Cinema-watching, for me, is not really a waste of time as some people treat it. Kanya-kanyang habit lang iyan, I suppose. We all have our favorite ways of spending our time or we have techniques in wasting time. Walang basagan ng trip, ‘ika nga.
But it’s a totally different thing if a film wastes my time. Of course it’s not guaranteed that all films that look promising will make it worth your while. Some are truly time-wasters. But there are also those you will value for a long time.
Anyway enough segue. Here are two samples of how I spent my time one rainy evening in Cubao, while waiting for traffic to subside (which, in Metro Manila, is a loooong time).
PRAYBEYT BENJAMIN (2011)
d. Wenn Deramas
p. Star Cinema and Viva Films
c. Vice Ganda and a bunch of talents that appear as stringers in local cinema, meaning they string along as a cast of an ensemble to pad the story even if it’s not necessary
Pitch: an openly swishy gay man turns discreetly closeted, but not really, when he enters the military in order to represent his father and continue their heroic (read patriarchal) family lineage in combat
Catch: I sincerely hope the makers of this movie know that Goldie Hawn has a Private Benjamin film in the ’80s. If this is where they got the title, they need to buy a new pair of things needed in this industry, namely creativity and imagination.
I don’t know why I wasted my time watching this film. Maybe it’s out of curiosity. I like Vice Ganda’s humor which I saw on film for the first time in the PETRANG KABAYO remake. I found that totally funny even if it was ludicrous. But somehow, this time, this film doesn’t do it for me.
Sure, it’s a comedy not to be taken seriously, but lately, Philippine cinema doesn’t know how to do funny comedies anymore. They’re all crass, pander to the lowest of the low, full of cheap thrills for a few laughs. In short, we’ve lost the intelligent kinds of comedies. And I don’t mean lowbrow; what I mean is comedy that really makes us laugh because the humor is in the situation, and it’s not even pure slapstick. Something like that.
Sadly, this BENJAMIN film doesn’t cut it for me. Aside from having such a silly plot (simple doesn’t mean silly; this here is just plain pffft) of having the country under the rule of rebels who want to kill the top generals of the land that every misfit imaginable in crass cinema fare (don’t even get me started on characterizations) had to be drafted, the film carried very outdated views on being gay. Of course they milked this for whatever it’s worth, using it as a major plot device to heighten the dramatic irony of the plot, but it’s also dangerous because they’re propagating homophobia once again. I mean sure, the gay guy saves the day in the end, but to reflect deeper, quieter realities that discriminate against gay guys is just the pits.
What I’m talking about here is the fact that, in the end, the gay guy’s love interest — a hunky straight man (Derek Ramsay) — reveals that he has a girlfriend, and that girlfriend looks a lot like Benjamin (actually, it’s Vice dressed as a woman playing a woman). When Benjamin asked why his captain chose to be with this woman which looked like him instead of just choosing him, the captain answered “Because she’s a woman!” So dahil may keps and boobs ang babae, kahit kamukha siya ng gay guy, doon na ang het guy. How progressive. Please lang. Stop spreading this shit that LGBTQs are doomed because, in the end, the people they fall in love with will eventually end up with straight people din naman. How irritating.
What’s also irritating is the fact that the pa-macho lesbian is being promoted here. Not all lesbians are like that. This is also a step backward but hell, the pa-macho lesbian was more accepted in the military than the pa-girl gay man. Can you spell patriarchy? Sumasakit bangs ko sa pelikulang ito, sa totoo lang.
Another disappointing thing in this film is perhaps the humor. I don’t know if Vice Ganda is already overexposed on television, but I find the style waning na in punch. Or maybe that’s just me. With the ticket sales skyrocketing, I guess there are more people who enjoy his brand of comedy now more than ever. But that’s also cool. Maybe this part is just me. But that’s also why I’m worried, because as popular as this film is becoming, so is the spreading of discriminatory plot lines about gays and lesbians. Hay naku bakit pa ba ako naninibago? But the thing is, I sincerely hope that filmmakers become more responsible next time. It’s just sad because maybe they also carry the same prejudices in their body. I just hope they keep it to themselves na lang.
Anyway, win some, lose some. While that was such a freaking time-waster for me, this next one was not.
IN TIME (2011)
d., s. Andrew Niccol
dop. Roger Deakins
Costume design. Colleen Atwood
c. Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried
Pitch: In the not-so-distant future, people need time stamped on their being as currency to stay alive and buy things, but what happens if one gets an overload of time, and one runs out of time?
