"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so..."
~ Peter O'Toole as Anton Ego in Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava's Ratatouille (2007)
Of course 100 Tula Para Kay Stella easily reminds one of (500) Days of Summer, from which it borrows many conceits -- although to detail them now could entail spoilage, so never mind that. But whereas Marc Webb's film was a romantic fantasy that limned lightness, Jason Paul Laxamana takes his film down surprising darker paths, finally subverting in crucial ways the romantic comedy mold it purports to embody. It's not a perfect film but I like it very much: every aesthetic choice Laxamana makes here seems inspired, from the spot-on casting [JC Santos and Bella Padilla bring charm and groundedness to their roles as stuttering poet and lost soul rocker] to happily imploding the cinematic myth of the manic pixie dream girl, from precise cinematographic and editing choices to giving a dexterous story that encompasses years and yet never losing the narrative line in the complicated unfolding. The poems are a little too Lang Leav for me, but that's a minor thing. We've seen Jason do wonders before in Babagwa and Mercury is Mine, but it is in this film where he comes to his full powers as director.
It is Fame for law students, minus the sophomore and junior years, and it is excisions like this, among others, which make Kip Oebanda's Bar Boys a failure in structure. Contrary to how it is marketed, for example, there are only three "bar boys" instead of four, Kean Cipriano's character quickly being relegated to the wayside as the barkada who couldn't make the cut in the law school entrance exam. [Not a spoiler.] In a story that purports to be an examination of friendship braving the wild storms of law school, keeping him in the mix would have been vital to the storyline. Instead it makes other narrative choices that constantly fall flat while embracing the hoary subplots of bad teleseryes. Too bad, because the premise of following the lives of law students actually sounds interesting -- but the film only demonstrates a sophomoric effort that does try its best, but fails the cinematic bar nonetheless. That heart attack scene is contrived, overlong, and cruel. And that final scene in the Supreme Court? An embarrassment.
I was just asked why I fling myself into passion projects that often consume all of me. [The old Survey of Philippine Literature website, the Handulantaw book, the Celebrations anthology, the staging of In My Father's House, the current Buglas Writers Project archive, the current heritage work for the city...] Honestly, at the back of my head, the practical part of me constantly admonishes me: "Don't do it, Ian. You have no idea what you are jumping right into." Many times I don't listen to it. It's foolish, I know, AND exhausting, but oh well. I remember Oro Plata Mata director Peque Gallaga once attesting that his 1982 film was the work of fools who didn’t know any better: "Had we known what we were in for when we started, we probably wouldn’t have bothered at all, let alone see it through." Thank God, they were foolish. Oro Plata Mata remains 35 years later gutsy filmmaking of the highest order.
 This is Where You Bite the Sandwich
Fast wifi indeed calms the nerves. Honestly, there was one Saturday not too long ago where I spent the better part of five hours going from one place to the next to find good wifi, and only managed to do one -- ONE -- serviceable piece of work in that time. What I know would normally take me 10 seconds to accomplish I could only do so in 15 excruciating minutes. The whole thing just got to my nerves, and I had to pause and wonder: "The things I could do with a PROPER office and GOOD wifi." Today, I was able to send several work files over FB Messenger in one go. I used to do that file by file, in the span of an hour. Moral: if you want good productivity, invest in your people and their work place.
10:26 PM |
Hesus May Be Dead, But the Film is Very Much Alive!
Quick post-screening recommendation for Victor Kaiba Villanueva's Patay Na Si Hesus: Watch it like your life depends on it.
It is uproariously funny, but its drama also cuts deep. It will affirm your love for Filipino film, and it will make you believe Bisaya filmmaking has become a formidable force. The audience I saw it with tonight hooted and laughed -- and by God, there's nothing like the nuances of Cebuano to really relish every line-reading. Spread the word when the film opens for a regular run in Rob on August 16 for the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino!
You will thank the cinema gods you caught this gem of a film.
Going around town doing chores and to-do's today, mostly small things I couldn't exactly fit into my daily schedule and have to make space for. What amazed me is the surging joy I felt having found and purchased exactly the right kind of coin purse I've been looking for. A coin purse. As source of happiness. Amazing. You know what's also amazing? Finding out that you did something for a friend that gave him a jolt of joy he badly needed. "Thank you," he texted me. "I'm in a cab and in tears." Awwww.
What is the end of a long day? A catch in your voice that betrays the long hours already survived, and knowing it is a cycle. A sigh of relief when 7 o'clock comes, and the evening is suddenly spread before you like a buffet of possibilities -- and a sigh of dejection when you realize the night is in fact short. A wonderment bubbling in your head that asks, "Where did my youth go? My spontaneity?" The end of a long day is a dream of drinking red wine without the repercussions. The end of a long day is to dream of Friday night. The end of a long day is to spy your notebook of to-do's and dream of exorcism. The end of a long day is thanking the universe for survival, and hoping in the end all these is worth something.
Word has it that Mike de Leon's Batch '81 (1982) -- his searing look into the world of fascism and fraternities -- has been restored by Italy's L’Immagine Ritrovata and Singapore's Asian Film Archive, and is currently scheduled for screening as part of the Venice Classics section of the coming 74th Venice International Film Festival. It will be presented in an lineup that includes Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 (1976), Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert (1964), Milos Forman’s Black Peter (1963), Claude Chabrol’s The Third Lover (1962), Jean-Luc Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967), and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
I'm quite happy that a significant number of our film classics are being restored. It's quite a boon to be able to teach/show these restored films in classes and screenings without straining people's imaginations to make them somehow "see" what made them great in the first place. You don't have to explain too much anymore these days: they see the full glory of the restored images and sound, and they respond with enthusiasm. Talk about finding new audiences!
Finally, the poster and the trailer for the film adaptation of one of my favorite books has dropped. (Must temper expectations, but it's so hard...). But here's a look Call Me By Your Name, the film adaptation of André Aciman's novel, directed by Luca Guadagnino, written by James Ivory, cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, edited by Walter Fasano, and starring Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, and Michael Stuhlbarg, with music by Sufjan Stevens.
Both look delicious and promising, but must temper expectations!