to death in the yard. Oswalt doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but even a skeptic of the occult will know that moving his family into the actual murder scene isn’t a wise thing to do. Had Hawke gone for a more unthinking Oswalt (like, say, how Jack Nicholson can do oblivious so well), maybe I would have believed in him more. Also, as he discovers more and more the hideous murders in the home movies, why doesn’t he say anything to his wife? Didn’t he find it weirdly suspicious that the box of home movies was in the attic? It really took him a long time before he came to his senses. There is a big difference between selfishness and stupidity.

The music is something that I both like and dislike. I have to admit, Christopher Young’s score is so unsettling, it deserves its own concert tour. But I have a problem with horror movies wherein the music practically dictates the mood of the scene. The music is disturbing and disturbingly obvious. It practically screams, “BE AFRAID! BE VERY AFRAID! SOMETHING’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN!” and then something does, but it’s not exactly what you were expecting. So in the end the music actually becomes a cheat.

As I said, Sinister is still a fun ride. Yes, the ending is predictable, but there are enough going on to keep you interested. And while the traditional horror tricks don’t deserve the screams they generate (shock for shock’s sake), the certain images in the found footage part are genuinely distressing.

Grab someone whom you’d wanna grab hold of (and vice versa) when you watch this.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Where Do I Go From Here?

I started blogging back in 2004. That was eight years ago. I remember discovering and getting excited with all of these gay bloggers who, thanks to the relative anonymity of the Internet, had given voice to our pink concerns. Now, I said, I can also hear my voice in others.

It was my friend Nelz whose blog I read first. I was amazed at his chutzpa in posting intimate, graphic details of his sexcapades. From Nelz’s blog list, I started blog-hopping, discovering other pink voices. Some were more graphic than Nelz, others were more circumspect. And that got me wondering. How much of it on the Net is the truth, and how much is just press release? Is there a way to tiptoe on that fine line between the two?

My original intention for The McVie Show was to come up with a “personal diary” that was as much a show as it was truthful. Present my life in an entertaining way, for there is an audience out there (yes, I assumed at least one other person will want to read about me). And because some bloggers were quite prolific, I also wanted to post an entry a day.

After a week or two I tweaked my original “reason for being” and instead opted to present the more entertaining aspects of my life. And what topic was a surefire crowd-drawer? My sexcapades in bathhouses, cinemas, and gym saunas soon became fodder for the Show.

But change was inevitable. Cinemas stopped allowing viewers to sit through multiple screenings. Slimmers World shut down all of their saunas and steam rooms. And my bathhouse stories were compiled and published.

Before one could express oneself in forums and blogs. But then Facebook and Twitter allowed us to rant and rave in a more focused and succinct manner (well, some a lot less wordy than others). Suddenly we had to be all Strunk & Whitean with our tweets and status updates; others chose to go jejemonic and txt-jargonic in their attempt to stay within 140 characters. Still the damage was done. We said things shorter and in an instant. Responses happened in a blink of a refresh. Thanks to comments, likes, and retweets, our singular voices could now be magnified into an online roar. And all that without having to worry about drafts and spell-checks and word crafting.

Blogging became the equivalent of a concept album on vinyl at time when everyone else is shuffling among disparate individual MP3 tracks.

Yesterday I got an email from Nelz. He had stopped blogging years ago. Now he announced that he’s unplugged himself from Facebook, and will now spend his time reading books.

I too have thought of unplugging. But still there’s something that draws me back to my blog. I don’t know what it is, and right now I’m not too keen on finding out what. I am also still figuring out which direction to go. But as the adage says, “The show must go on.”

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

As Is! (ala-Clueless)

This is the first episode of The McVie Show under Republic Act No. 10175 (or the Cybercrime Prevention Act), and I will proceed with business as usual. And speaking of....

At first my objection was the 11th-hour inclusion by that stupid and pikon Sotto of the libel clause in the said Act. I object to both his underhandedness and the inclusion of libel as a cybercrime.

Ironically though, his actions threw a blazing spotlight on the whole Cybercrime Act, and further scrutiny showed that there were other problematic provisions in RA 10175, with the problem mostly on vagueness. Cybersex is now a crime? What about cybersex between two consenting adults? And what’s the difference between cybersex and phone sex/sexting, and why is there no hullabaloo on the latter when it’s been here longer? And have the authors really thought through how they will implement the law? Is liking or sharing posts considered “aiding or abetting”?

Given the noise being made about it, I think it’ll be sometime before the dust settles. Meanwhile I will continue to express myself, and the Show goes on. Fuck it.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Ang Pagdadalaga Ni McVie, Part 5

Part 5: We Are Family (or Dealing With Our Givens)

Ah family! We can choose our friends but we can’t choose who we’re born into.

In many ways, our family is responsible for our formation in our early years. We get from them our faith, our beliefs, our ideals, and so forth. We didn’t have a choice. Whatever our parents told us to believe in, we believed wholeheartedly. God. The Tooth Fairy. Santa Claus. And gays are an abomination.

Sadly that’s what I grew up with. I don’t remember my parents being vocally against homosexuals. But their behavior towards them spoke volumes, how easily they dismissed them, and how they turn their noses up against the homosexuals in our neighborhood. My parents were outwardly friendly to the baklang mananahi named Jamie, or to the baklita who watched over the sari-sari store in front of our house. But they were still bayot, and as far as my parents were concerned, they did not measure up to being a man.

Thank god my parents sent me to a particular Jesuit institution, and thank god for the pasaway Jesuits and their pasaway teachers who taught me to think for myself. I really understood the value of questioning what was taught to you back when you were helpless to resist.

Another difficulty for those growing up in the closet is the idea of coming out to one’s own family. There’s this pressure for full disclosure to the people you love; the idea being, if you love someone then you should be completely honest with them. After all, coming out is a sign of trust, right?

Sadly, it’s a lot more complicated than that when it comes to blood relations. Family dynamics are like snowflakes; no two are exactly alike. And for every “painless” coming out story, there’s an opposite story that shows the sad truth of parents not being able to understand and accept their gay son or daughter. And what makes it different from partners and friends is that you do not choose your family. Even if you decide to completely cut ties with them (or vise versa), the the fact remains that there is a biological connection. Perhaps that fact will eventually become inconsequential; or sadly, it may become a source of contention and friction later on in life (for example, if there are inheritance issues).

At first I too thought, “Oh no, one day I should come out to my parents. They deserve to know who I really am.” But I kept pushing it off, waiting for the “right” time. Then my dad died, so I thought, hey, it’ll be easier to tell my mom. But I still kept putting it off. Then one day it dawned on me: I am not defined by my sexuality. I am more than just what I do in the privacy of my bedroom. And adults understand that it’s okay if some things are better left unsaid. I mean, do I really wanna know the sexual activities and proclivities of my mom?!

So now I have a relaxed attitude towards my family with regards to coming out. If they ask me, I won’t lie. But if they don’t ask me, I won’t volunteer.

Every gay guy who’s still struggling with the idea of coming out to their family should be assured that you do not have to come out, especially if they don’t feel compelled to do it. And no one has the right to compel you. Coming out to the family is an individual decision, and as I said, individuals are as different as snowflakes. You are as dazzling as a snowflake, whether you are out to your family or not.

(Up next, Part 6: Alone)