A defense of Catholicism. Kind of

From peoplesforum:

DH: Yeesh... Catlick skool.

Hot and cold running guilt and hellfire. No young mind should be exposed to that in their formative years.

Andrea L.:

My childhood parish had a priest who left to get married, and folk masses. My parents didn't send us to Catholic school, either. Growing up, my uncle was taught by Jesuit priests, my mom was taught by nuns barely out of the convent, and she wasn't inclined to put me and my sister into the same situation. Didn't hurt that the local public school district was one of the best in the area.

Chicklet: My mother went to Catlick school. No daughter of hers was going to have the same fate.


If I may speak out in defense of us pussy groomers--

Catholics are all full of mindfucked shit, it's true, but on the plus side all that guilt adds a tinge of flavor to something like, say, sex--you don't know the thrill of doing the dirty when all your childhood training tells you it's wrong. That's a spice worth a thousand habaneros, I think.

Also, all that bloody religion (and it's steeped in blood--from that statue of a tortured man they stick up in their churches to the actual drinking and eating of the blood and flesh of said man--that's not a symbolic act; in our eyes that's the real deal) gives rise to some interestingly fruitful neuroses.

Alfred Hitchock was that rare Catholic Englishman (and you know he was affected, read: borderline crazy). Same with Anthony Burgess and Graham Greene--Englishmen who converted to Catholicism out of fascination with their obsessions and blood rites. Of the more interesting American filmmakers may I point to Abel Ferrara and Martin Scorsese--lapsed Catholics both. And John Woo is just chock full of Catholic imagery.

And it isn't us Cath'lics that are really to blame for things like that Last Temptation of Christ protest or this Passion of the Christ bullshit--it's those damned Fundamentalist Christians. They're the tight-sphinctered morons raising up a stink. Us Catholics (the more intelligent ones anyway, and for the record, I've lapsed in my faith) tend to take a more liberal view, artistically speaking anyway.


"Vertigo" remake

From peoplesforum:

Tonya: ** VERTIGO remake?!: In a recent set interview for SKELETON KEY, Kate Hudson confirmed that "My production company is trying to develop a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO ". (thanks to DarkHorizons.com).

A Vertigo remake might work if Tsai Ming Liang directed it (or Wong Kar Wai, as David might prefer), with Michelle Yeoh as Novak and Tony Leung Stewart. Kate Hudson can do their makeup and fetch the bottled water.

David Ehrenstein: Well Tsai Ming Liang would cast his boyfriend (and perpetual leading man) as Kim Novak. Might be interesting. But Wong Kar Wai would give us Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-wai

ted fontenot: To get back to Vertigo for a second.

Saying that Vertigo is about obsession is both undeniable and inadequate. This makes it seem to be not much more than the artistic enactment of a clinical case study. Obsession is the effect of Scottie Ferguson’s real tragedy, a tragedy of an existential nature which we all succumb to, to our pain and detriment. Which is, that of not knowing, to one degree or another, what is real and what is not. Because he wants to know, has to know, he becomes obsessed. It was once a hoary axiom, one not to be deviated from, at least in theory, that tragedy could only happen to a "superior" person. The protagonist had to fall from something. A “groundling” had no place further down to go. It was left to Hitchcock to show an ordinary man’s tragedy (and he isn’t a paper “common” man like more ideologically minded artists might insist he be) could have the depth and dimension of a “nobler” figure. And although we may not all be Hamlets or MacBeths, we are all most definitely Scottie Fergusons. I think that may be why it was a commercial and critical failure when it first came out.

Hitchcock seduces us just as surely as he shows us how Scottie was seduced. We may be able to blow off the tragedy of man lusting after his mother who married the man who killed his father the king whose death he must avenge (when stated like that, we know it’s not the tragedy of an ordinary man). If only to some slight degree so that it doesn't affect us as hard. We can?t do that with Scottie Ferguson. The most powerful effect of Vertigo is that moment when we realize we can?t distance ourselves, we can?t ?otherize? Scottie?s tragedy. That?s when we, too, mesmerized, fear falling. There may be lines of dialogue in movies that more sadly resonate than Stewart?s intensely and transparently felt, ?I loved you so, Madeline? at the end after all becomes revealed (and it doesn?t matter). If so, please quote them to me. Madeline never ever existed, except in his mind, but to him that woman is more real than the more carnal Judy who sacrifices her freedom, then her life, for him.

