Attack of the Klonk

A Star Wars fan speaks out. Kind of.

And in the spirit of continued bashing, and so as not to tire the people reading the other thread, here's somthing someone posted in another forum that I'd like to share with you:

(I'd like to see a Star Wars' fan's assessment of the film that is sensible and coherent enough to impress me. I haven't seen one yet.)

This film makes the first three movies better. You can't watch this movie without the first three in the back of your mind, and the mythological significance of the first three in the back of the back of your mind. This is not an easy film. It is not for the weak-minded. It is plot saturated, uncompromisingly deep, and it is ciphered in the language of subtlety - the meat of the film is impressionistic, occluded, and fragile. At times it is as elusively open-ended and coded as Muholland Falls, but without the funky narrative warps. The implications of every twist and turn extend before the movie, after the movie, and beyond the movie. It is a rich film, and if you go to end just to have a fun ride you'll miss out entirely.

 So what happened with the original--no, the first three star wars flicks? They're lesser films because there's less seriousness to them?

You must prepare to leave with questions, lots of questions, and you must get ready to concentrate for two hours in a wild and rooty rain forest of plot. While watching it, I was catapulted into a narrative that left me without predictions.

Pretty weak with the predictions--everything was pretty much telegraphed about fifteen minutes in advance. I even knew that Yoda was going to kick ass (it was the point in time and the music that cued me--the worm was about to turn).

I was making false starts, reexamining characters, trying to decide where blame should fall, and I was tingling because of the blossoms of high road symbolism and the mythological undertones.


The Seventh Seal--heck, about 60% of Bergman. Faust (Svankmajer and Murnau). Excalibur. Almost anything by Dennis Potter. Krzysztof Kieslowski. Anything by Bunel and Godard. Emir Kustarica.

That's just off the top of my head. If I really wanted to exert the effort, I'm sure I can come up with a page or two...

This film is full of echoing stanzas, parallels and parables - but they are not delivered to you on a silver platter. They are embedded. Even the architecture contains signifigance.

It kept screaming at me "I'M NOT REAL! I'M NOT REAL!!!" That seemed pretty significant.

I imagine many people will see this movie and think 'needlessly byzantine' and then promptly shelve it,

Never occured to me at all. Dumb, yes. Corny, yes. Flat, yes. Oh, I could go on all night...

 or get bogged down in the action and figure that that's the point, that's why they are expected to enjoy it. What they won't realize is that this film is as demanding as any of the art-house movies that have come out in the last twenty years.

He's SEEN every art house film of the last twenty years? I doubt that very much.

It is also one of the first movies to create a macro-political scope that harmonizes with the personal dramatic narratives of the main characters.

The Godfather. Visconti's The Leopard. Land of the Pharoahs. Spartacus. Intolerance, though clumsily. Nausicaa, of the Valley of the Wind. Princess Mononoke. Underground.

The list is almost endless. In fact, I'd argue the ONLY epics worth watching are those that "create a macro-political scope that harmonizes with the personal dramatic narratives of the main characters. "

They blend in and out of each other uniformly. You get to watch the movie from below and above. Dimly, you see how whole plot arcs and 'good guy' victories could just be the progress of a hidden villain, and in the grave silence throbbing under everything you find all the threads in conclusion. You don't know who is good, who is evil, who is right, who is wrong; and every good intention and Jedi confidence is in the shadow of certain corruption, but nothing in the movie ever admits this to you. The Jedi assume falsely that the enemy will not come from within - and thus they betray their own principles. "The Dark side clouds everything", says Yoda, and he means it. There is no enemy here, only tragic figures sealing their own fates.

The closer you look at Episode II and the more effort you put into trying to understand it, whether politically, symbolically, or mythologically; the more rewarding it will be. It is best to take a classical approach to this film. Read it like the Iliad,

You know, the Iliad is more color, imagination, fun, drama, violence, and non-stop action than this film. Has HE read the Iliad, or did he try the Comics Illustrated version? Maybe he saw it on the Hallmark Channel?

not like a sci-fi popcorn-chomping show. The film is as layered as you allow it to be, and riddled with gems and clues and cold cold very cold intimations. I have a feeling that this film will be misunderstood and that lots of intelligent folks will ignore the invitation to get enmeshed in dark matter of Clones, glossing it over instead and ridiculing it as a sappy movie with a tangled too-ambitious plot. They'd be right, but they are allowing themselves to miss out. The accurate judgement about the gross mistakes and stupidities in the film can fog your mind and obscure the much more important and delicate triumph of Attack of the Clones. (Read this last sentence again after you see the movie. Yeah? Yeah.) A movie like this has not been done before - it is a one of a kind. People will have a hard time with it if they refuse to re-categorize it. You have to erect some new standards in order to judge this one.

I tried--Lord knows I tried.

Half way through the film, I thought I had been let down - but the movie is haunting me, burrowing, worming in.

That sounds serious. Has he taken something for that?

Digestion and interpretation is revealing its true colors.

The DVD had a bootlegged quality to it. It was far better than many bootlegs, but the picture was still dirty. Unexpectedly, this almost improved the movie for me on my second screening. I couldn't be blitzkrieged by the special effects. It was just gritty enough to muddle the distinction between CGI and reality, and that made quite a difference as I watched it. The dirty resolution even seemed to make the wooden lines seem warranted and natural. I'm not sure why this is.

I suppose, in order to understand Star Wars, you might have to be a certain kind of person. Someone with a feeling for epic drama and mythopoetry who can have a semblance of piety and sensitivity to the underlying gnosis in contemporary mythology.