Catch: Nothing!!!!!! This film is plain awesome! Why wasn’t it hyped up!
And this is why I love this film: THE TRUMAN SHOW, GATTACA, S1M0NE, THE TERMINAL, LORD OF WAR. The dude who directed this film wrote all of those earlier films, which I happen to like a lot, especially THE TRUMAN SHOW and GATTACA. Are you freaking kidding me! Whoever could think up of such set-ups is plain brilliant for me.
Gosh, opening sequence pa lang, I already love the concept — people stop aging at 25 years. Once it kicks in, they are time-stamped, literally, on their arm, to reflect how much time they have remaining on earth. Once they reach 25, they’re given one more year lang. Thus, they have to work on it, like hard labor or stuff, and they get paid in time (haha gives a whole new meaning to working time and a half and such!). So of course they also use time to pay for stuff, like “How much is a bus fare?” “Two hours.” And if you didn’t have that much time, you’re doomed. Galing!!!! To use time as currency like that! Sheer genius.
I am completely blown away by such concepts because I always like concepts that play around with time, especially messing with it hehe or toying with it like in time travels and such. Plus I also have a similar concept in development (er, for years now) which also tells of playing with time just like this film. Grabe, I should finish writing that concept na! Hehe.
Anyway, I also liked the idea that people run out of time, literally, and they die if they do. The there’s also that concept of having people — Big Brother types — control how much time a person could trade around, kinda like oligarchs of time, to which Seyfried’s character belongs: the rich and the elite. Then we have Timberlake’s proletariat working class character who lives in a second-to-second kind of existence, because having one whole day’s worth is actually a luxury. This is where the concept of “I don’t have time” kicks in, especially when it’s taken both literally and figuratively, especially when Timberlake’s character Will Salas says that he doesn’t have time to fall in love or have a girlfriend. Oo nga naman, you’re dying and you have a girlfriend pa — time waster! Haha! Wagi lang.
Anyway, the premise and act one is interesting enough, but then here’s the inciting moment that changes everything: Will helps a stranger in a bar and in return, the stranger gives him a century. Yes, you can live forever in this concept since if you have much time on your hands, er, arm pala, then you’re set for life. But it also makes you suspicious because people can give each other time and people can also steal time from each other (by locking wrists). Grabe, take away one’s time, literal! Sobrang benta ang concept na ito!
And then it gets complicated as Will crosses specific time zones where you have to pay for each boundary you cross, kind of like economic zones in a way, since you need more currency to pass through each one, the higher the zone, the higher the pay. So his goal is to reach the top zone where the rich people are (to discover how to redistribute the wealth–or time–which the stranger said the oligarchs are controlling), and one girl, Sylvia (Seyfried) notices it, also some of the workers in this rich zone. How could they tell that he doesn’t belong there? Because he moves too fast, always rushing as if he’s running out of time (which he is, in his lower class existence experience). But these rich people have lots and lots and lots of time on their hands, so they have time to take things slow, move slower, stuff like that. Wagi lang sa concept, teh!!! I tell you, I was so engrossed in this film’s details that I forgot to eat my obligatory chichirya hehehe. Yes, that’s how good this film is!
What I like about a film that has some sci-fi bent is the fact that it could tackle philosophical things like this on a practical basis. You know, without being highfalutin about concepts that make us stop and ponder or without being too melodramatic or cliche in approach (or appear as being “pa-profound” and hence “pa-deep”), such as having time, wasting time, and other more complicated things. And yes, being existential without being pa-profound lang. You know what I mean. S1M0NE revolved around manufactured existence, THE TRUMAN SHOW revolved around manipulated existence, THE TERMINAL revolved around an interrupted existence, and GATTACA revolved around a borrowed existence, and then IN TIME is about making one’s existence meaningful and relevant before time goes out. I mean my gosh, Niccol, can I sit down with you and have coffee while we chat about these things!!! Seriously!!! I am happy you exist! You are my man right now, my cinematic man. I can’t wait to discover what you’re going to write and film next. Grabe lang!
Anyway, enough fan girl mode-ing. I’ve never been excited about a film’s concept in a looooong time, so I have to celebrate these things in my own little cinematic way. What the hey. I hope they put this film back when the current (over)run of that film with that unsmiling girl with the sparkling undead boyfriend is over. I hope that’s tomorrow. Skipping that one! But please don’t miss this one. It’s really worth your time, I kid you not.