Great post on Vertigo, ted; I'll remember to steal from that once in a while.

Might add that there is a moment of reality, of truth and the possibility of real love, when they confront each other up in that tower, and all lies and pretenses are stripped away.

And then, of course, the movie ends.

I keep remembering my friend's reaction to that ending in a theater: he stood up and yelled "WHAT? THAT'S IT?" and wouldn't sit down. It' not just Stewart that's left off-balanced; we all are.

ted fontenot: That's funny. Funny odd. When Vertigo was first released and came to my little hometown, I guess I was 11, and I remember when the movie ended, as it ended and the lights in the theater came on, this guy stood up and said in shocked and incredulous tones: " That can't be the end."

"Here I was born, and here I died." I am not entirely convinced, as I may have been once, that Scottie both sees and accepts reality. That "I loved you so, Madeline" is chilling. Tom Block, I have to admit, in one of our many hail-fellow-well-met brandy and cigars tete a tetes, convinced me of the rich ambiguity of the ending, and that probably the movie ends only a few moments before Stewart follows Judy down. I'm always struck by the positioning of Stewart's arms in that last scene as he walks out onto the ledge. They subtly suggest the way they were represented in his freefall in the nightmare sequence.

Anyway, thanks for the kind words, everyone.

And the rest was fantasy--maybe a fantasy of Scotty attaining true love and losing it for the last time (when the reality is that Judy is leading him to the padded wagon waiting below)? That's an intriguing thought. The simplest explanation of what happens next is, of course, that Scotty jumps (which might explain that odd positioning of the hands you mentioned (yeah, I noticed it too)--he's anticipating going into freefall again). Knowing that there's a possible sideslip into another ending makes the movie all the more fascinating, of course.

Tonya: I'm glad you pointed out that possibility of the "pre-ending" of the film, Ted. Certainly makes sense that it could have been either; jumping or being carted away to the padded cell. Though, I don't think if you read it that way, Scotty would have wanted to survive without Madeline/Judy.

Being stuck with commoner judy or with Madeline having never existed, maybe suicide or the funny farm were his only options...


Reply to "Twelve Great Filipino Films"

Twelve Great Filipino Films

From an email sent to me, in reply to the article:

YeahUDid2004@aol.com: Nagtataka talaga ako kung bakit hindi nominated sa Urian ang "Tatlong Taon" for Best Picture samantalang isa ito sa pinakamagagandang pelikula noong 1976 na laging pinupuri at pinalalabas sa mga mini-filmfests hanggang ngayon. Sa tingin ko lang, parang ayaw ng mga Manunuri o film critics in general ang mga pelikulang "epic" o mala-"epic" produced by big stars na pinagbibidahan din nila. (It really worried me why "Tatlong Taong" wasn't nominated at the Urian for Best Picture while this was one of the finest films of 1976, always being shown in mini-filmfests until today. It's as if the Manunuri or film critics in general don't like "epic" or "quasi-epic" pictures produced and promoted by big stars.

Maybe not as an "epic" per se--they did like Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? which was epic enough (or at least its canvas is broad enough). But you can glean a clue from what they did praise--Ganito had for its theme the search for the Filipino identity, Insiang the ferocity of the urban poor, and Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo the arrogance and inhumanity of the American military.

Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God) didn't earn their respect not because it didn't have a sociological or political stance, but because it had a not so easily understandable and even unpopular one--that the Japanese (or for that matter, all human beings) have their human and even noble aspects; that given the right circumstances, we can end up on the wrong side of the fence; that human passions rule even over geopolitical currents and events (to the peril of the people who possess those passions). I suspect people didn't like to hear these things in the nationalistic, sociologically conscious '70s.

I also suspect a sense of contempt--that the critics felt O'Hara, because he wasn't part of the UP / Ateneo axis of filmmakers / critics, being from Adamson University, and having only partly finished his engineering degree, isn't a real artist. And that he got his start writing and directong only because he was Lino Brocka's lover (which I have reason to believe isn't true).

Pwede rin sigurong napakarami ng quality films noong 1976 (Second Gold Age of Philippine Cinema) that the Manunuri's decided to pick only the best among the best. (Could be with the abundance of quality films in 1976 (the Second Gold Age of Philippine Cinema) that the Manunuris decided to pick only the best among the best).

