Archive for the Hollywood dream factory Category

Spinderella cut it up one time!

Posted in children-young adult content, fantasy-mythical, Hollywood dream factory, love story, women's issues in film with tags , , , on March 24, 2015 by leaflens

Or in short, here’s my take on this year’s remake of a tale as old as time, but the messaging is as problematic as ever. Yes, I know it’s as predictable as hell but it still needs to be scrutinized, especially these days when media bombards women and girls with questionable embedded values.

MV5BMjMxODYyODEzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDk4OTU0MzE@._V1_SX214_AL_CINDERELLA (2015)

d. Kenneth Branagh

c. Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Lily James

PITCH: That ageless tale of an orphan girl with a wicked stepmum and stepsisses who, out of kindness and through magic, snags herself a prince charming with a foot fetish of sorts. Okay glass slippers na nga!

CATCH: That ageless tale just rebooted its age-old problematic messaging and what this tale actually related to young girls out there.

That this film was directed by Kenneth Branagh surprised me more than anything. But no amount of Shakespearean creds or great film creds (Much Ado About Nothing or Dead Again or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein my fave! to name a few) could spin this tale out of its eventual tunnel vision of a message: that in order to get out of a miserable life, a girl needs to be kind and suffer first in order to snag a prince charming. Whoopteedoo.

Daniel Radcliffe, Kenneth Branagh, and Rupert Grint

Or maybe he was directing it as Gilderoy Lockhart. Yeah, Ron’s face, mine as well. Waaah Emma Thompson o! Oops, baka marinig ni Helena BC heheh.

Fine, given that the film didn’t identify its era so we automatically assume that it was from that era where women are considered property of men, saved only by virtue of being the daughter of a man or the wife of one (which still happens today devahhhhh but I digress). Since Cinderella didn’t have both a dad and a jowa, then she just tried to make do with what life handed out to her, until that fated prince comes along.

And this is where my sweetheart and I reacted when watching this film: that women like Cindy here would just accept what life handed her, without giving up a fight. I mean, is she that naive and trusting that she would just accept all the atrocities that her step-sibs/mum would hand her? Siyempre dahil mga palabang eba kaming mag-jowa, bumubula ang bibig namin nang panoorin namin ito, right? [Yup, dapat nasa Insurgent kami pero may kasama kaming kids at ito ang type nila, so there, k.] Granted that Branagh gave us a glimpse of a “palabang eba, slight” ni Cindy during that scene na parang “kinakaawaan” niya ang katangahan ng step-sibs niya, still, it’s not enough for us to forego all of the pang-aapi that she just received without a whimper. And this is where that idea of female sufferance enters the picture, where women ought to just accept these burdens thrown upon her, because woman! Kainis. Fine, given din na pinakita naman ni Branagh na may spunk kahit papaano si Cindy when she encountered the prince for the first time sa forest, pero onetime bigtime lang ito teh, at pag-uwi niya sa balur, yagit mode pa rin ang peg ni ati. Di ko bet.

I don’t know what’s more dangerous: Cinderella being portrayed as naive to the evils of other people, or that naivete is being disguised as kindness. After all, her mantra was her mother’s dying habilin: have courage and be kind. But mum forgot to lecture her that in order to be courageous, one has to stand up when people are being unkind na, right? Isn’t this akin to just accepting bullying when one is being bullied? With so many problems regarding bullying that kids these days face, they don’t really need another film to reassure them that being bullied now is okay because later, a prince will save the day! Kalerks. They should save themselves dapat ang peg. But no, Shrek kasi ‘yun. or Ever After.

And that’s also one point that my sweetheart reacted to: hindi ganyan ang ma-inlove k! Meaning love is not just about finding someone secretly and then later revealing their real identities and then later ulit inlab na sila. Fine, granted na love at first sight ito, a la Romeo and Juliet, but you know what actually happened to those two star-crossed lovers, right? [Na-tegi sila teh k!] At saka hindi mo mahahanap ang trulab mo because of her shoe size. Pero sige na nga, dahil magical naman ito, I’ll give you that: a shoe-fitted love.

