A survey, answered wid total honesty

1. The phone rings. Who do you want it to be?:


Orson Welles, calling from beyond the grave to tell me not only where the missing reels of The Magnificent Ambersons are, but the footage cut from Lady From Shanghai


2. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart?


No. Should I?


3. In a social setting, are you more of a talker or a listener?:


Depends. If he or she has something interesting to say, I listen.


4. Do you take compliments well?:




5. Do you like to ride horses?:


They're okay. Rather eat them.


6. Did you ever go camping as a kid?


Sometimes. Haven't in decades.


7. What was your favorite game as a kid?




8. If a sexy person was pursuing you, but you knew he/she was married, would you pursue it?


Never mind sexy, what kind of movies does she like?


9. Could you date someone with different religious beliefs than you?


Depends. What kind of sex does she like?


10. Can you speak another language?:




11. If you had to choose, would you rather be deaf or blind?:


Deaf. I'd rather watch films with the close captioning turned on.


12. Do you know how to shoot a gun?:


Uh--air pistol?


13. If your house was on fire, what would be the first thing you grabbed?




14. How often do you read books?:


Every chance I get.


15. Do you think more about the past, present or future?:




16. What is your favorite children's book?:


Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Prefer that to either the Narnia OR Lord of the Rings books.


17. What color are your eyes?:


Brown sugar.


18. How tall are you?:




19. Last person you talked to?:


Parents on a porch, handing out candies.


20. Have you ever taken pictures in a photo booth?:


Yes. I keep the results to scare rats.


21. When was the last time you were at Olive Garden?


Once. I don't consider that dining out.


22. What are your keys on your key chain for?


One for front door, one for car, one for--I forget what that one's for.


23. Where is your current pain at?:




24. Do you like mustard?:




25. Do you look like your mom or dad?:


They're my parents. What can I do?


26. How long does it take you in the shower?


Ten minutes.


27. What movie do you want to see right now?:


Um--the reissue of Army of Shadows.


28. Do you put lotion on your dog or cats?:


Do people do that?


29. What was the cause of your last accident?:


It was a Saturday night. I was with a date and there was a traffic jam in front of us--someone was arguing with a security guard. Suddenly shots rang out. I reversed the car and went the other way. More traffic. Suddenly someone rear-ended me, hard. The car reversed, ground gears, jerked up on the sidewalk, crunched itself against the side of the building, and stopped.


Found out later that was the guy arguing with the security guard. The guard had shot him in the head, and ran off; he had enough strength left in him to put his car in gear, crash into my car, and die. The stuff on the ground beside the car was probably his brains.


30. What was the strangest thing that happened to you today?:


Uh--some guy brandishing a chainsaw at me while I was walking in the sidewalk.


31. What are you drinking?:




32. Was your mom a cheerleader?:


She's got a masters in art and a business degree. I don't know about cheerleading.


33. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?:


5. Maybe 4.


34. Do you like care bears?:


Grilled and with a lemon squeezed over them, they're very good.


35. What do you buy at the movies?:


Balut. That's a duck egg 15 days old, when the fetus is formed. Very good with rock salt.


36. Do you always read MySpace bulletins?:


Depends on if they're interesting.


37. Ever been to canada?


No. Where is that?


Kidding. I'd like to.


38. Did you eat a cookie today?:




39. What do you and your parents fight about the most?


Who I went out with and who I married.


40. What's your favorite brand of water?




Last post: The Imaginasian Filipino Film Festival

Closing down my AOL blog. It'll still be here, but there won't be any more new posts. Or if there are new posts, they'll be links to this blog: Critic After Dark: A Review of Philippine and World Cinema, and Other Grotesqueries

And check out my first real post there: an account of what happened at the Imaginasian Filipino Film Festival.

So long, and see you there...

Ulzana's Raid (Robert Aldrich, 1972)

I've seen quite a few Aldriches including his oft-mentioned masterpiece Kiss Me Deadly (1955), and while I can appreciate the qualities of that film (considered by many to be the greatest if not film at least noir ever made), strangely enough it's only with Robert Aldrich's Ulzana's Raid (1972) that I truly appreciated the man's work. The film is late period Aldrich, and I think it shows: a young filmmaker can't do a picture this measured, wary, or economical.

I like the frustrating way the cavalry keeps arriving on the scene, always late (even unto the end, in fact), in time only to see the latest atrocities Ulzana hath wrought; I like the way Aldrich uses the tilted rocks of the Arizona desert as a series of Sisyphean slopes against which protagonists and antagonists struggle for the upper hand. I especially like the timing of some of the sequences: while violence often erupts suddenly and develops quickly, there are other times when patient action is required, and any attempt at hurrying leads to deadly mistakes. It's the kind of suspense our filmmakers have practically forgotten how to create, much less build on.