Someone like that just upchucked this movie like an maggoty piece of pork meat. That must account for all the burrowing being felt.

(guide by Dragon Monkey)


Letter from Pierre Rissent in Cannes

dear Tikoy (Aguiluz), Laurice Guillen, Mara and Jose F. Lacaba, Mike de Leon, Doy del Mundo,

it was a real pleasure to meet with Laurice and Doy in Singapore.

Almost upon my arrival in Paris, Olivier Père in charge today of the Director's fortnight with a a young team invited me for a screening of the new film of Mario O' Hara which he had just invited.

It is probably very personal but looking at the film was like living again all the happenings of the late seventies and the early eighties as well the makings of the films in the streets and the slums, the evenings of PETA at Fort Santiago, the screenings at LVN, the giant political rallyes, the vaudeville disputes with the censorship, the film of Mario reflects and
chronicles all of that and more - and certainly the music track is nostalgic.

I also remembered all the technical difficulties which we had to overcome, printing, subtitling and this is also why I am writing this e-mail fax - in whatever capacity you can, please contribute to make this comeback at Cannes in the section, where "Insiang" and Mike's films came, as successful as
possible - and it will be a celebration of Lino and Hammy who would have rejoiced the event, a celebration of CineManila as well as of "Maynila" ("Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag" (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975).

The young gentlemen of the Quinzaine did not know that Tikoy named his Festival from the company which produced "Tinimbang" ("Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang" (You Were Judged But Found Wanting, 1974), maybe Doy could write a note about it, Pete about the political turmoils, Mike about the role of LVN, Laurice as an early collaborator of Mario, Tikoy as a young spectator.

Maybe all of you together will convince Mario, who I believe is afraid to fly, to make an exception.

In France, we are still a few to remember those great moments, we shall all be happy to welcome him, hoping that the Filipino film industry will start again, look at what has happened in the recent years in Korea and Thailand. There are signals in Sri Lanka, where Lester James Peries at 82 made a great classical film, and Malaysia of something new, nothing would make more happy Francisco Baltazar, Jose Rizal, Gerardo de Leon, Lino, Ishmael and Hammy if the same happens within the Philippine Islands.

-Pierre Rissent

5 favorite science fiction films

God Told Me To (Larry Cohen)

Because when you have a premise like God is alive and living somewhere in downtown Manhattan, you have to be a great science fiction film.

Metropolis (Fritz Lang)

Because it's one of the greatest pieces of world-building ever; because of its images of oppressed men, working like the parts of a gigantic machine--images that, to Lang's horror, would later inspire fellow world-builder Adolf Hitler.

Solaris (Tarkovsky)

Because Tarkovsky creates out of an orbiting space station one of the most desolate haunted houses I've ever seen; because he makes compelling drama not out of outer but of inner space (set, just to confuse the issue, in outer space).

La Jetee (Chris Marker)

Because at forty minutes it's possibly the most sheerly beautiful science fiction film I've ever seen--a series of still images, cut together, telling the story of a time-travelling man's life coming to a full circle.

Nausicaa, of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki)

Because it's that rare creature, ecological science fiction; because its science is more solid than in most anime; because it features that most difficult of all heroines to portray (in an interesting manner)--the truly good person--and because, rarest of all but especially in science fiction, it's so moving. This would be my favorite, I think.



Throw in another observation here: essentially, spectacle films have been taken over by computer animation, the digitalized monster son of traditional animation. That's all special effects really are, nowadays, highly realistic computer animation. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Spiderman, even Troy...computer animation holds sway over all.

That's why the animation in Shrek and Finding Nemo seem so unimpressive: because they did better work with the hobbit movies.


King Kong vs. Jason and the Argonauts

King Kong has better stop-motion than Lost World; Mighty Joe Young's is better than Kong's, and Jason and the Argonauts' is best and most ambitious of all...but for some strange reason, I love Kong. I don't know why, maybe it's the iconic imagery--giant ape atop world's most famous phallic symbol, holding peroxide blond in one hand...I don't know. I did notice that when I saw Kong on TCM recently, damn but it's fast-paced; it just goes along like a bullet. You have to have quick eyes to notice how beautiful the imagery really is...

I don't think anything beats Kong. Jason is the best of the lot, after Kong, and is its clear superior as to stop motion technique, but...no, nothing beats Kong.


Why O'Hara wasn't in Cannes

No kidding:


Incidentally, Breakwater will reportedly go to Brussels International (not Independent--there is a difference) Film Festival and to New Delhi.

Sentieri Selvaggi on Breakwater

Anyone know Italian?


"Breakwater" in the Inquirer

The REAL news in this article is:




The Lost World (1925)

Willis O'Brien's The Lost World is a wonder of an adventure movie, even 79 years later. The dinosaurs are primitive beyond belief, and you can see O'Brien is a prisoner of the limits of the stop-motion process, to the point that he doesn't have much leeway in choosing shot angles and lighting for his creatures (the visuals would be much better in the 1933 King Kong).

Still, the creatures have charm and stand out as characters--you see a Triceratops nuzzling its young after fending off a predator, you see an Allosaurus (what, no T-Rex?) looking at a loss after a Brontosaurus it intended to eat for dinner plummets from a cliff (it pauses at cliff's edge, as if not sure what it'll do next). Even better, since the movie's based on the Arthur Conan Doyle book (he makes a short appearance in the beginning), it's paleontologically accurate: the Brontosaurus is a passive plant eater, for one thing (unlike in King Kong, where he chased the explorers across the jungle). The human story is funny and and engaging and doesn't get too much in the way of the effects.