And that’s another thing kung saan din kami nag-react: na hindi masasagot ng magic-magic lang ang prublema mo. No caru? Have pumpkin for a coach! No dress? Bibbity-bobbity-boo RTW courtesy of fairy godmother’s wand. No julalays? Have rats and lizards turn into humans for a few hours. At gorabels na sa ball! Tugz tugs na si teh. Winner.

Well, I guess wala na naman akong magagawa sa tale as old as time na ito, with messaging as dangerous as shit, so I tried to focus on the finer points of the film while watching it. And it involved fixating on the stellar cast . I mean haller, Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmum pare. Dapat mag-usap sila ni Angelina Jolie mylab at gumawa ng Maleficent meets Cinderella’s Evil Stepmum movie pare! Patok sa takilya yun.

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If only for this scene, watch this film and see how this Academy Award-winning thespian makes bawi this forgettable story. Walang kupas!

I don’t know how much she was challenged in portraying this role, but she sure looked like she was having fun channeling filmic femme fatales for this role hehe. I don’t know but she reminded me of Marlene Dietrich in some scenes, while that emerging-from-the-dark scene confronting Cinderella and her glass slipper was just awesome. It felt like it didn’t belong in this film. Yes, that’s Branagh indeed, bumabawi si bakla lolz.

 

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Dietrich, meet Blanchett. Pero minsan rume-Rebecca rin ang peg ni ati so hmm ayan hodgepodge.

 

At kumusta naman din na andito ang alter-ego ni Bellatrix Lestrange in the form of Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of the Fairy Godmother. Again, I guess she was trying to find some deeper hugot of this character pero wala naman talagang mahuhugot dito. So I guess she had fun playing this “alter ego” hihihi. Yes, I get it: raket lang ito, kids. Sige, kelangang kumita paminsan-minsan.

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Uhm, Black Swan ba ituh lola Helena? It’s the wand, ano? Lolz. 

As for the notion of a happily ever after, I think there are many tales that have debunked this already, so maybe that’s why they decided to humanize the prince here, so he won’t be altogether 100% charming. By injecting some angst into him (i.e. I want to marry for love, not for political connections chenerz), we could now justify why he ran away from the ball and went bouncing after the belle in blue. Although that landian scene sa swing was a bit funny, and I detected a bit of sexual nuance here hehe. Puwede siyang symbolism for a one night stand kaya haller (i.e. landian blues then hawakan blues then takbuhan blues then ask si bakla ng “What is your name?” sa kalandian lolz yeah I’m overreading #bagotarepublic na by this point).

1893_PrinceCharming_CinderellaLiveAction_23

Ako lang ba ang bothered sa bakat ni boylet??? #himatay

Well, what more can I say? If you want to see a live action version of this Disney animated classic, then go ahead and watch this, if only for these superb actors. Other than that, just be prepared to guide impressionable young minds who might be watching this with you, and help them un-suspend their disbelief after watching this story. Yes, because they’ll need it, teh. K? K.

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of wrong timings and wasting time

Posted in comedy film, Hollywood dream factory, Philippine Cinema, sci-fi film on November 21, 2011 by leaflens

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).

Heniweyz…

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.

Go!

can I get caught between the moon and New York City instead?

Posted in film remakes, Hollywood dream factory on April 26, 2011 by leaflens

But no, I had to watch a remake of a film made 30 years ago, back when I was 8. Eight! Like eight years old eight, you know. I mean, if people need to age and grow, so do movies. Especially remakes.

Jeezus where do I begin?

ARTHUR (2011)

s. from the 1981 film-story by Steve Gordon

c. Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner and that Greta cutey girl

Pitch: Rich brat and drunkard British dude living in New York City gets conflicted when threatened with disinheritance if he doesn’t marry an alpha female businesswoman in the wake of waking up to the real world because of falling in love with an “ordinary woman” chorva.

Catch: Who died and appointed this Brand guy as funny? He should die again.