Some histories consider the '70s the Third Golden Age.

The First Golden Age would be the Pre-War Period, from the dawn of Philippine filmmaking in 1912, with two competing outfits doing a feature on Jose Rizal, to just before the Second World War.

The second would be the Post-War Period, from after war's end in 1945, picking up especially in the '1950s, to about 1965--Gerardo de Leon's reputed masterpiece, Daigdig ng Mga Api (The World of the Oppressed, 1965, the print lost, presumably forever) being possibly the age's last significant film.

Many of these films I and most of us alive today haven't seen, which is a tragedy right there.

Of the Third Golden Age, I think I know enough to point to Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Judged and Found Wanting, 1974) as being the first significant film (with Ishmael Bernal's debut film Pagdating sa Dulo (At the Top, 1972) being an earlier significant film that failed to spark any sense of a movement, or age, or whatever, beginning). I would argue that the last significant film of that age was O'Hara's Bagong Hari (The New King, 1986)--which arrived in time for the first EDSA Revolution, and the downfall of Marcos.

I would consider Tatlong Taong one of the best if not THE best--maybe the equal of only Insiang that year (and maybe not even that).


Oscar Nominations

From peoplesforum:

Oscar nominations

Phil Nugent: Not that I'm complaining. It might have filled in a slot (adapted screenplay) that would otherwise have gotten taken by The Passion of the Christ.

I wouldn't mind if they give credit where credit is due--that the movie was adapted from the writings of some 17th Century anti-Semitic crackpot and the conman who collected in a book (adding a lot of material himself along the way).


Hour of the Wolf

Always thought Ingmar Bergman would be a great horror filmmaker--there were moments in Wild Strawberries, Fanny and Alexander, and Cries and Whispers that were as terrifying as anything you see in the Halloween or Friday the 13th movies--maybe more terrifying, because Bergman knows how to use silence to great effect, something Craven or Carpenter isn't quite as good at.

Wanted to elevate Bergman's Hour of the Wolf to the pantheon, but it's disappointingly off. Not that it's not well made--it's brilliantly made, and there are scenes here that are extremely disturbing (who knew the simple act of standing behind someone can be so profoundly irritating as well as frightening?) but he's too--how to put it?--refined, too uncompromising to lower himself into really scaring the audience, to turn the screw tighter, at least for the last twenty minutes.

It's the problem I have with The Shining--the narrative is too convoluted, the revealed horrors too disappointing (in Bergman's case, part of the reason may be budget; in Kubrick's case it may be sheer perversity) compared to the dark promises and hints made near the beginning. Interesting exercises that aren't easy to dismiss, but maybe not the top-top shelf of horror classics.


The House of Flying Daggers

Saw House of the Flying Daggers. Pretty much 80% of it is pretty good--infiltration mission with plot twists, betrayals, a sore testing of loyalties vs. love...but the final confrontation had the audience tittering, and I can't say I blame them; Zhang took some huge risks, here, and while one can salute him for the courage, and salute him for almost pulling it off, one can only look away in embarrassment as he falls flat on his face.

Hero at least had a solid script (even if it is a serious whitewash, historically speaking), with an intriguing prismatic structure; it also had Chris Doyle pulling off what should have been a laughable concept (the single-color sequences). Here the color scheme is more muted, and the eye can't help but notice (what with no gorgeous imagery to distract it) that the CGI effects are really turning martial arts choreography into a push-button effort, where in Liu Chia Liang or Chang Cheh or King Hu's time they actually performed the leaps and high kicks, with clever tricks using wire and trampoline.

And okay, CGI is today, there's no escaping it (or is there? Drunken Master 2 was a refutation of wire fu in favor of more traditional martial arts, and it worked magnificently), but did Zhang's CGI have to be so cliched? Do the flying stones or daggers or bamboo spears have to approach the camera, zoom by like they were Star Destroyers, and speed with unerring accuracy towards their targets? Couldn't someone miss once in a while?

And one of the effects is an idiotic cheat--two daggers flying side-by-side to hide the second one, when it's plain to see that from the target's point of view that both are visible, and should have been blocked accordingly. Zhang didn't even bother to work the fights out according to how the characters would see them...