Most of all I like the way Aldrich uses the atrocities--they're horrifying enough, and Aldrich photographs them head-on, albeit without resorting to grisly closeups, but they're hardly gratuitous. They drive home more than any mere lecture or workshop or seminar every could the alien nature of Apache culture and thinking. It seems horrifying, cruel, and sadistic, and Aldrich doesn't deny any of these qualities, but he also gives equal time to the thinking that created these qualities. I think it's Davison's struggle to understand that thinking that's the true dramatic arc of the film, and not Ulzana's pursuit and eventual capture.

Aldrich gives adequate time to explaining that thinking to Davison, but I like the fact that he doesn't explain everything--he doesn't explain how this Apache practice of torture and mutilation (actually, stealing power), is in some way a tribute to the victim; that if he hadn't been so treated, it means he has nothing worth stealing, and is beneath contempt (that's why when one smart settler manages to shoot himself, the Apache's answer is to spit on his corpse).

The final, wordless confrontation between the scout and Ulzana--that was great. It brings the audience's sympathies full circle. We mourn for the dead settlers, and we mourn for--well, maybe not mourn, but perhaps appreciate to some extent, at least--Ulzana's devastated hopes.

A great film, and for the first time I think I truly appreciated--emotionally as well as intellectually--Aldrich the filmmaker.


Interview on Philippine cinema

Edi Sian interviewed me for his blog Pinoy Post: When was the last time you watched a Filipino movie?


If there is one thing Filipinos love to do it is watching movies in theaters. It is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment in the Philippines. The cinema offers a temporary escape into another world where Sharon Cuneta is accused of being "a second-rate, trying hard, copycat" or Kris Aquino's Dida matches Rene Requesta's Pido. But, this proud history of Philippine cinema that stretches way back to the Sampaguita, LVN, Premiere era is sadly being swamped by a tsunami of Hollywood blockbusters.

So, how did Philippine cinema, once the most prolific in Asia, end up where it is right now? Pinoy Post devotes 45 minutes to the state of the Filipino movie industry with Filipino film critic, Noel Vera. Noel is the resident film critic of BusinessWorld Philippines. He maintains a
blog devoted to movies and he has also written a book on Philippine cinema called Critic After Dark.


I'm going to New York's Imaginasian Film Festival

Apparently I'm going after all to New York City's ongoing Imaginasian Filipino Film Festival:

Imaginasian Filipino Film Festival schedule

The films shown are all either on projected DVD or projected Betacam except Lino Brocka's "Insiang" (1976). Many of them will not have subtitles; the Imaginasian schedule will indicate which ("Insiang" is subtitled, for the record).

I do still think the films are worth seeing, if only because this is possibly the only chance many New Yorkers will have to see the best the Philippines has to offer.

Added incentive (for what it's worth): I'll be introducing the films at eight of the screenings, and hopefully doing a Q & A afterwards, depending on time availability.

The films I'm introducing are as follows:

Saturday, Oct. 14

Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang Lino Brocka 2.30

Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa, Brocka, 5.00

Angela Markado, Brocka, 7.30

Tubog sa Guinto Brocka, 10.30

Sunday, Oct. 15

Himala Ishmael Bernal, 1.00

Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos Mario O'Hara, 3.30

Monday, Oct. 16

Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos O'Hara, 6.30

Insiang Brocka, 9.30

I'll be the big guy with the loud voice. Hope to see you there...


Homecoming (Joe Dante, 2005); Pick Me Up (Larry Cohen, 2006)

"Homecoming is a satire of Bush's re-election and of the Iraq War"--no kidding. What's really surprising is the gusto and sheer joy with which Joe Dante so thoroughly skewers his all-too-skewerable targets ("This is a horror story because most of the characters are Republicans," he's quoted as saying). He stuffs his short film with as much caricatures and political references as he does cinematic references in his other pictures (though he can't resist putting "Jacques Tourneur" in one tombstone here), and galvanizes everything with a moral outrage not dissimilar to the kind of spirit that drove the Civil Rights movement.

Something just as surprising is how moving it is; it's easily the most heartfelt (and least gory) of any entry in the series. Dante has a zombie soldier shamble into the voting booth and it isn't about the voting zombie (a nice twist on the classic election trick of stuffing ballot boxes with the names of dead people), but on the young woman who recognizes him, who sees him not as one of the walking undead, but as someone she knew and maybe cared for and admired--more now, with this sacrifice way beyond any reasonable call of duty, than ever. Later Dante manages to insert a quick vignette of a lonely zombie taken in by a sympathetic black couple; it's like a Saturday Morning Post cover painting of a pair of quiet liberals comforting a disillusioned Vietnam war vet.