Great fun, though you have to realize what kind of effect this must have had on its audience then: people were so naive about cinema that they panicked when a train approached the camera and seemed about to crash into them. The Lost World must have seemed like a documentary, an actual window into another world.


Shrek 2

Saw it, enjoyed it less than expected. Basically I liked it, but it could have done with a stronger villain (Rupert Everett and John Cleese are wasted, I think), less songs, more jokes, I don't know. I miss the Eisner bashing, maybe it needed a target it could really hate.

The Spongebob Squarepants movie looks like it rocks, though.

The Southerner

Charles Burnett once told me of a film professor who once lectured on false portrayals on films, and mentioned Jean Renoir's The Southerner as an egregious example. Which surprised him--he thought the film was great and entirely accurate. Needless to say, he's from the South (born in Vicksburg, Mississippi) himself.


Laputa, Castle in the Sky

Laputa: Castle in the Sky, in a way, is Miyazaki's repudiation of his own love of flying--what's important is not that crystal at the heart of the castle (flight), but the tree with roots holding the whole thing together (groundedness).

Plus Mooska is one of the rare real villains in Miyazaki's feature films (and outside of his manga), a genuine sadist (he gloats at the death of thousands and threatens to shoot Sheeta's ears off) and he's dealt with appropriately--considering Miyazaki's a filmmaker, to whom eyes must be indispensable, that's as cruel a punishment as he probably can think of.

Great adventure film, one of the greatest.

Angel finale

Oy, actually caught the Angel finale. Talk about blue balls, though I kind of like it that they had the brass to end it that way. Kind of loses something when you know practically zilch about what's happening, tho.

Even then, it was fun. Been finishing up the replays of Buffy. Then one of these days, I tackle The Sopranos.

Am reading Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. Feh. These cyberpunkers, they can't write.


Once more with Passion

From pollywog, of Pinoyexchange:


Oh yes! Oh, this is good--really good. Well written, balanced, with valid criticisms. Well done!

I would point out several serious flaws to the article, however:

1) He mentions the use of Anne Catherine Emmerich but doesn't deal with the problem of her anti-Semitism, or the authenticity of her writings. And he doesn't mention Brentano.

2) He doesn't mention the places where the movie departs from the guidelines on presentation of passion narratives, or how it contradicts the Catholic church's Nostra Aetate, cut-and-pasting gospel narratives to present a MORE anti-Jewish portrait than the gospels have themselves (he also doesn't mention the fact that while passion dramatizations are common, they are also commonly and historically anti-Jewish).

3) He compares the movie (correctly, I think) to the anti-Semitism of Jesus Christ, Superstar; and while it's true Gibson cast a Jew for Jesus mother, Jesus himself is NOT played by a Jewish actor (just like in Superstar), and as I've noted before, all the sympathetic Jews and gentiles are already proto-Christians (Pilate, Simon). Anyone struggling to retain the integrityh of orthodox Judaism is unremittingly evil.

I'd also add that Superstar mitigates the anti-Jewish flavor by presenting more of Christ than Passion does; that is, he shows how much Christ is a troublemaker and revolutionary, and provided Caiaphas with a motive--a reasonable, understandable one--for wanting him dead.

In short, he's seen the movies, and considered the thoughts, but he hasn't quite reasoned them out.

4) As for pornography...this guy hasn't seen much porn, I would guess. He talks about porn titillating, and good porn does that (bad porn just baldly shows it all); soft-core porn, especially of the Japanese kind (the "roman porno" or "pinku" films) will, like the scourging sequence, turn away from the, uh, bald facts to tease you into wanting to see more.

As a matter of fact, I've seen better made "pinku" films, films that tease and tease with sex, in a more imaginative and oblique manner, and actually show subtle performances and maybe even say something about the human condition, than Passion does with violence.

And there's also the time spent dwelling on various details, a necessary tactic to allow the porn viewer to, uh, achieve satisfaction . Passion clearly shows the same kind of strategies.

As the writer himself admits, he is probably an innocent. I like to think that says more in his favor as a person than not, but it does undermine his arguments against the movie's pornographic elements.


The Absolute Pitt

Pitt was good in Seven

I thought Morgan Freeman was pretty good, and even (gasp) Gwyneth Paltrow in her one scene opposite Freeman; I thought Fincher created a nicely textured little world, no small thanks to Darius Khondji. The script was pretty silly tho.

You could see his limitations in the scene where he (SPOILERS) realizes what's in the box. All Freeman had to do was point his eyes to the heavens, and you could appreciate the full weight of the tragedy. Pitt looked like someone drew a fork across the side of his car.

Pitt's was the kind of guy who thinks getting his paintjob scratched is a tragedy. Shallow and superficial.

Yeah, Pitt's character's supposed to be shallow, but I thought his grief shouldn't be. It was supposed to be his moment of transcendence, when he goes beyond shallowness (y'know--"become Wrath" and all that). After all, that thing in the box is supposed to be important.

Cruise I liked in Magnolia, tho I didn't like the movie.


Historical accuracy

Personally, I usually look at a movie if it works as a movie first. If it doesn't, then all the accuracy in the world doesn't guarantee my liking it; if it does, that goes a long way towards my forgiving its inaccuracies.