Saw Mann's Collateral. Still can't get over how absurd the notion is (why would hiring a taxicab make more sense than renting a car, say? How do you control the driver in the meantime (Cruise could barely control Foxx). Why do five targets a day? Okay, if news of the first gets out, security tightens on the other four (why didn't it, incidentally, especially on the last one?)--wouldn't it make more sense to hire five hitmen and kill all five targets at once? And (SPOILERS) why would killing the lawyer matter? The testimony is irreplaceable, but I don't think the lawyer is--ask for a postponement and get someone else. On the other hand, why would anyone want to stop a lawyer from getting killed (okay, it's Jada Pinkett; maybe if she would quit her job...).

If you can get beyond that (and I can't), Foxx is pretty good, Mann's direction is okay, distinctive and clear. Cruise doesn't wreck the picture--which says a lot. The few moments when he actually raises his voice, however, it's Chip and Dale all over again, and Mann's skidding on thin ice (him and Kubrick, actually). Can you imagine what Robert Downey Jr. can do with this role? 


Twelve Great Filipino Films

Twelve Great Filipino Films

To be honest, I despair of ever seeing any of these films appear on DVD, much less the arthouse circuit. But anyone interrested who knows a Filipino may possibly wangle an invitation to watch them--most of them are screened on Cinema One in TFC, The Filipino Channel--and if that friend is willing, he might do a little benshi for you (on-the-spot translation). Far as I know, none of them are subtitled.

Anyway, the list, for your reference.


Invader Zim

Invader Zim is amazing; went into it knowing little except from the enthusiastic recommendation of others. Wonderful animation, of an unheard-of quality in Nickelodeon (which is usually on the level of Hey, Arnold or Rugrats--at least Spongebob Squarepants makes the crude animation part of its loose-limbed sense of humor).

And the comedy--it's not so much the dialogue that is funny, it's the characters and the setup: megalomanic alien (Zim) and monomaniac Earthling (Dib) clash, resulting in literal, metaphorical, and comical sparks. The plots are funny and inventive and often surprisingly gruesome (some of my favorites include 'Nanozim,' where Zim enters Dib's body as a microbe-sized invader, ' 'Hamstergeddon' where a cute hamster grows to Godzilla proportions, and 'Dark Harvest,' about organlegging), but really, it's the way both alien and Earthling shriek and snarl and howlingly declare the power or hopelessness of their respective situations that is so consistently funny.

Sympathy here is a rather slippery concept--you don't want Zim ending up on a government autopsy table, the same time you don't want the Earth to be invaded--and Vasquez manages to sustain the ambivalence surprisingly well. He also wheels in a plethora of engaging side characters--Gir, a combination of cute puppy, annoying sidekick, and insatiable glutton; Gaz, a Wednesday Addams with a book or video game grafted to one hand; and Mrs. Bitters, a schoolteacher with an outlook on life sunny enough to make Olaf Stapledon look like Mary Poppins.

There's just a hint, an intriguing one, of pathos in both their positions: Zim is literally the only one of his kind on Earth, and handles his loneliness with enormous helpings of bluster and denial; Dib is literally the only one on Earth who knows about Zim, and is dealing with his loneliness in an equally unconstructive manner.

Some notes: Maybe it's just me, but is the flying pig in one of the episodes a homage to Miyazaki (he loves pigs, and he loves flying)? The aerial sequences look just a tad familiar...

Like I said, went into it knowing very little; came out a confirmed fan. Blockbuster Video marked this "PARENTAL GUIDANCE:" necessary warning for softheaded kids, I suppose.



From Peoples' Forum:

austin: Okay, so I finally read it, and for starters, it's a pretty kick-ass book. Not very much like any movie version I ever saw (I haven't bothered yet with the Branagh/Deniro.)

I don't think any movie version has quite captured it, tho I hear good things about the Masterpiece Theater adaptation. Frankenstein's just as interesting for the literature (and movies) it inspired--Bride of Frankenstein (my favorite horror movie, I think), Frederick Pohl's Man Plus (worth reading if you can find it), even Brian Aldiss' Frankenstein Unbound--even the movie version has some good things in it (don't ask me just what at the moment; I'll need to see it again).

Okay, rethink: Frankenstein didn't inspire literature; it inspired a whole genre.


Open Water

Saw Open Water. Scary and effective, in its own extremely narrow way, but goes right out of your head the moment you pop out the dvd and pop in the next horror flick.

First few seconds and you can see the director doesn't have the assurance to be a good filmmaker--he cuts way too much. The night sequence was fairly good, or at least the idea of it was (I still didn't like the editing).

