Archive for February, 2011

and the Oscar goes to…

Posted in Hollywood dream factory, Oscars, takilya life on February 28, 2011 by leaflens

It’s Oscar day today as I type this, here in Manila, that is. But back in the US, it’s Oscar night. Same same.

I remember where I was a year ago today. I was here, inside Stonewall bar, the birthplace of queer pride in New York City, watching the pre-Oscar red carpet show with a couple of cool queer friends up to the first couple of awards of the main Oscar show.

Inside Stonewall, March 2010 NYC.

Read my full Stonewall visit story here and

look at my Stonewall photo essay here.

 

Has it been a year now? Wow. How time flies.

But with movies, it doesn’t feel that way most times. Pictures freeze memories. What more moving pictures? That is what movies are all about — endless strings of moving pictures. And thus, movies make you flashback to times once forgotten and make you excited to look at scenes up ahead in time — regardless of the kind of movie you watch. Suspension of disbelief? Of course, movies have to be escapist fare sometimes; that’s why we follow stories in different art forms, actually.

Imaginative escape through artful storytelling.

I guess that’s just how movies work for me. Perhaps that is why I chose to study it in college, and why I — despite the negativity interwoven with the art form when it comes to the business side of things — continue to be involved in it right now, albeit indirectly, through teaching in a film institute (dubbed as “one of the best film schools daw outside Hollywood) and working around its allied technology called television.

Yes, I guess it’s about telling stories, with pictures and sound. That’s how I want to look at movies. That’s also why I love watching them alone or with people I care for and care about. And no, we don’t have to like the same kinds of films because that’s also the beauty of a film — you can agree to disagree with people about how you view such films. My film school buddies and I used to stay up all night until the wee hours of the morning just talking about films. This habit of movie marathon watching and talking endlessly about films never died, and I don’t think it ever will, for me, even if the people I watch movies with and talk to afterward change from time to time.

I guess like change, the only constant thing in this world is movies.

This is why sometimes, I feel a bit sad when some people immediately dismiss the (inherent) commercial aspects of films while some vehemently reject mainstream Hollywood(ized) films without looking at their merits first, or when some (former) friends and colleagues stubbornly deny the benefits they reap from working in the mainstream and hide in that easy disclaimer of  “Here I am, a sellout!” to avoid their perceived disdain from colleagues who chose not to engage in the mainstream full-on like they did.

This is also why I feel sad when people outright dismiss watching the Academy Awards as well. I know that as a structure and as an institution, it has its flaws, like the films it honors every year. But still, sometimes we just have to step back and enjoy the show, for this show is also a constant reminder of what movies are to people who watch them — movies as memories, movies as fun, movies as cultural products, what have you.

I have my own reasons for liking films, and most of them are rooted in deeply personal reasons. Yes, sometimes watching films became a lifeline for me when I needed it during certain parts of my life. And no, even if I dissect it for a living these past years, I still am able to enjoy watching them.

I guess for me, I can re-appropriate that feminist slogan of “what is personal is political” to one that says “what is cinematic is personal” as well, for that is how movies make such marks on me. Yeah, call it romanticizing but that’s what this art form manufactures most times — dreams. Why do you think they called it “Hollywood dream factory” in the 1940s? And yes, to this day, we still buy these dreams. And that’s not a crime.

So it’s time to relax once again, just chill with the images and sound, and just let the magic of dreams begin. No harm in enjoying the good stuff of life, right?

Roll credits.

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if the kids are all right, then houston we have a problem

Posted in Hollywood dream factory, Oscars, queer cinema, Uncategorized on February 15, 2011 by leaflens

Or in short, here’s my elaboration on my disbelief about why why why whyyyyyyyy this film is thought to be great! AND AND AND if you haven’t seen this, don’t read this because I’m giving spoilers. Boo hoo you.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

d. Lisa Cholodenko

s. Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg

c. Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and the two kids with cool character names (Joni and Laser – and dykes name their kids in a cool way huh hmmm)

Pitch: Longtime lesbian partners (alpha female-ish — yes, there’s one in any lesbian partnership) Nic and (artsy kinda insecure-ish — yes, there’s one in any lesbian partnership) Jules experiences a rocky ride in their relationships when their birthed kids find and connect with their sperm donor of a dude who then ends up disturbing the “alternative” family’s equilibrium shitz.

Catch: A lesbian is unsatisfied with her relationship and begins to have sex with a heterosexual man, just because. I.Rest.My.Fucking.Case.

*

Once upon a time in a magical writerly place called Dumaguete located in the south of the Philippines, a poet once told me while conversing, “Uh-oh, here comes Libay…” in reference to what others in our literary community have seen me as “the angry feminist so don’t dis lesbianism in front of her or you’ll never hear the end of it”  when he uttered something not-so-nice-to-hear about something we were talking about which irked my lezfem writerly self blah that time.

You know what? I only get tense about lesbianism when there seems to be something derogatory attached to it. So yes, with the state of the patriarchal world then, and now, I am still angry.