So it's more of a case-to-case basis for me. Troy is so bad it's not even worth discussing; The Quiet American has good things, flawed things in it; Gibson's movie upends the message of Christ to the point that it's a Mel Gibson movie (pain and not love will set you free) and anti-Jewish. Birth of a Nation and Triumph of the Will I can appreciate as great filmmaking the same time I appreciate that they are gross and horrendous distortions of of history (Gibson's movie is also a gross distortion; difference is, it's not even good). There's no simple answer.


More Troy

Well, The Iliad was more about Achilles than anyone else. But then, Homer's The Iliad was an exciting and colorful epic. This is Bush Goes to Troy with a happy ending (it even has scenes of prisoner abuse--okay, they're dead, but still...).

i think Pitt's a good actor. is he as good as penn or depp? maybe not.

Penn did some good things early in his career; nowadays it's as if he never knew the meaning of the word "understated." Depp is brilliant at choosing his roles, but sometimes, as in Donnie Brasco, you see the difference between a smart and somewhat talented performer and a great actor like Pacino.

Pirates and that  Mexico movie shows he has a gift for redeeming crappy material. That's a talent of sorts.

Pitt--well, he's funny in Snatch, I'll give him that.

Pitt was good in Seven

I thought Morgan Freeman was pretty good, and even (gasp) Gwyneth Paltrow in her one scene opposite Freeman; I thought Fincher created a nicely textured little world, no small thanks to Darius Khondji. The script was pretty silly tho.

You could see his limitations in the scene where he (SPOILERS) realizes what's in the box. All Freeman had to do was point his eyes to the heavens, and you could appreciate the full weight of the tragedy. Pitt looked like someone drew a fork across the side of his car.

Pitt's was the kind of guy who thinks getting his paintjob scratched is a tragedy. Shallow and superficial.

This doesn't necessarily make Pitt a good actor, it just means that he happened to fit that role. Similar to Tom Cruise playing a superficial prick who throws money at his obstacles in Eyes Wide Shut.

Yeah, Pitt's character's supposed to be shallow, but I thought his grief shouldn't be. It was supposed to be his moment of transcendence, when he goes beyond shallowness (y'know--"become Wrath" and all that). After all, that thing in the box is supposed to be important.

Cruise I liked in Magnolia, tho I didn't like the movie.




Saw it. Editing is fairly clean, (no strobe flashing), but the camera is too close in to see a lot of the close combat. Again, Western filmmakers should take their cue from the Hong Kong filmmakers (Tsui Hark would have done a better job, I think), who in turn took their cue from classic '50s Hollywood musical filmmakers--action is dance, and the choreography should be crystal clear.

As for Pitt--eh, he does well, considering. His schtick in Twelve Monkeys was the most annoying thing about it (anyone saw the Chris Marker orignal?), and he's usually best in comic roles--the flash in Thelma and Louise, the funny gypsy bit in Snatch (which I otherwise didn't like). Interview for a Vampire would be a classic thanks to Philippe Rousselot and Neil Jordan, but you have to turn the volume down so you don't hear the dialogue--Cruise and Pitt play the world's most wearisome gay couple.

It's BIG. And unimaginative. Homer's estate should sue for the use of his name in the publicity. This is Safe As Houses epic filmmaking, in the Stanley Kramer vein. Even as popcorn fare, it lacks crispness (it's 2 hours and 43 bloated minutes, for crying out loud...).


Talk about Dogville

>Well, the film clearly isn't intended as realism

No, I suppose the anti-Americanism is there to be purely provocative (it doesn't come out of any recognizable or legitimate source of complaint that I can see--mostly I think from hearsay, secondhand). Which is why I enjoyed it as it is, hanging there, a piece of masturbation really, with no real connection to reality (not exactly a bad thing: I like masturbatory pieces as much as any--maybe more than most).

>Alienation, presumably

The Brechtian mode, presumably. Brecht did it with labeled objects and idealized, unparticularized locatons, props, characters, something Von Triers tries to do here. Then he adds the jump-cut editing, which isn't really called for--we already have the Brecht devices, we're already alienated.

The editing style seems more of a fallback to his previous style from Breaking the Waves onwards, a sort of default style. It's a nice way of evoking verite cinema that isn't really verite cinema, but when doing what is essentially a theater piece, well, I don't think it makes sense.

As for the camera style--some critic called "fluid" but it's more woozy than anything, swish pans when they aren't really called for, more calling attention to itself than trying to create a point of view. Actually I prefer Thomas Vinterberg's handling of the camera in The Celebration (tho I thought that was also conceptually and psychologically a fraud--maybe my favorite Doggie Style filmmakers aren't really Dogme filmmakers, the Dardannes brothers, Belgians who just make their movies, and don't do fancy ironic publicity campaigns while making them).



Finally saw Lars Von Trier's Dogville, three hours of Nicole Kidman being dragged through the mud.

And what can I say? I've no problem with the anti-Americanism, I enjoy a piece of anti-American diatribe as well as anybody, more than most, but I don't think the movie is about condemning American capitalism at all; I think those who cry 'anti-American' are doing so for the wrong reasons. The America on view here is unrecognizable--the people talk like they're speaking translated English, with a huge dollop of pretension, and they behave and think like they're from another planet. I think when you take aim at any target--the Catholic Church, white European culture, America the Plentiful--you got to know what you're talking about; you got to know your target, and take accurate aim. Von Triers doesn't know what he's talking about, and doesn't really care; the ostensible target was picked because it was big and obvious.