If you’re going to update a film, Hollywood, please update it in style. The 1981 version of ARTHUR starred actors with class. Hello Dudley Moore as Arthur? Sir John Gielgud as Hobson the “nanny” (or maybe man-ny in this case) and the, the Liza Minelli as the love interest. Yes, life was a cabaret in that film, man. And hands down, Dudley Moore is funny! Like one-liners galore funny, in the same thread and tradition of how Robin Williams is just a walking one-liner funny guy. Hm, when did comedy go out of style?

Oh yes, maybe this month. Like 2011.

Dudley Moore was better in playing a drunkard, a spoiled rich playboy, and a British dude.

Fine, granted that this remake has the Helen Mirren in it and a useless Jennifer Garner who could actually be better given a better role. But casting doesn’t seem to be the major problem of this film; it’s the story — the very outdated one.

Sure, I know there are still rich billionaires loitering around the world, specifically New York and oh let’s include Manila as well, who live off of their family’s riches by being playboys, buying expensive things, living the nightlife and loving no one in particular. But there has to be some kind of logic to it (or at least something deeper, more dramatic a premise) if these playboys will get disinherited. Merely saying that they cannot live the high life without the money doesn’t cut it anymore. There should be another motivation that will raise the stakes for such a storyline to take off. Oh I don’t know, like maybe let them discover that they are gay, for instance? Now that’s another story, di ba? Or give them more realistic conflicts like fathering dozens of children? Or they have to take over the family business against their wishes? I don’t know; I’m just pitching ideas here. But you get the drift — fluff up the conflicts!

And let’s face it; if these uber-rich bachelors of today are indeed bachelors of today, then they will also be into the latest technological gadgets like computers, video games (!!!) and other luxurious eccentricities, not merely collecting movie cars like the Batmobile or the time-traveling Delorean (which I’d like to actually own myself but I digress). But the playboy bachelor in this remake didn’t even know how to use a computer. Dude, they teach that in grade school and high school, right? And yes, we’re in 2011, folks. By now, I would have figured that he has wifi-powered his high-tech pad with 24/7 porn or something. You know, rich dude eccentricities. But no, all he has is a magnetic floating bed (which is cool BTW in fairness, I want this at home!) and a rotating lighted replica of the solar system (okay I want this at home, too!) on his ceiling. No computers. No technological extravagance like a huge plasma TV connected to some latest state-of-the-art gaming console. But he has a mini-movie theater inside his pad. And it’s grossly decorated with gold plants and stuff. Oh man, a disaster of production design that didn’t know how to characterize a character as well. That, or the art dept/director/writer are so hung up on nostalgia that they forgot to develop this film to fit the 21st century.

So what we get in this film remake is a flimsy excuse to show New York City scenery at its finest. If only for that, I prevented myself from dozing off from watching ridiculous plotline after ridiculous plotline. In my mind, I was like “Oooh hey I walked down that block/area (near Grand Central/Empire State bldg.) last year!” or “Oooh wow I was inside that building (MoMA) last year!” Yeah I re-lived my own NY nostalgia with this film, a good survival tactic for badly scripted movies.

with my friend A as we got caught between people and cars on the way to Times Square / March 2010 photo by x

So what’s essentially bad with the plotlines? The fact that it reeks of uncalled for patriarchal cliches, that’s what. With lines like “She will take care of you, Arthur” or something to that effect, it’s like the women in this film are born to take care and/or serve this prick lang. Bleh. This film had actually a lot of good potential to explore such heterosexual interplays in this day and age but sadly, it had to fall back to tired devices that don’t really excite story consumers anymore. Yeah in short, I don’t buy it!