Larry Cohen with Pick Me Up directs for once not out of his own script but someone else's, and the results are more coherent (if not quite as uniquely wild); it's a helluva lot gorier than I remember Cohen ever being, but the over-the-top humor is pure Cohen. Nice to see Michael Moriarity back in a Cohen film too; judging from his very best performances (his small-time-turned-big-time loser in Cohen's Q comes to mind), he's every bit as talented as, say, Robet De Niro or Al Pacino; with this entry he's apparently also doing better, braver recent work.


Filipino films in New York and in Vienna

Lino Brocka's Insiang (1976)--his masterpiece, in my opinion--is scheduled to screen at The New York Film Festival, Oct. 14, Sat. at 12 noon,  Alice Tully Hall (North side of 65th Street, west of Broadway).

I write about Insiang here (warning: plot discussed in close detail)

Meanwhile, Mario O'Hara's Pangarap ng Puso (Demons, 2000)--my vote for the finest film, Filipino or otherwise, of the past 25 years--will be screening at the Viennale in Austria on Oct. 16, 3.30 pm, at the Kunstlerhaus Kino, and on Oct. 24 at 11 am, at the Metro.

I write about the film here.

Finally, a rare showing (Rare? I believe it's its US premiere!) of O'Hara's Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God, 1976) at The Imaginasian, Oct. 15 Sunday at 3 pm, and Oct. 16 Monday at 6.30 pm. There will also be showings of Brocka's Tubog sa Ginto (Dipped in Gold, 1971), Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Weighed But Found Wanting, 1974), Tatlo Dalawa, Isa (Three, Two, One, 1974), Insiang again, and Angela Markado (1980); Ishmael Bernal's masterpiece Manila By Night (1980) and Himala (Miracle, 1982); Mike de Leon's Itim (Rites of May, 1976) and his masterpiece Kisapmata (Blink of an Eye, 1981); Siegfried Sanchez's mockumentary Anak ni Brocka (Son of Brocka, 2005); Manuel Silos' great Biyaya ng Lupa (Blessings of the Land, 1959); and Auraeus Solito's Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, 2005).

Here are links to articles I wrote on Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (warning: plot discussed in close detail); Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros; and Tubog sa Ginto.

(Some of these films may be in projected video; I know Tubog sa Ginto exists only on tape).

Recommendations? I say see them all, even the ones I didn't mention. If you don't have time, well, here's a ranked list.


Book meme

Caught it from Zach Campbell's Elusive Lucidity

1. One book that changed your life?

Frankly they all changed my life. Catch 22 introduced me to absurdist humor and (in the final passages) terminal despair; in One Hundred Years of Solitude I remembered how matter-of-factly the fantastic was presented, Moby Dick introduced me to a kind of pagan spirituality (or at least one that had as much connection with nature and the sea as it had to Christian faith); Dostoevsky's novels showed me the depths of human perversity and the wonders of human redemption were often two sides of the same degraded coin. 

If I have to choose one book, I suppose I'd choose Cervantes' Don Quixote, if only because of any novel, it most completely represents all novels: massive yet intimate, slyly witty, crudely hilarious, intensely moving, fabulously imagined, profoundly metaphysical. It's the whole set of Shakespeare's plays in one volume, the world entire on the palm of your hand (if your hand rested on a tabletop, that is--most editions of this are chunky).

2. One book that you have read more than once?

Olaf Stapledon's Starmaker. World-building and imagination of a scale and density of detail no writer of fantasy or science fiction has achieved before, or approached since. A chilly philosophical view that annoyed C.S. Lewis to no end (though people as disparate as Virginia Woolfe and Winston Churchill professed admiration, and Jorge Luis Borges called it "a prodigious novel"). A monumental work too obscure and difficult for most science-fiction readers to embrace enthusiastically, too centrally embedded in the genre for mainstream literature readers to easily swallow. What's not to like?

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

Easy: Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu. At around 5,000 pages it's long enough and complex enough a world to get lost in, and I imagine there's nothing in those pages that mentions deserted islands, something I'll probably appreciate on the tenth year of my stay.

4. One book that made you cry?

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. The final passages, when Humbert Humbert realizes just what Lolita had gone through--what it had cost her to be with him--are a terrible experience, not so much because of the suffering Humbert undergoes as the shame he feels (which Nabokov so memorably evokes). Better to have been shot in the head than to have to feel such shame.

5. One book that made you laugh?

Another easy one--The Bridges of Madison County. A laugh fest from beginning to end. I was in tears when I put it down.

6. One book you wish had been written?

Oh, yet another easy one: The First Encyclopedia of Tlon. Of course, there are those who say the book has already been written...

7. One book you wish had never been written?

I could think of several hundreds, but Anne Catherine Emmerich's The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ was the book that most readily comes to mind...

8. One book you are reading currently?

Still re-reading De Sade's Les 120 journées de Sodome ou l'école du libertinage and Thomas Rick's Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. Sometimes I can't tell which book I'm reading...

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

Well, the Proust. I have the volumes sitting here. Need to start.

10. Pass it on

Oh, anyone who wants to, go ahead.

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