The film is stylized--ho boy, is it ever stylized. People mention Thornton Wilder, but another inspiration I'd say is Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller, where another set of strangers converge on a village full of hypocrisy and prejudice (only the villagers in Altman's film are recognizably Americans). And Altman's a useful name to bring up--Von Trier's set is as beautiful as anything I've seen recently, beautifully lit, with subtle lighting effects that suggest the many variations of weather, and he chops up that beautiful space and set with nervy jump cuts and wildly swinging handheld shots. Why go for an open-space set when you cut up all that space with your editing? That's Von Trier's perversity speaking, and in this case I think it doesn't work.

The actors are mainly very strong, but they don't play characters that make sense--though Patricia Clarkson and Miles Purinton (who plays her eldest son) stand out. Kidman is perhaps the prettiest doll Von Trier has gotten his hands on to date, but her character here remains pretty and doll-like, despite the abuse, and by film's end her character leaves the realm of human plausibility altogether. There are several scenes that show Von Triers gift for depicting emotional torture--Purinton, Stellan Skarsgard, and Clarkson by turns tormenting Nicole Kidman--but the impact comes from the sheer ferocity of the acting, not from any understanding of the character's personalities or of how ordinary humans interact.

So while this is a very entertaining--though at three hours rather overlong--piece of dog turd, it's not very believable; the moral and dramatic shocks are fun even hilarious, but have no weight. I've enjoyed my coprophilic meal, but it left me wanting something more substantial and satisfying.


Lav Diaz and Khavn de la Cruz win Hubert Bals Grants

Lav Diaz (Batang West Side (West Side Avenue, 2001), Hesus Rebolusyunaryo (Jesus the Revolutionary, 2002)) and Khavn de la Cruz (Pugot (Headless)) both won Hubert Bals grants for script development, a prize of about 9,000 Euros.

An interview with Lav Diaz:


Batang West Side (article on the 3 hour version):


Hesus Rebolusyunaryo




Fawlty Towers

Just saw again the first four episodes of John Cleese's wonderful, wonderful Fawlty Towers, the dysfunctional hotel run by the inimitable Basil Fawlty (Cleese), and his battle-wagon wife, Sybil (Prunella Scales). Amazing how many belly laughs and guffaws the show can still inspire, and this is probably my third or fourth viewing (still, it's been years).

Even more amazing is the short documentary on the real Basil Fawlty--Donald Sinclair, manager and owner of the Gleneagle, an ex Navy commander who (as Ray Marks, present manager of the Gleneagle puts it) thought running the Gleneagle "would have been a wonderful job, if it wasn't for the guests. The guests spoiled his job."

According to legend, the Monty Python troupe once booked rooms at the Gleneagle, in the seaside town of Torquay; they still remember some of the things Sinclair did to them there. Pythoner Eric Idle carried an alarm clock inside his briefcase at the hotel reception; when Sinclair heard the ticking he said "My God, there's a bomb in there!" and threw it off a cliff. Later, Pythoner Terry Gilliam sat down to a meal and ate American style, cutting up the food first before picking up the pieces with his fork; Sinclair, passing by, picked up Gilliam's knife and snapped "we don't eat like that here!"

Eventually the entire Python troupe moved to another hotel--all except Cleese, who stayed. Apparently, he thought there was an idea for a TV show here somewhere.

It wasn't only the Pythoners that suffered; one guest asked for a drink at the bar, to which Sinclair replied by slamming down the grill and saying "the bar's closed." When his friend invited him to a nearby hotel to drink, Sinclair informed him that if he isn't back by 11 pm, the front door will be locked. He comes back late, and just as Sinclair threatened, the front door was locked. "This is ridiculous," he said, "my wife and daughter are in there," and started banging on the door; a light turned on in a window, and Sinclair popped his head out and said "I told you I'd lock the doors by 11!" The guest replied: "If you don't open the doors I'm going to knock them down!" Three or four minutes later, Sinclair opens the door, lets him in, bangs the door behind him loud enough to, as the guest put it, wake everyone in the hotel, and yells "Don't let that happen again!"
Sinclair was also hard on the hired help. He hated builders, and would yell and curse at them; one Greek waiter was so fed up with Sinclair's treatment of him he jumped into a taxi and demanded to be driven to London. Rosemary Harrison, who once worked for Sinclair, describes how when one waiter, tired of waiting for Sinclair to make the tea, took a teapot meant for another table. Sinclair stopped the serving of breakfast and "went up and down the tables like a policeman, questioning the guests. He came across a set of teapots at a table for two. He realised because of their size they were meant for a table for four, and he asked the guests for a description of the waiter."

Sinclair was apparently so appalling that when his wife had to go out shopping, she would lock him up in their room, and say to the staff "don't let him out, he's only going to upset you." Ian Jones, owner of the nearby Coppice Hotel, said "fugitives from the Gleneagle used to come knocking on our door, pleading accommodations."

He was, as Cleese would put it, "the most wonderfully rude man I have ever met."


On documentaries (and a bit on "Bowling for Columbine")

All docs distort the truth, one way or another; maybe one of the greatest documentaries ever made, Triumph of the Will, paints a portrait of Adolf Hitler as godlike (the antidote to this is Resnais' Night and Fog).

I'm interested in the truth, of course, and I'm glad when I know whatever distortions the documentary does--in fact, I think it's necessary in appreciating the doc. But I'm also interested in the art of storytelling. On that score, Bowling for Columbine is as seriously flawed--as if Moore were atop some soapbox, pontificating.



I had bacon, I had tomatoes, I had bread, but no lettuce (I don't really keep it handy since I'm convinced it's mostly made up of water); so instead of a BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato) I did a BSST--Bacon, Spinach Salad, Tomato--sandwich.