I admire and find believable the original plot since the Arthur character had a father who was trying to disinherit him and he had a butler for a sidekick much like Bruce Wayne had Alfred. All patriarchal systems in check, and highly justified for the story it was trying to tell. Plus there’s a matriarch figure in the British family, and that’s a given because hey, they’re British? Hm. But remake that into the Arthur 2.0 with not a father but an alpha female mother figure who doesn’t exchange warm hugs but warm handshakes with her son (who has a change of heart towards the end, an uncalled for one), and then replace the butler sidekick with an aging British nanny (update this; even Prince William had a Filipino nanny. Just saying.), and you get an emasculated playboy who isn’t truly cute and lovable at all, but who actually acts like an idiot lang. Unlike the original Arthur who answers, when asked what is his job, he comically answers “I play tennis” and other lewd things you’d expect from such a character, the Arthur 2.0 just doesn’t do anything or give witty retorts. And he’s just characterized as an overgrown kid. Not bad if it’s created and played well but it falls flat here, and he just acts like an idiot lang. For instance, when given a job in a candy store, he can’t even focus when being given directions but wants to badly wear the candy mascot costume and thinks that’s the coolest job ever.  Geez, 21st century idiot at its finest. Truly unbelievable a character.

Of course he gets thrust pa with a love life dilemma of being between an alpha female in an arranged marriage (I mean come on! Who marries for business deals these days? If you’re using this plotline, please refer to the brilliantly written film SABRINA for pointers, both the original and the remake!) and a plain Jane of a girl who actually rides subways and eats pretzels in New York. Geez.

And if my blog post title is lost on you young ‘uns, it’s a reference to the nice theme song of the original movie sung by Christopher Cross, entitled “Arthur’s Theme.” Listen here. I miss songs like that; romantic in nature but not kill-me-sappy, unlike pop songs of today. Plus there are great lines pa. Yes, they had me at getting caught between the moon (an image I adore and respect) and New York City (a place I miss right now). Sankapa! But okay, they play a rocked up done-for-the-OST version of this song at the end. It still doesn’t cut it.

Hmp o siya that’s about it. Will just wait for better films next time. And better remakes.

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.

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!

and an Asian saves the U.S. caucasian’s ass!

Posted in Asians in Hollywood, graphic novel/comics to film, Hollywood dream factory, superhero films on January 20, 2011 by leaflens

…or in short, here’s my review of the first movie I saw for the year. And yes, sometimes I watch films accidentally, meaning I saw how horrendous the traffic was going home so I thought of killing time in a cool place and letting myself willingly suspend my disbelief for two hours or so in another time, place and dimension… aaah whatever. I’m blabbering. Just read my damn review. Chos. 😛

You missed this, didn’t you? Yeah I know you did. Admit it. Hahaha joke lang! 😛

GREEN HORNET

d. Michel Gondry

s. based on the radio serials eons ago when radio was da bomb, plus perhaps a whole lotta comics stuff and of course the TV series where *the* Bruce Lee played Kato

c. Seth Green, Jay Chou and some great actors who should headline more films with meatier roles but were wasted here like Edward Furlong, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson and Edward James Olmos

Pitch: happy go lucky son of newspaper mogul inherits real-world responsibilities and then turns into a bungling superhero that smartens up in the end (what else is fucking new???) but is always saved by the Asian dude who can do kung fu and other brainy tech things!!!! hay naku…

Catch: Michel Gondry! What were you thinking directing such crappola of a superhero film???????? You can do better than this! Write the damn script next time!

Okay please resuscitate Michel Gondry and make him make better films, films we were so used to, and we liked a lot because of their brilliance and their heart! Not familiar? Think ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and this super-funny “small” film BE KIND, REWIND which was so freaking hilarious even Jack Black was tempered here in order to fit the film. Read my review of that film in a previous incarnation.

And why do we need to slap Gondry here? Because this is the worst superhero film I’ve seen in my life!!! And he is such a freaking cool filmmaker. And that says a lot because I love watching superhero-themed films because I always like to see how they will treat the hero-ness of the “hero” and how they will explore his/her demons and travails and such before becoming a hero. (Plus I also like to escape to that comics-inspired visually appealing world of having extraordinary powers — another ball of discourse altogether; some other time. :P) But of course, that all depends on how the filmmakers handle the material as well, especially the story, like how Christopher Nolan just handled THE DARK KNIGHT with such sheer freaking genius, with the help of the late great Heath Ledger of course, goddess bless his beautiful tormented soul. Or how Joel Schumacher just treated the George Clooney starrer BATMAN AND ROBIN so fucking queerly heheh. But I digress.