Especially about this film. And it doesn’t matter that the filmmaker made a positive dent in the queer cinema movement before. (Insert dramatic irony here — duh, yes it matters! She’s one of us haller!!!) Well, people reinvent themselves all the time, so fine, sige. Yes, Cholodenko directed that dykey film HIGH ART. Just google or imdb it.

But we’re not talking about that dark, depressing but still a good dyke depiction-film. We’re talking about this one where the story focused on a very homonormative family in a very cool and seemingly contented homonormative set-up (meaning that population of the queer community which also strives to parallel the heteronormativity we see in society — oh you know, the whole get-married-with-one-life-partner-and-live-in-a-house-with-a-picket-fence-and-raise-kids-while-having-fabulous-careers thingies). Nothing wrong with our fellow queers who want to achieve this homonormative set-up, hey. To each their own. If this works for you, this works for you. And for me, too, meaning I could be happy for you but don’t pull me in to live that way because I’m through with all kinds of hetero/homo-normativity or any kind of that kind of normativity in general for that matter. But that’s another blog post.

What doesn’t work for me is when people outside the queer community are given tools to dissect us queers with tools we ourselves created. And this is what irks me the most with this film. Sure, Cholodenko said some parts are loosely based on her life, but which parts? The part where she also got a sperm donor and got pregnant and had a child? Yey that’s great, good for her. But why throw in a heterosexual-based tool that has been used over and over and over and over and time and time and time again to bash us queers in the fucking head????? And what am I talking about? The disgruntled artsy insecure-ish one of the lezzies — Jules or Julianne Moore’s character which is by the way the femme-ier looking of the two so is perceived as “more girly” by the outside world (meaning yay she can still be “saved” and get turned back to the more enlightened way of heterosexuality because she doesn’t look totally like a dyke naman e) — releases her frustrations with her relationship with the alpha female-ish kinda butchy-looking partner of hers by “accidentally” smooching with a heterosexual man. And not just any garden-variety heterosexual man (but okay, she was literally working on his garden actually as his landscape architect so hmmm film semiotics symbolical pun intended there? Peut-etre.) but the sperm donor whose genes run inside their kids. And the smooching began when she said “You look like my kids in that angle” or something shitty like that. Um, so if I see someone resembling the genes of Angelina Jolie in someone inside a jeep, can I freely smooch her then? I’m just sayinnnnnnnnnnn’…

See how ridiculous that start of a premise was?  Sorry but I just reread Audre Lorde’s essay about how we can never dismantle the master’s house by using the master’s tools. The thing is, the heterosexual masters here just bashed us again in the head because the filmmakers gave them heteros the tool to bash us with. I thought we were all about emancipation, folks? What gives???

So okay, given that Jules had a momentary thingie with a hetero man, maybe we have to overlook it because it was momentarily, plus in the film, she repeatedly says that she’s gay, she’s gay, it can’t happen (the dude fell in love with her and wants her to go with him — yay another tool! Bash! Bash!) so clearly she’s not bisexual (and there’s no actual reference whether she has been with guys before though, so weird characterization too — dramaturgical tools fail! Which the women at afterellen had fun dissecting hehe.), and she sincerely wants to fix up her booboo with her family. But then again, the momentary thingie actually escalated because they had sex several times and they both obviously loved it (and it started weird because she obviously was depicted as sooo hungry for dick that when she finally zipped the dude’s fly open, she had that strange and ridiculous “welcome gasp and utterance” blah — frak! Sucks!). So was it a sex thing? Meaning if a lesbian is dissatisfied with her partner in bed, she will then run to or turn to… a man!!! Like a “real man” with a dick! (Fucking a woman with a strap-on is not an option here! Woooo! Where are the other lesbians in their community then???? None were shown! They are alone! Wooo!) Nothing wrong with choosing a sex partner or queerily blurring the gender/sexual orientation/hetero-homo desire divides–by choice!–as long as you set it up properly in the story but the parameters of choosing (read: jumping?) a sex partner here was so off here that I was just enraged. Why? Hay, need I elaborate? In a world where lesbianism is still regarded as a phase which girls would outgrow once they have had a real man (read: sucked a dick or was fucked by a dick or worse — they just need to get raped to snap out of it, hey, nothing to it), then story set-ups like this one proves to be very problematic as it reinforces several problematic discourses that we have been trying to counter over the freaking decades. Hay naku… Emancipation, where art thou???

*laslas*

More bashing tools? Okay, how about that bit when the kids suddenly resented their parents — the butchy one in particular — because, as the kid said “The lesbian family set-up was destroyed/not working for you!” or something to that effect. Oh.My.Fucking.God. If a child is raised and reared in a very loving and caring lesbian family like theirs, how come she will all of a sudden treat herself as an outsider of that happy family set-up just because she was happily-rebelliously bonding with the sperm donor dude. Was she looking for a “father figure” then? Or was she looking for a “mother-father” family set-up then? In this fucking film, yes, the kids were somewhat depicted as such although it wasn’t verbally articulated. But film is a visual medium, and that tool was set up very well — the kids’ homophobias against their own lesbian parents were clearly felt and seen, two things that cinema does well than spoken words. *bash!* *bash!* Even if one argues that that reaction was just “typical” of any teenage kids against any parent, no way, Jose. This set-up is different AND WE ALL KNOW IT. Now why didn’t Cholodenko?