And (SPOILERS) I don't know how you can think letting go of the scuba gear constitutes suicide--what makes you think you can drown before the sharks tear you apart? And why, when she was trailing blood for hours, did it take so long for the sharks to come? I thought the first one should have attacked right after he had a taste.

Also saw--finally, finally--California Split. Lovely, lovely film, though it hasn't shaken my pantheon of Altman favorites: 3) Thieves Like Us, 2) The Long Goodbye, and 1) McCabe and Ms. Miller

Checked out Bergman's Persona and Shame again, and Shame is still great, but I still don't seem to cotton to Persona--many great sequences, but it doesn't seem to come together for me. Shame is perhaps Bergman's masterpiece.


Roasted ginger massage

I have them grilled over a stovetop fire till they're blackened. Wait a bit till they're cool, then rub over the body. When the massage is finished, tie to the most affected areas with a cloth bandage.

Ginger root retains heat for a surprising amount of time, and it has its own heat that isn't harmful, has no side-effects, and while I can't claim miraculous curative powers for it, does help ease muscle pains. You can actually sleep with it overnight and wake up next morning and it would still have a little gingery heat to it, and still no harmful side effects.

Plus you'd smell terrific (if you like the smell of ginger, that is).

I use lotion along with the root. I've always entertained thoughts of using peanut oil, but ow, the bedsheets...if I ever do, though, I'd make a magnificently perfumed roast afterwards.

Mario vs. Mario 6

jojo, do tell me more: why do you prefer Sisa and Babae sa Bubungang Lata (Woman on a Tin Roof) over Pangarap ng Puso (Demons)? It doesn't matter ultimately, I think your choices are impeccable (heh, heh), but i'd love to know the details...

jojo de vera: Sisa challenged the limits of rationality and invests the stigma of idiocy inscribed in Rizal's character with the power to dream and remake Rizal with the image of ambivalence. The film inserted the hero's biography into the film's romantic framework with Sisa as love interest. It also discussed the social context of Sisa's dementia as social affliction and resists the tendency to simply regard it as a psychiatric disorder. In comparison to Abaya's Jose Rizal, Sisa was able to present another side of Rizal, the film chose to explore the life of Sisa who roamed the streets in search of her sons and in the process succeeded in probing the trauma that she suffers like cancer.

On the other hand Babae Sa Bubungang Lata intensified the theme of social relations where public spheres are unequally distributed along class, ethnic and racial lines.The film successfully created a milieu that overflowed with the whole range of human degradation and deprivation, from drug dependence and alcoholism to domestic violence, prostitution and castration. It also assaulted the middle class images of home, family and motherhood. Babae is a dark film about Philippine Cinema. It stated that the industry is in fact dead by situating the action in a graveyard filled with leaking tin roofs, looted graves, broken bones and shattered dreams.


O'Hara's Sisa is comparable to Gerry de Leon's version--admittedly Anita Linda is a better actress than Aya Medel (though I do like her here and in Bubungang Lata), and De Leon came up with the idea of focusing on a supporting character in a major literary work first (even before Tom Stoppard did in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), but De Leon's Sisa errs in pausing about 3/4 of the way through and retelling the entire story of Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not). Talk about a showstopper! O'Hara's Sisa is more organic, more whole (of course). And more insane.

I think you've heard me before about Sisa and Bayaning Third World (Third World Hero). The latter pulls Rizal off his pedestal and takes him apart with wit and logic. O'Hara's Sisa pulls him down, takes all his clothes off, and puts him, pumping, on top of Sisa. Guess which one I prefer?


Bubungang Lata--Frank Rivera said it all when he said: "it's an elegy for Philippine cinema."


Mario vs. Mario 5

jojo devera: what about 'yung eksenang nakatitig lang si Celeste sa electric fan? napaka-stagey din ng execution... sa Condemned at Bulaklak Sa City Jail lang ako walang narining kay Mario B. na sinabi niyang theatrical ang execution ng mga eksena. (what about the scene where Celeste was staring at the electric fan? The execution was so stagy…only in Condemned and Flowers of the City Jail did I hear nothing from Mario B. about any theatrical executions.