First off, I never could really remember the Green Hornet character Brett Reid as this happy-go-lucky super-konyo rich kid who was just wasting his precious time on earth with things that don’t matter to the world, like getting laid, partying all night with booze and not contributing anything substantial to the world. And then he gets thrust with the super-responsibility of being mature?????? Hay, characterization fail! Sorry but I grew up watching bits and pieces of the Green Hornet TV series reruns of the ’60s (replayed in the ’80s) where our coolest Asian idol of all time, one inch punch kung fu master Bruce Lee, starred as the caucasian superhero’s sidekick. Funny that I don’t remember much about the Green Hornet’s antics but I remember most of the Bruce Lee antics, especially the fight scenes. Well maybe it’s because growing up, I was such a martial arts fan (and trying hard practitioner, my asthma notwithstanding/hurdling) and I grew up watching many Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan martial arts-laden films, so I remember these things more than the other aspects.

But still, I don’t remember the Green Hornet being this stupidly crazy and bungling like how Seth characterized him. I actually remember him as some sort of simple yet somewhat Bruce Wayne-like-ish dapper dude. It was a huge disappointment for me. And this film reeks of a lot of uber-problematic discourses that I don’t even know where to begin! But okay, since there is an Asian in the cast, let’s start with the issue of race.

This Kato character, obviously having a huge deference to the Bruce Lee character, was thrice referenced with the Bruce Lee homage, where first, he was characterized as an artist who drew sketches of his tech designs and innovations while at the same time making figure drawings of humans like Bruce Lee.  Second reference was seen when he was seen “practicing” kung fu moves a la Bruce Lee in the Black Beauty car while his stupid American caucasian boss was busy making a fool of himself outside. Third reference was the actual one-inch punch Bruce Lee was identified with and he actually did that during the rising action-to-climax scene where he met up with the thugs at the restaurant scene outside. For non-Bruce Lee fans, the one-inch punch is where one would make a fist and hit an opponent from one inch distance yet the punch is soooooo fucking powerful that even with just a one-inch distance, the opponent hit would freaking fly in orbit when hit! Yes, Bruce Lee could really do that and that was a big “secret” of his. But obviously, for this film, the one-inch punch was shot with state-of-the-art filmaking technology–meaning shot not in close-up and using wire harnesses to have the opponents fly to the air when punched. Sorry, I’m in on your special visual effects secrets, Hollywood! Been there, done that!

Anyways, aside from this, I was sooooo fucking offended as to how the white dude just treated the Asian dude with such disdain and disrespect that he was treated as just another fucking stupid non-excellent English-speaking Asian immigrant who makes up for this lack by his excellent display of sheer genius in designing technologically-advanced gadgets and stuff like the awesome car, the cool weaponry, and other awesome stuff only Asians in America could possibly think of, since Asians as a race are all lumped together in one minority category anyway and hence assigned this stereotypical Hollywood trait of being mathematically and scientifically gifted, even with their English being not so excellent. And how about that stupid pa-intellectual joke when Kato was narrating his back story as a youth growing up in Shanghai (in China!) then the stupid Brett slips that Shanghai is in Japan! What the fuck! That’s not even remotely funny! Sorry but any arrogant display of stupidity isn’t funny to me. Go back to world geography class, dude!

And by the way, why did they have to treat the Asian in a non-sexual way (again!), like he was the one whom the white chick Lenore character of Cameron was obviously interested in, but the fucking white supremacy of the Brett character just *had* to insert his way in that equation, again promoting that stereotypical sexless desire-less asexual Asian minority. Hay… like Fil-Am Jessica Hagedorn’s pioneering diaspora entitled fiction anthology echoed, Charlie Chan is Dead, you white American non-Asian immigrant loving Hollywood dudes! Get with the freaking diaspora program!