So--baked eight strips of Krunzler maple-smoked bacon at 350 degrees for thirty minutes; toasted four slices of Italian bread, cut thick; laid bacon on the bread, laid baby spinach leaves on top of that, drizzled on that my homemade salad dressing (four tablespoons olive oil, two of balsamic vinegar, one of dijon mustard, pinch of salt, fresh cracked pepper, a crushed garlic clove, and honey to taste), laid on slices of Roma tomatoes, drizzled more salad dressing, served open-faced.

Crisp maple-sweet bacon, faintly bitter spinach leaves, tart 'n sweet dressing, juicy fresh tomatoes, all on a bed of toasted Italian bread. Simple and classy.


Lino Brocka's films

From The Atlantic online forums:


Noel, the Philippine director you discussed above, Brocka?

Do you know if his films are available to rent online at a decent rate?

No, none of his films are easily available.

Facets (http://www.facets.org/asticat) has two of his late works, Orapronobis (Fight for Us, 1989) and Macho Dancer for rent on VHS, with English subtitles. Macho Dancer is second-rate Brocka, which means I think it's pretty good if flawed (if this is the uncut version there'll be a shot of male dancers in a row masturbating). Orapronobis is excellent Brocka, if not his very best, and is a good introduction to his works.


Maybe one of the very best Brockas, and possibly one of the best Filipino films ever made is Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975) found here: http://www.kabayancentral.com/video/vhs/lvn/lvnmsmknl.html.


That link leads to a place where you can order a VHS tape for around 25 dollars. Hefty price, but I think it's worth it. It doesn't say if it's subtitled, unfortunately, tho I suspect the film doesn't really need them.


Other Brocka films can be found on VCD format (which usually plays on any DVD player) by searching here: http://www.regalfilms.com/. These are mainly commercial potboilers like Babangon Ako't Dudurugin Kita (I Will Rise and Crush You) and Pasan Ko Ang Daigdig (The World on My Shoulders)--not great cinema, but a lot of fun. No subtitles, I'm afraid--you need to find a Filipino to do "benshi" (spoken translation) for you.

Lino Brocka


Probably the best known of Filipino filmmakers, and one of the finest. Was a regular at Cannes. His Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975) was cited in Geoff Andrews' book "Film: The Critics' Choice" as one of the "150 masterpieces of world cinema."

I met him in New York, after a screening of Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Judged and Found Wanting, 1976), and shook his hand; the first thing he said to me was: "you know, you look familiar." I had to explain to him that my identical twin brother once worked for him. He was killed in a car crash not long after.



Saw Stanley Kwan's "Rouge." Lovely little film, despite the atrocious subtitles; I especially like it that he uses almost no special effects other than (far as I can tell) a slow fade-out of the ghost in the end, depending mostly on atmospheric camerawork and lighting to tell his tale. The eccentric details about Chinese ghosts is a bit distracting (Is it really taken for granted that they can take their heads off and comb it? And why can't she?), but eventually (from what I could figure out of the plot no thanks to the titles' bad grammar) the love story gets a real hold of you. Maybe the best ghost story I've seen in years, with a delicately bittersweet aftertaste that's unique to this film.

I do feel some ambivalence towards the ending (read no further if you want to see the movie)--she hands her lover his necklace back without a trace of pity. It seems we're allowed to feel sorry for him, but doesn't she? He's suffered too, or does she see it as just punishment? I'd at least have given him a kiss (if I were the girl, I mean) for what he's gone through. But then the ambivalence I feel probably adds to the film's haunting quality--I don't quite agree with what she's done, but neither can I quite forget it.


Ang Tatay Kong Nanay

posted on the Atlantic online forum:

Lino Brocka's Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (My Father the Mother) is a lovely gay film, about a cross-dresser who ends up taking care of the son of a man he loved. Melodramatic and chock full of stereotypes, but at core it's an eloquent and ultimately moving little story about a gay man's outsized heart.

Brocka's gay of course. Practically all of the finest filmmakers in the Philippines during the '70s were gay, and quite a few of them even today.


Kill Bill 2

Saw it. It's okay, didn't knock my socks off.

Builds more on Tarantino's traditional strengths as dialogue writer. Gets most of its emotional heft from its "Sergio Leone"-type sense of drama (I keep thinking of that interview where Tarantino says back when he wasn't sure what the correct term for the type of shot he was looking for was, he would call it--this specific shot he was looking for--a "Sergio Leone" shot).

Gordon Liu was amusing as the sifu. Daryl Hannah was cute, better than Lucy Liu, I thought. Carradine does well enough--we all know Tarantino's gift for putting past heroes on a pedestal, and making them look good up there, and Carradine shines.

Again, the action sequences--the meat and bones of an action movie--seem, well, lacking. Again, I think he'd have done better to produce and write, and let Yuen Woo Ping (who did the fight choreography) direct.

I'll have to admit, the whole looks better now it's complete...but that only means it DOES look complete instead of (as Vol. 1 looked at the time) being some kind of pointless exercise in borrowed style. Still think it could have been a maybe two hour to two hour-plus movie instead of a three hour one. On the whole, I much prefer Leone.


"Passion" penitent pleads "Not Guilty"

Dan Leach, who turned himself in for the murder of a woman carrying his child, pleads not guilty:



Taxi Driver

From The Atlantic online forums:


Sure, he killed a pimp and some other unsavory characters and "rescued" a teenage prostitute. However, how does THAT absolve him of attempting to murder a presidential candidate?