Saw this late:


Condemned was more about shadows and the streets of Manila, emphasizing the menace the city held against brother and sister; Bulaklak was all about cramped spaces, barred corridors, and faces all crowded into each other, empahsizing the wretched conditions of the jail (Gina Alajar's escape had visual echos of the jail, particularly when she's running down the corridorlike interiors of the LRT (Light Rail Transit) cars--it's as if she never really escaped the jail at all; the Manila Zoo sequences, however, were a marked contrast--stylized, almost fantastical and nightmarish in the way they were shot, as if to say Nora won temporary freedom, but in some dark, enchanted wood full of monsters). The visual style of each film mirrors and serves the story's purposes.



Mario vs. Mario 4

jojo devera: what do you mean by saying that (Filipino film reviewer) Mario B. should study the art of cooking adobo?


Why, exactly that.


Any Manileno would say adobo is adobo, pork or chicken braised in soy sauce and vinegar, with bay leaf and peppercorns; actually we have variations all over the Philippines--the Bacolenos, if I remember right, use kakang gata (coconut milk), and I've seen versions with pineapple chunks in them.


And this is assuming adobo is a purely Filipino creation, which it isn't. Adobo in Spanish cuisine isn't a dish, but a flavoring on meats; the Mexican version has orange juice and chiles.


So--appreciating adobo as it's cooked in Manila is fine and good, but ignoring the variations and trends in other parts of the globe or putting them down at the expense of one's own version is a limiting act; it denies you a whole world of flavors.


It's a rather provincial and unsophisticated attitude, actually.



Mario vs. Mario 3

jojo de vera: i think Mario O'Hara is even far better than Celso Ad Castillo in terms of visual storytelling. Castillo relies so much on his cinematographer in this case Romy Vitug whereas O'Hara only utilized the country's premiere cameramen twice... Vitug in Mga Bilanggong Birhen & the late Conrado Baltazar in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos. i think he managed to bring out the best in the Araojo brothers (Johnny & Romulo) who photographed most of his films in the '80's such as Condemned, Bulaklak Sa City Jail & Bagong Hari. i also liked the visual style of Babae Sa Bubungang Lata & Sisa not to mention Pangarap Ng Puso.

if you'll remember Romy Vitug got most of the credit for Atsay...even more than Eddie Garcia's direction.


Mario used Carding Baltazar twice--in Mortal and in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos. He never worked with Vitug again.


The problem with Vitug is that he's so good at beautifying images (he used to say to Vilma Santos--if I may evoke her name on this thread--"Ma'am, anong gusto mo--seventeen, o sixteen?" (What would you like--seventeen, or sixteen?) Santos would say "Sixteen." And he would light Santos in such a way that she would look sixteen--without filters, mind you) that lesser filmmakers who don't know what they're doing tend to use him as a crutch, to make their pictures look better.


I mentioned Celso because O'Hara admires his eye--thinks his filmmaking skills are better than even Gerry de Leon's.


Yes, I agree O'Hara's collaborations with the Araojo brothers are quite good, especially with Johnny (he's passed away, I believe)--Bagong Hari (The New King) and The Fatima Buen Story are obvious choices, but the bright cinematography of Pangarap ng Puso (Demons) I found quite beautiful in the way it balances fantasy and realism in a low, low budget (3 million pesos, where the average film nowadays is budgeted at 15 million).



Mario vs. Mario 2

jojo de vera: you're absolutely right Noel... if you'll remember the Nora-Christopher episode in Bakit May Pag-Ibig Pa was very theatrical. the entire film was like a stage play. even in the Filipino version of Lord of the Flies, Alkitrang Dugo which was produced by Nora's own NV Productions had some theatrical moments.


jojo devera: ewan ko ba diyan kay Mario B. he was one of the original Manunuri nu'ng manalo si Ate Guy for Tatlong Walang Diyos tapos heto na naman ang mga birada niya. sabagay hindi naman 'yung performance ang binanggit niya kundi ang pagiging theatrical ng eksena sa simbahan kung saan ginupit ang buhok ni Ate Guy. i for one don't think that's the case. theater kasi ang background ni Mario O'Hara kaya sigur may tendency siya na maging theatrical ang execution ng eksena. (I don't know about Mario B. He was one of the original Critics when Ate Guy won for Three Years Without God, and here he is with his cheap shots. At least he didn't cite the performances, only the theatricality of the scenes at the church when Ate Guy's hair was cut. I for one don't think that's the case. Mario O'Hara's background is in theater so he has a tendency to execute his scenes theatrically.)