Yeah, it sucks big time that way. I should have bought more fucking popcorn!!! Sorry but this was a freaking superhero film! I wanted to be entertained! Waaah I should have just went on free wifi somewhere in Gateway Cubao and watched online porn!!! Nubeh!!!!

But as an aside, it’s also cool to note that the original origins of the Kato character is not even Chinese, or Japanese, but freaking Filipino! Okay I know it’s in wikipedia but still, the reference to Kato being of Filipino descent is fucking awesome to me!  Hm so maybe that bit about nunchucks, which is a Japanese weapon if I am not mistaken, could have been arnis altogether, which is a Filipino martial arts practice/weapon, and actually my martial arts of choice (practiced it before and will pick it up again really really soon! Excited!).

And don’t even get me started with how they wasted real talent here, like the pretty Cameron Diaz who actually had better roles than this one, and with her character being sexually taunted all the time!!! Sorry but other superhero films treated women better! Aaaahhh! And no, sorry, that “I will sue you for sexual harassment” bit towards the end doesn’t count for female empowerment of a character! She was still treated here as a freaking bimbo! I mean, where else in Hollywood fiction land would a 32-year old journalism major with a minor in criminology apply for a temp secretarial job serving a good-for-nothing dickhead!!! She should have been Lois fucking Lane by that point in her professional career!!! Anubeh! Aaaaahhh my feminist film practitioner sensibilities smart!!!!!! Where’s the fucking popcorn!!!!

And the there’s Edward Furlong, he of the TERMINATOR 2 film kid, who turned out to be such a talent in AMERICAN HISTORY X (super-genius acting sessions here with another underrated actor, Edward “The Fight Club” Norton), and even that bout of his in CSI New York as the brother of a killed bartender. Oh my freaking goodness, how could you waste a talent like that and cast him as a fucking ordinary drug dealer who owns a meth lab and then gets killed by the drug lord after like 5 minutes of screen time!!!! Injustice!!!! He should have played the Green Hornet!!!! Fiercely! Like how Heath played The Joker!!! Fiercely!!!! Hay…

Puso mo, Bayli… breathe in, breathe out… wax on… wax off…

And do I even have to point out the stupid bromance moments that turned homophobic here (i.e. many references to man-on-man “more than friends/brotherly” love which were made into punchlines that weren’t remotely hilarious to begin with, but fucking homophobic and sexist)? No. Such a fucking waste of time.  And please please please, don’t watch this on freaking 3D cinema like I did. Waste of money.

In all, you can do better without this crappola. Watch another movie. Maybe that Angeline Jolie-Johnny Depp starrer. Okay will report back when I’ve seen that one, okay?

But for now, there’s only one thing I could say about this: NEXT!

Megaqueer! No kidding, kids! :)

Posted in animated (3D) film, Hollywood dream factory on November 11, 2010 by leaflens

I don’t know about you but this film just shouts queer! queer! queer! to me hehe. That, or I’m overreading hehe. If Judith Butler’s ideas came to life, wore tights and a cape, they’d be Megamind! Hahaha I kid you not. Chos.

Heniwey, here goes.

MEGAMIND

p. Dreamworks

music. Hans Zimmer and another dude or dudette

ep. Ben Stiller and a bunch of other dudes

creative consultant. Guillermo del Toro and some others

c. (voice) Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt

Pitch: A supervillain seeks a new challenge when he finally overcomes his superhero nemesis, and takes a turn for some, um, change. Ek. Whatevs.

Catch: This film’s subtext is not for kids!!! I was laughing harder than the kids in front of me! Hahaha! Not that that’s a bad thing, but… I’m just saying.

Heniwey, yeah, it’s true. I was laughing harder than those pesky 4-year olds in the row in front of me who won’t sit down and hence their heads were like bobbing up and down, distracting me in the beginning. Yes my sitting arrangement in the cinema is included in my film review heheh.

But like I said, this film is not for kids much like UP wasn’t either. This one has queerness written all over it. And no, I’m not just biased because I’m queer. Jeez. Let me count the ways?