The guy reaches for something in a coat and the security men run after him; they don't have a name or a picture or anything, just an eyeball ID. I doubt if they would connect it with the later shootout, much less try bring charges.


As for what's the point of the ending, you got to go back to Dostoevsky, from which it was in part inspired. His characters, much like Bickle, are loners so out of touch with society they need to do something to let themselves in, or at least, let themselves be noticed, like shooting a presidential candidate (I also think he believed the candidate was somehow responsible for making the love of his life--Cybill Shepherd's character--reject him).


The final violence is supposed to be the consequence of all that obsession--Bickle's frustration and loneliness finally coming out in a blaze of bullets and fountaining blood, so to speak. He wants this so much for so long, and finally he gets it.


The finale is the ironic point of the movie: Bickle the time bomb exploded and the result is that he's a hero. Now that's really scary, because as crazy as Bickle is, and we've spent enough time inside his head to know that, the ending shows us that the city is crazier.




Roger Ebert and Joe Bob Briggs

(Jack Pantalones on Joe Bob Briggs in the Atlantic online forums):

He tends to base his evaluations on whether or not a film contains things like jiggling boobs and dismemberment-by-chainsaw.

Jack, they're humor pieces, from a true-blue redneck, in the tradition of Libby Gelman-Waxner (a.k.a. Paul Rudnick). Actually his best moments are when he leaves off reviewing the latest piece of drive-in trash and talks about one of his many girls (Mary Jane Lou, or Mary Lou Ellen, or whoever he's shacking up with nowadays), or his really strange friends, or his sudden obsession with video (I wonder what he makes of DVDs). Read between the lines and you actually get a sense of his aesthetics.

I prefer him over Ebert. Maybe Ebert's finest moment was his reply to Vincent Gallo, but that's a case of preferring the smaller asshole. Ebert gives the plot in detail (including a few spoilers), gives a rating (out of four stars), and that's it. He's basically worthless, and he puts almost nothing into his articles. What little he does is embarrassing, and not in an entertaining way.


No end to love notes re: "The Perversion of Christ"

(Still more fan mail in reaction to my article "The Perversion of Christ:" http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/noelmoviereviews/message/427 )


From Dave Lee (nextnext7@hotmail.com)


Dear Mr Noel Vera,


You want to stoned a false prophet? According to the old testament, a false prophet is to be stoned. According to the new testament, He who is without sin cast the first stone.


I know you've probably heard this before, now I say this to you again in reminder,


You don't GET it.


It is like someone is trying to tell you your house is on fire and you complain about his grammer.


Who is the false prophet? In regards to the sound magnified by cash register as you commented, did anyone help prophesise that this movie will be the highest grossing film ever when right in the beginning Mel Gibson wasn't even sure of any wide distribution for the film.  How can this man even be a prophet let alone a false one when he is trying to relate a part of a story that happens 2000 over years ago that he selected from the best selling book in history that anyone can refer to themselves. Do not put the cart before the horse.


To say this is a bad film if it doesn't suit your theology or accuracy is one thing but to call it EVIL is just plain arrogant. What evil has it done? Does the lack of accuracy in the film Ten Commandments while making cash registers ring causes any evil to anyone?


It's like those days in the 80s when every rock band is consider evil by the self righteous because they misquote the bible and uses lots of gore in ther lyrical imagery and album cover. Back then Judas Priest are like mass murderers. Does any of the heavy metal album featuring lots of blood and misquotations from the bible bothers you enough to cal them false prophets and pronouce them evil? Does the heavy metallers wailing to the bank bothers you enough to call it evil. Not liking a piece of music or film is one thing but to be jealous of another man's earnings and call something evil is...


As a critic, you are free to voice your point of view on how you perceive the quality of music or film but it is really foolish when critics start to really take liberty with their pen to be a judge of good or evil of a piece of work.


Mr Vera, in regards to religious hypocrisy, no offence but you do sound like a pharisee, eager to pronouce judgement and pronouce something evil based on head knowlegde forgetting where our hearts at.


As for the cloak of holiness and righteousness that you yourself saw Mel Gibson wraps himself in that you claim as religious hypocrisy, I saw something else.


I saw a man coming to grips with his own hollywood-ness and human imperfection and unholiness to make a film about the one he sees as perfection who loves him and suffers for him to die for him.


Give us your honest criticism and research but leave your own self righteousness to the cross.


No bad blood though, just my imperfect 2 cents worth. Hope you can take it with humility. I know you as a critic is also trying your best to put your views across the best way you know it.


In the midst of all the waves of impermanence and resentment sweeping through the world, I sincerely pray that the knowledge of Christ filled your heart with love and eternity.


God is love.



Still more love notes re: "The Perversion of Christ

(Still more fan mail in reaction to my article "The Perversion of Christ:" http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/noelmoviereviews/message/427 )


From Ruta Hodgson (janruta@mho.com)


I am sorry, but you just DON'T GET IT!!!  You are , of course, allowed to express your opinion but to call this amazing movie 'evil' goes much beyond a credible movie review.  By the way, please do not insult the movie-going public by suggesting that we are fools parting with our movie by going to see "The Passion'.  No one has forced us to elevate it to number 10, and it still has a way to go.......The American public is speaking - is anyone listening?  Mel Gibson is a brave and courageous man.  God bless us all.  Ruta Hodgson 

More love notes for "The Perversion of Christ"

(More fan mail in reaction to my article "The Perversion of Christ:" http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/noelmoviereviews/message/427 )


