Wednesday, January 01, 2003

One cry across the land unites the people: MANO PO SUCKS ASS!

This just goes to prove that you can spend however much you want, but if you start with a horrible story, it’s not going to save you. The only things decent in this film is the production design and the acting. And when I say acting, I mean decent, as in not exemplary. Certainly nothing worth an award. Hell, Maricel Soriano did a better job than Ara. But against Vilma in Dekada?! Who the fuck do you expect to swallow that? And I’m sorry, Eddie Garcia: you’re a fine actor with the right material, but winning for this role just means they all think you’re going to die soon.

Everything else is bollocks. You’ve got too many characters, and none of them are people, they’re all stereotypes. Some of them don’t even have an excuse to exist, like Tirso Cruz’s Daniel and Eric Quizon’s Joseph (not to mention the two kids who are supposed to be so important to Kris’s character, este, stereotype). The best actresses in the bunch, Amy Austria and Gina Alajar, are utterly wasted. The subtitles should be in Tagalog, not English. The accents are laughable, especially Eddie Garcia and that kid who played him (Cogie Domingo?). Why couldn’t they get even a few Chinoys in the cast? It’s not like we’ve a drought. Inconsistencies galore.

For one thing, they keep going back and forth between English, Tagalog, and Chinese, without reason. Second, director Joel Lamangan tries to employ these framing devices when obviously he doesn’t know what the hell he wants to say. The movie starts with a noirish non-linear intro, and you think the movie will be told in flashback. But no, it’s just a pa-cool intro. Beyond incidental flashbacks for certain characters (Daniel and his sister), nothing else is non-linear in the film. Then you have sequences where it’s obvious someone’s shooting a documentary, but it’s not on video, it’s on film, and the “handheldness” of these scenes is excruciating. It’s so obviously fake in its movement and look. That stuttering buffoon of a character should have been aborted upon pregnancy, because he serves no purpose other than to “chronicle” the family’s story, and this is laughable because he starts as a photographer, not a documentarian.

The transitions are all awful, abrupt and unwelcome. The one that interrupts the hospital scene is a particularly hated one. Most, if not all, add nothing to the story. Even my mom spotted this: since Boots Anson-Roa’s character is Filipino, that means they were never pure Chinese. So what’s the big fucking deal? Why do they feel they have to act all Chinese? And if Boots’s character had the strength of will to leave China for home, and the husband followed her, why is she such a complacent old bat in old age, to the point that she actually has to give a speech to Ara (in the church) that her fights are done with, and it’s their turn? Would you believe women paid to produce this? I’ll guess they’re not feminists. And what’s with all the interior monologues? One character’s fine, but everyone!? And in scenes that obviously don’t need it, like Richard Gomez staring at pictures of Ara Mina? Go ahead and insult your audience, why don’t you. We never expected anything more anyway. By all means, don’t show, TELL.

The ONLY thing that even resembled something interesting was the subplot where Amy Austria’s character found her missing husband. That scene alone held more promise than the rest of the film’s 95%.

Oh my God, and the score! What a horribly composed mess. Annoyingly bland and loud marches for China scenes, irritating muzak piano for drama scenes, and it’s as if he cues the entrance of music to the first tear in anyone’s eyes when it’s time for someone to fight/slap someone else/die (I was hoping it’d be Eddie’s character). Another thing that frustrated me is that Eddie’s character learned nothing from the death of his wife (oh sorry, was that a spoiler? Well TOUGH because this movie’s BULLSHIT!!!). He was still a hard-hearted son of a bitch. Worst of all, perhaps, the damn movie just WOULDN’T END! Way past the climax, I don’t know what they were thinking, since it didn’t do anything to save this train wreck.

And let’s not forget all the entertainment “press” that just fell over backwards trying to kiss this film’s ass, fawning over its “values” and “realism” and other words for “oh-I-don’t-know-anything-about-film-criticism.” Values my ass. I didn’t know it was a value to treat your family like shit and wait for the eventual life-threatening scene to remind you of the frailty of life. Hell, this territory was strip-mined already a few years ago by Tanging Yaman! Not that it was original, or any good either.

If I was of Chinese descent, I’d be offended. Thank God I didn’t pay for this shit.

Avoid this movie like you would HIV. One thing I remember is Mother Lily saying she’s so proud of the film she’s considering retiring after this, so that Mano Po can cap off her career as a milestone. All I can say to that is: please, PLEASE RETIRE!


Read this for a laugh. It’s wicked funny.

It’s nice to find out about another cool person who reads comics. And it’s even better that Nick Hornby actually writes about them in the New York Times. And he’s a Tomine fan!

Also found out that Carrie Brownstein is a big fan of Erik Satie. Coolness.


A while back I finished Summerland by Michael Chabon, which I got from Chris for Christmas. It's terrific. Obviously it can't stand up to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, the former being a young adults fantasy and the latter being a Pulitzer Prize-winning epic that spans decades in two lives. It's imperfect; certain "requirements" of the Quest I feel are missing, the main character is sometimes frustrating and least interesting (he makes up for the second with a few amazing last paragraphs of the book), and the last few chapters are incredibly rushed, as if he suddenly realized that either A) his deadline was looming, or B) he promised a 500-page book, had gotten to page 400, realized he was only halfway through, and crammed the next 400 pages worth of story into 100 pages. However, his language is graceful and beautiful and poetic and lyrical; when it's there, it's THERE, and you sometimes can't help but stop reading, put down the book, and let what you just read seep in a little while longer. One chapter about the Sasquatch was one of the most achingly beautiful passages I've read all year. Which brings up another thing: the supporting characters are almost all wonderful. Some actually don't need to be there, some outlive their purpose 2/3s into the book (they're needed to fill positions on a baseball team). However, I didn't like the way he handled the vanquishing of the antagonist. It was a deus ex machina, and for something he'd been building for roughly 400 pages, was a bit of a cheat. His world-building is impressive, descriptions of the different areas and world lingering long after their chapters in question.

What I just finished was Neva's gift, The Jew of New York by Ben Katchor. It's full of eccentric, charming characters, the art's pleasing to the eye and is unique, the tone is whimsical. Fascinating interweaving of different characters. For some reason, though, I couldn't read it straight, I could only do at most 20 pages a day. That doesn't mean it wasn't good, though. On the contrary, it's such a unique book, the kind that surprises you with its existence, which I'm always thankful for. To think that it's a comic strip; a page a day appearing in the newspaper. Most comic strips now are nothing; just excuses for sad gags. Back in the day long stories could be told by publishing a page a day. Now it's still sort of continued by the like of Brenda Starr and The Phantom and Prince Valiant reprints.

I've finally started on Michael Crichton's Timeline.

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