1 – Megamind is blue! Um, can you say blue balls? Like he’s the personification of some uber-repressed (erotic) longing and (sexual) desire that, due to years of non-release, turned him the way he is. And that head shape of his, looks like an inverted… well, figure it out. I rest my case. Hehe.

And then of course there are those supervillain gadget thingies which are mostly phallic in design. And then there’s a piece of a city landmark that gets thrown at Megamind in a battle which also looks phallic… Well, I’m just saying. Too many pointy things in this movie.

Well, the thing is, there’s this rivalry between Megamind who just took over the designated “bad guy” role in a story because the designated “good guy” role was already taken by his (future) nemesis even if , later on, we will discover that they have other roles they want to play in their life other than the ones designated for them, no less by society. Plus they mention “he’s the yin in my yang” at least twice. Read between the lines, right??? Hmmmm, talk about gender as performance. How about superhero-ness/villainy as performance? More of that later.

And that scene where he was not chosen to be part of a play team during his school days (it was a choice between him and a kid with disability who was eventually chosen over him) somehow reminds me of stories surfacing these days about how gay kids are constantly bullied in school at a young age. I dunno. Maybe that’s just me.

2 – Metro Man is white! Looks shiny and gooey kind of white, kinda like what gay guys excrete when… oh shoot I watch too much MSM gay porn huh? Next! 😛

No seriously, Metro Man’s portrayal here was so over the top good guy that when you look at it, he looks like he’s “peacock-ing” you know? Like how gay guys would strut and stuff during White Parties at Malate. I dunno. Maybe that’s just me.

3 – That “Loving You” song! You know, Loving you/is easy ’cause you’re beautiful... That song. There’s a scene where Megamind’s assistant Minion would play bad-ass music in an ’80s-’90s style boombox in an anticipated battle with Metro Man. But when he mistakenly presses another button, the lines of the song “Loving You” plays instead, obviously ruining the bad-ass villainy moment. Yes, up to the part where it says lalalalala/lalalalala/lalalalala la la la la lala. I’m sorry but that song is just so queer to me hehe. And they repeat this like twice!

4 – That final battle when another supervillain arises and Megamind battles him, in full costumed glory, complete with super-mega-sparkly shiny balls mosaic-type designs of his face in the sky, where he comes out from the mouth area, specifically the tongue, and says to the other one “You can never be a supervillain because there’s one thing you lack” or something to that effect. When the other asks “What?” Megamind answers “PRESENTATION!”

Bongga lang teh! Hahaha. Like I said, performance!!!!

And more of that performance thing, how about that supervillain watch gadget which Megamind uses to turn himself into other human forms he wants to imitate for a specific purpose, like the jail warden (when he escapes), the museum nerdy guy (to escape the reporter girl’s detection) and the mother of all performances — to turn himself into Metro Man.

Uh huh. Queer, huh? Hm. 😛

Well, I’m just having fun with this review because I obviously had fun watching this. I thought this will be your run-of-the-mill 3D animation film but after the first 20 minutes of the film, you’ll never know where the story would take you. That’s somehow refreshing to see. Not so new, but refreshing, kinda like how THE INCREDIBLES was refreshing back then. But that, to me, was also new, in terms of the kind of story it was trying to tell.

But as I said, the subtext is not for kids. Or maybe even some of the things mentioned in the obvious context. I’m sure the 4-year olds in front of me didn’t laugh when Minion asked something like “What’s wrong?” and Megamind answered something like “I’m having an existential moment here” or something like that. I dunno but I just laughed. Benta, teh! Hehe.

Plus again, I like the introduction of some science stuff here, Hollywood’s favorite being Tesla coils of late, like what they did in THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE, remember? At least let’s hope the 4-year olds would nudge their mom and say “What’s a Tesla coil?” and their mum would answer “Read your science books!” Yay for education!

And this, children, is the Tesla coil. Oh, and that's my sister. Took this at Griffith Observatory in California, April 2010.

Well, that’s about it. Just have fun. Don’t mind me. And if you see the things I saw in this film, well… Enjoy? Enjoy! Hehe.

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