Mario comes not only from theater but also from radio; he may use theatrical compositions for certain images, but his is not a stagebound visual style--is even less stagebound, I would argue, than Brocka (who does not come from radio).

I would argue that his radio background helped free him from the limits of a theater-oriented filmmaker, much in the same way radio help free another filmmaker--I'm thinking of Orson Welles in Citizen Kane (I asked Mario what he thought of that film, and he said "it's so radio!").

Anyone who has seen O'Hara's Mortal, or the fight scenes in Kastilyong Buhangin and Bagong Hari, or almost all of Mga Bilanggong Birhen or The Fatima Buen Story or a few of the sequences in Tatlong Taong (and I'm sure my list is very incomplete) would see that O'Hara goes beyond even Brocka in terms of editing and imagery, of visual storytelling--if anything, his equal would be Gerardo de Leon or Celso Ad. Castillo.


Mario vs. Mario

Excerpt from Mario Bautista's review of Aishite Imasu


We have seen many local films about the last world war, like Mario O'Hara's anti-war flick, "Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos" (Three Years Without God, 1976) which became too arty for comfort particularly in that highly theatrical scene where vengeful women gang up on Nora Aunor to cut her hair for having an affair with a Japanese officer.

Labnyuk: Any comment, Mr. Noel Vera? 

Mr. Bautista seems to know only one way to cook adobo.

If theatrical staging were an 'arty' flaw, and O'Hara is to be blamed for using it, why he's in perfectly good company, as Ingmar Bergman, Jean Renoir, and even Kurosawa might tell you (The Lower Depths, anyone? They Who Step on the Tiger's Tail?).

Even Brocka and Bernal had their 'stagey' moments--the last shot in Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang for one, or Bernardo Bernardo running out of the morgue and screaming in Manila by Night (very Tennessee Williams); in fact, almost all of Salawahan is arguably very well done stage choreography, with a limited number of people moving in and out of a limited number of sets to deliver witty lines of dialogue.

It's a style, and as art critic Jolicco Cuadra pointed out, that instance Mr. B mentions in the film is visually justified, The circle the women made around Nora in Tatlong Taong links what they're doing to the children making a similar circle at the beginning of the film. The implication is that these women are also children playing games, children who aren't fully aware of what they're doing, much like the children in Golding's Lord of the Flies. In their innocence, they commit tragedy.

He should study the art of cooking adobo more deeply.


Will Eisner, dead

Will Eisner, dead

Here's a eulogy supposedly posted by Gaiman. Haven't checked out its authenticity, but it's a well-written one, nevertheless...

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Will Eisner, 1917-2005
posted by Neil Gaiman 1/4/2005 10:12:11 AM

I interviewed my friend Will Eisner a few year ago, at the Chicago Humanities Festival. At one point I asked him why he kept going, why he kept making comics when his contemporaries (and his contemporaries were people like Bob Kane -- before he did Batman -- remember) had long ago retired and stopped making art and telling stories, and gone.

He told me about a film he had seen once, in which a jazz musician kept playing because he was still in search of The Note. That it was out there somewhere, and he kept going to reach it. And that was why Will kept going: in the hopes that he'd one day do something that satisfied him. He was still looking for The Note...

Will Eisner was better than any of us, and he kept working in the hope that one day he'd get it right.

I was woken up this morning, with the news that Will had died last night, aged 87, and I've let a few friends know, and already had to speak to one journalist about who Will was and what he did ("It's as if Orson Welles had made Citizen Kane and redefined what you could do in film, and then carried on making movies until now," I said, wishing I could come up with a better analogy, and knowing that that didn't explain it. And I didn't mention how proud he was of any of us who did good comics -- how much he cared about the medium -- or how glad I am that I got to tell him that I wouldn't have written comics if it wasn't for him. There's a reason that the Oscars of comics are the Eisner Awards.)

I'm suddenly very grateful for the time I've had with Will over the years, in England and Germany and Spain and the US, for the times that I went over to see him and Ann when I was in the Fort Lauderdale area. I'm glad I was there in Erlangen, when they gave Will an award and the place erupted into a standing ovation that went on and on until I thought that the walls would collapse and the Millenium come and we'd still be in that theatre cheering and clapping, with Will beaming down at us from the stage.