From Yob Santos (privateproperty24@yahoo.com):


well obviously you are one on the anti-semitic protestors. masyado kang apektado ng palabas,sana hindi mo na pinanood at pinag aksayahan pa ng panahon para isulat. ktang kita naman na ikaw ang guilty at pilit mong ikinukubli ang iyong mga kasalanan sa di pagsangayon sa palabas.. lumayas ka SATANAS!!!!!!! lumayas ka sa mundong ito kasama ang mga dmonyong manunulat na kasama mo.guilty lang kayo dahil masyado kayong makasalanan at di nyo iyon kayang tanggapin, aminin nyo..tinamaan din kayo sa palabas kaya TAKOT kayo sa katotohanan. nagkukubli sa ilalim ng mga ballpen at papel. mga mapagkunwari, kayo ang dapat na unang pukulin ng bato hanggang mamatay. mga mapagtatwa!!!!!!!!isinilang ka upang maging kasangkapan ng demonyo,  yun ang purpose mo dito sa lupa kaya di kita massisisi.   


Rough translation:


well obviously you are one on the anti-semitic protestors. you're too affected by the picture, you shouldn't have watched it and wasted your time writing. it's clear that you are guilty and you're forcing your sins on a movie that you don't agree with. leave SATAN! Leave this world and take your fellow dmon (sic) writers with you. you all feel guilty because you have too many sins and you can't accept it, admit it…the movie hit you so you are AFRAID of the truth. Hiding behind ballpen and paper. pretenders, you should be the ones stoned until dead. fools! you were born to consort with demons, that's your purpose on this world so I can't blame you.


Love notes for "The Perversion of Christ"

(Fan mail in reaction to my article "The Perversion of Christ:" http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/noelmoviereviews/message/427 )


From Carl P Pal (cruiser66@lycos.com):


read your critique of "The Passion of the Christ" in Business World's Friday edition.  Sobra naman dude ang review mo (Your review's over-the-top, dude). Parang pinersonal mo a (Looks like you took it personally). Pero kahit na ano pang pagdadakdak ang gawin mo kesyo (But no matter if you say things like) "wraps righteousness around his cloak" "cynically marketed", etc, winner pa rin ang movie (the movie's still a winner).  Hundreds of million enjoyed the film both as a cinematic event and a spiritual retreat.  Hindi ko nga alam kung bakit ka pa pinag aksayahan ng panahon ng Business World para i-print ang kagaguhang review mo (I don't know why Businessworld wasted its time printing your asshole review).  It's the worst piece of writing I've read next to Tiktik.  But you're right, hundreds of millions of dollars which you'll never have, several academy awards in the horizon (which you could never dream about), and a mark in history whether religious or cinema (which definitely you will not have). So sinong panalo ditto (So who's the winner)?  Si pareng Mel pa rin di ba (Buddy Mel, right)?  Galling-galling pala ang movie ha. E ang pinagsususulat mo ang galling.  Mahiya ka naman sa Diyos (Movie's great, it's what you wrote that's galling. You should be ashamed before God).  The movie was a personal commitment of the  director. ikaw, makaisip ka kaya ng ganung klaseng masterpiece (you, can you think up of that kind of masterpiece)? Ha?


Nga pala, I have a few Israeli friends from the International School.  They did not feel offended at all. There you go.

Cannes vs. Oscars

From pinoyexchange, discussion arose from news that Babae sa Breakwater (Woman of the Breakwater) was accepted into Cannes' Director's Fortnight:

the films in competition have not been screened yet to the general public

The films in both Competition and Director's Fortnight must make their world premieres in Cannes. This rule can be broken, but if I recall not often. Babae sa Breakwater has had its commercial run in Manila.

I can't even remember the last time that the winner of the Palm D' Or also went on to win top prize at the Oscars.

A lot of times it's simply because the film is a foreign film and usually ends up in the Foreign film category. But a Cannes win is not nothing; it carries a lot of weight in the Oscars--if not to win, at least to nominate.

I don't know the numbers, but I'm pretty sure that the number of films which are submitted are significantly less than what the Oscars consider

3,562 feature films and shorts were submitted to Cannes, up from an average of a thousand in the late '90s.

The nominees for Best Foreign Film for the Oscars 2004 were decided from a list of 54 films.

Each country must decide itself which film to send to the Oscars for consideration (different from Cannes, where any producer can send his film); in the case of the Philippines, the Film Academy sent Munting Tinig (Small Voice). Not very, uh, never mind...

I get estimates of 250 to 255 films submitted to the Academy voters each year for consideration for Best Picture, but I can't vouch for the accuracy of that figure (edit--I found out; 254 films were submitted in 2003).

Edit: that's only for Best Picture Oscars, of course, while the above 3,000 plus films (1,325 feature films from 85 countries) are the entire figure for Cannes. And that bit about a screening committee holds--but I don't know that a screening committee is any less valid than the Oscar style of sending 254 names out to its five-thousand-plus members for consideration.

Last year's crop of films in competition was not spectacular

That's true; there was The Brown Bunny. But you should have seen the Oscar Best Picture nominees...


A Child is Waiting

Saw the other night A Child is Waiting, which pairs Burt Lancaster with Judy Garland (?), in a film about special children directed by John Cassavettes (?!). Stanley Kramer produced, and he took away the movie from Cassavettes to produce his own final cut.

Kramer probably put in his own scoring too--the music cuing is standard Hollywood message movie sudsmaking. Aside from the understated performances (from Garland, from Lancaster), and the use of real Down Syndrome and autistic children and a few intriguing handheld shots, you'd hardly know it was Cassavettes.