So this is why I think this film is so problematic in terms of setting up its scenes. Sure, these things might happen in real life — and some of it actually do happen/did happen to lesbians/queer women out there — but legitimizing homophobia and promoting it in this way, in this day and age, just purely sucks.

And then the film ends with the dude saying sorry sorry sorry so boohoo we should feel for him because he wants redemption after fucking the dyke, encouraging “his kids” to be a bit rebellious and going to their house to say sorry? Boo! And then when things are slowly settling down, one of the kids say to the lez parents “I don’t think you should split up. Because you’re both too old.” Parents look at each other, hold hands, and drive off. Roll credits. Yehey. So lesbians should stick together because they’re too old to score a new partner out there? Again, maybe it’s because there are no other dykes in this community where this family lives!!! Anubeh!!!!!!!!!!

Kill me now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Winner ang premises ng film na ito! *laslas*

Haaaaay…

O siya ayoko na. High blood na ako. The thing to do is hope that this film doesn’t win any Academy Award come Oscar night. Because frankly speaking, Hollywood would then be legitimizing homophobia again when they do that. I hope that doesn’t happen.

Next!

Oscar movies as substitute for burnout

Posted in bioflick, British film, Oscars on February 7, 2011 by leaflens

Or in short, here’s what 30 pesos can buy you when you’re on the brink of near beyond frustration: a multiple Oscar-nominated film copy.

With isaw.

THE KING’S SPEECH

d. Tom Hooper

c. Colin Firth, Helena Bonham   Carter, Goeffrey Rush, Guy Pearce

Pitch: True story of King George VI when he was still known as the Duke of York pre-Hitler era when he was still struggling with a stammering speech problem.

Catch: Are you sure this is a British film???? There’s humor but it’s not dry! Winner! So no catch!

One thing I really don’t like watching is films about the Royal Family of England. Not that I’m disinterested in their lives but seriously, I don’t get moved immediately by stories about people who have it (somewhat) easy in life. In a manner of speaking.

But snippets of their lives presented in a cleverly creative and quiet but poignant matter differ. I love them. Take the film The Queen. I skipped seeing that even if it was also nominated for the Oscars before. But catching it on cable one lazy day last year, I appreciated how the story was able to focus on such a very interesting time in the royal people’s lives, and how they reacted to it — in this case, the death of Princess Diana and how the Queen Mother and PM Tony Blair handled the situation. Grabe galing! Simple yet straight to the point storytelling, good pacing, well-acted of course, and good overall helming by the director.

In this film, it’s the same. Imagine a would-be king facing the latest in technology which is radio, and having a stammering speech problem. Until he became king pa. Great ready formula for major conflict right there.  Add to that that he had to make wartime speeches during his reign as king. Can you say “goal obstacles?” Hanep. Plus, the layers of discussion this film provides! Which could segue into meaningful discourses on how politicians and similar public figures of great importance manage different forms of media and all. Very interesting indeed.

But such is the heart of this movie: you can relate to the “ordinariness” or the “everyday problem” of this grand character. Or even “better” is you feel you are above him at least in that one aspect. And you can’t help but feel for the guy and root for him to succeed, even if he is the king of England.

I grew up as a super-quiet introverted person well until I turned legal in college, so it’s actually a surprise for most people to learn that fact about me when they see and hear me speak with ease now. But I had a similar problem before. Not that I stammer but I am super-shy that I don’t know how to modulate my voice, and I am always such a loser in class recitations. And imagine the horrors during my third year in college when we were required to take Comm 3, a speech class. I took a Filipino version of that class, Komm 3, thinking that I will be able to negotiate giving a speech in front of a class of 20 quite manageable because it’s in Filipino.  But no, turns out my stage fright is as worse a plague to me as my childhood asthma. So I dropped the course. Eventually of course, I had to retake it and took the English version, and the teacher was better in coaching us how to speak out of our shells. Yes,  survived and passed that class eventually, but with great near-death agony.

So imagine the tension of the build-up this movie had in me when it was unfolding, up to the very first time the king had to deliver his first wartime speech. It was such a very simple situation but its preparation was so cleverly built up during the first act and the whole of second act so by the time we reach the climax, we were so ready for it. A success of great scriptwriting and great acting-directing helped enormously by a good pulse in editing. Now that’s how film techniques work together to build a great story and elicit meaning. Simple genius.

So see the list of nominations it garnered this year and we’ll see what happens next at the end of this month. Ayus! I think this has a big chance. So many good films competing this year. Have to watch some of them pa.

Okay roll credits then!

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