I'm going to miss him enormously, more than I can say. I made a speech lastyear, where I said how strange it was to discover that the gods of comics, the people who made the medium, were, when I met them, cranky old Jews. Will Eisner wasn't cranky, and he was never old. He was, in all ways, a mensch.

And I keep weighing it in my head, the sorrow at losing Will with the knowledge of how fortunate I was to have known him ("you're always sorry, you're always grateful," as Sondheim said about something quite different).

I'm more grateful than sorry.



Maybe not great, but better than his last, and better than the critics' darling Sideways I'd say. Not that I didn't like Payne's latest, but The Aviator seems to have so much more to offer.

I love it that for all the epic size and sweep of it, it's a very personal film. It's typical--no, it's representative--of Scorsese, I think, that he'd take an epic and turn its priorities on their collective heads, make not budget and special effects but obsession and character and human nature rule the film, show all that impressive externals (CGI effects galore; an enormous plane crash; extravagant sets and luxurious costumes) and tell us that it's what's inside Hughes that interests him the most. I've said it before, I'll say it again, he's like Mel Gibson turned inside out. And with talent.

The story, especially the last part, reminds me of Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, where the forces of evil (political and industrial corruption, monopoly, big money interests) gather around our hero, but his greatest obstacle and opponent is basically himself. Then Cooper (sorry, De Caprio) stands up, shakes off the funk, and shows them all for the pixielated ninnies they really are.

With this and Catch Me If You Can, De Caprio makes up for his recent dull turns; he's charismatic, untamed, intense, everything he promised to be early in his career and only is nowadays on interviews or in the tabloids.

A few reservations--Cate Blanchett is wonderful, but for the record, Hepburn was much more beautiful (not a fair assessment, merely an observation). And the film suffers from trying to re-enact Hell's Angels, not that I can see how Scorsese could have done otherwise--I don't think anyone can do what Hughes, a non-filmmaker, could have done with that one picture, with what may be the greatest aerial battle ever filmed.

Niggling reservations, of course. Best film of 2004 to date, I'd say--which isn't a stellar year from where I'm sitting, but is less unstellar than it could have been without this.


Roasted bone marrow with parsley salad

Fergus Henderson, of St. John Restaurant is known for cooking unusual cuts and parts of meats; I wouldn't know if he's all that well known to the average eater, but he's something of a hero among chefs, who speak of his cooking with almost Messianic fervor.

Tony Bourdain at one point declared that Henderson's Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad will be his Death Row meal--meaning, I suppose, that if he's ever electrocuted for his sins, this would be his Last Request. The funny thing is, it's so damned simple, I couldn't resist trying out the recipe...

So: lay five three beef soup bones per person (Henderson specified veal bones, but I went with what I had in the freezer) at least three inches long with a thick core of marrow in a roasting pan. Into a 450 degree oven for broiling for thirty minutes (just keep checking after twenty--if you're not careful, the marrow will melt away).

Meantime, rough chop a bunch of Italian parsley; toss in capers, and two shallots, minced. At the twenty-minute mark (of the bones roasting), season salad with sea salt, fresh-ground pepper, two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and the juice of one lemon.

When the bones are ready, stand 'em up on a plate, lay three slices of toasted bread (I used Italian) to one side, a ramekin of sea salt to the other, and a little mound of parsley salad at the center. When you've wowed your diners with the little presentation, fall to with mucho gusto.

Henderson recommended spreading the marrow over the toast, sprinkling it with salt and topping it with parsley salad; I'm a slow eater, so I contented myself with poking the marrow out with a chopstick, putting a chunk on one end of a toast, salting it, then chasing the bite down with a pinch of salad (forgot all about the forks and spoons).

The salt rocks grind against the teeth and go off like tiny brine fireworks in your mouth; the marrow melts slowly all over the tongue, like the richest butter in the world with a strong roasted-beef flavor, on hot crisp toast. Italian parsley is an intensely flavored herb that, combined with lemon's tartness, is an industrial-strength astringent, but in this case it's barely enough to cut through the marrow's richness, and is a perfect complement.

Goes well with an ice-cold glass of ginger ale.

Bourdain can go stuff it; after a meal like that, I'd rip the prison bars from their sockets and sailout in the wild blue yonder. Maybe find a little corner of woods somewhere, lie down on the soft grass, and have a quiet cholesterol heart attack--dying with a huge grin on my face.