Monday, February 24, 2003

Lia gave a nice talk at Quark’s class today, on editing. She’d prepared a lot of notes, but didn’t refer to them too often; maybe she just made them to ease her nervousness. But they’re good notes; I was reading them after her talk and there are things in there that I’d forgotten about, or didn’t think of. Sometimes you think you know things, but then there are always little things that make you go, “Ah. Interesting…” and then more possibilities emerge. I’m lucky to have friends like that. Take Gabby, for example. He just had a screening of In the Mood for Love tonight at Brash, a fundraising thing for Something I Forgot. He’s a go-getter, this Mr. Narciso. Active in a lot of things, not just his job. I remember that in our carpool in high school, he was the only other person who had more than a superficial interest and appreciation for stories and their telling. So I’d tell him story ideas and he’d tell me his and we’d share opinions, impressions, reactions. It helped to pass the time on ungodly trips home stuck in Edsa traffic, pre-C5. And in these conversations, I’d get ideas. For what we’re talking about, sometimes for something else, but the thing I’m getting to is that it’s nice to have other people who you can bounce ideas off of, or who can show you things you don’t know.

So anyway, 13 people showed up for the screening, which is good since an average Brash screening has about the same number, and this was all Gabby’s doing. And they liked the movie, and asked questions, and even went through some of the features, and two of them might even buy the DVD. And any money I can send Wong Kar Wai’s way, I’d be glad to assist.

Oh, and I have to mention this. Joey and I were outside talking, and he was taking a few pictures with his digital camera so the flash was going off every now and then. Later, after the screening and after Joey'd left, Gabby tells me that the flashes occurred right at the scene where Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung were caught in the rain, making for an unexpected, romantic, and possibly eerie "effect." Ahh, serendipity...

Saw Harvey, Carlo, and Ernan last Friday night, to talk about a possible project. The actual talking about the project was quick, we mostly had dinner, and caught up with each other. I was glad to finally meet She, and Harvey lent me some more Blade of the Immortal books, which I’m reading now and enjoying. Carlo’s project sounds interesting and insane at the same time: I haven’t quite got my head wrapped around it yet, but maybe things’ll be clearer when we get to talk about it at length. I just know it’s a relationship/romance between two monkeys that evolve through I think four different phases. You can’t say it’s been done before, that’s for sure. I’m interested in what possibilities he sees in it to make it a full-fledged project…

I also saw Justin of Ciudad wearing shorts in a mall last Sunday. In Rustans. I greet him now as he’s enjoying his action-filled job at Accenture. He was on his way to buy a book: the hardcover Illustrated A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. I remembered that I had it and recounted to him how I’d begun the book twice but still hadn’t finished it. Started the first time when I’d gotten it in high school, got derailed by a hell week, and then forgot about it. Unearthed it from being buried under other unread books in college, took another go at it, almost finised it this time (even took notes which are still in one of my notebooks), and then got derailed by another hell week. I hope I get to read that book before I die. (It’s a great book, by the way)

Neva’s been updating her blog, and even changed her template, so go take a look when you’ve got the time.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Mich sent me what now has to be one of my favorite text messages ever: “Quick help what happened in first lord of the rings i’m forced to watch second now with carol’s family.”


Am currently going through a lovely retrospective called Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz. It’s edited and designed by one of my favorite graphic designers, Chip Kidd, and some of the archival strips contained in the book come from his personal collection as well as the collection of one of my favorite cartoonists, Chris Ware. It is, of course, beautifully designed, and I was lucky enough to get a brand-new copy for almost 50% off the cover price. I read a few pages every night before I go to sleep, and I’m falling in love with Peanuts all over again. Peanuts, Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the gang, I grew up reading them, but never really thought about them deeply. I’d laugh at a lot of the strips, enjoy myself, but I treated it as just another routine. It’s like background noise; it’s always there, we’re just so used to it that we don’t pay attention to it anymore. And we end up taking it for granted. So when Charles Schulz died, it was a shock to everyone. We all thought Peanuts would last forever (it will, don’t worry). Schulz was a consummate draftsman, and worked non-stop once he had syndication. His very last strip was published the day after his death.

The book really is amazing; there are pages from his sketchbook while he was in the war, and it’s a little surreal looking at his drawings of adults and “regular” people when none appeared in any Peanuts strips (or the TV specials). It contains also the only occasion that Charlie Brown flew a kite without it being eaten by the Kite-Eating Tree (unfortunately, it spontaneously combusts), the only occasion that Charlie Brown got to kick a football (because Lucy is nowhere in the vicinity), the only existing drawing of the Little Red-Headed Girl (based, apprarently, on a real-life unrequited love of Schulz’s), the first appearances of every character, and lots more. The only appearance of a character named Charlotte Braun. Early strips where the characters were shaped differently and had slightly different personalities. Charlie Brown, for example, was quite a prankster and ladies’ man. Snoopy’s head wasn’t disproportionate to his body, and he actually looked like a beagle. Lucy wasn’t mean. Snoopy was the first beagle on the moon. I’d completely forgotten that Charlie’s father’s occupation was a barber. I also got to see Schroeder, Lucy, Linus, and Sally as babies. The very first toys and licensed products. The cover of the first paperback book collecting the comic strips. The first few comic books (interiors not drawn by Schulz, I learned to my surprise). Characters who stopped appearing around the late 60s, like Violet, Shermy, and Patty (not Peppermint).

Going through the book you can slowly see his art style and sense of humor evolve. Not a few times have I laughed out loud, late in the evening, over a joke that might not seem so funny in others’ hands, but is dynamite when executed by Schulz’s deft timing and expressive line. His talent for facial expressions and body language is incredible.

One thing that takes me by surprise are the strips that aren’t just humorous, but have heart. One strip, for example, shows a young Lucy losing a balloon and ends with her almost in tears. The reader does as well. Charlie Brown probably has the most of these strips, what with his insecurities, his unprofessed love for the Little Red-Headed Girl, his seeming lack of skill at ANY sport, etc.

Around the time I was ending grade school, my mother gave me an old Peanuts paperback she had as a kid. This is a book that basically was published in the 50s, and still featured Schulz’s old style of drawing. It still had the old characters, and Snoopy still looked like a regular dog, no Woodstock in sight. I was amazed at the time, not just that my mom used to read comics as a kid, but because I never thought that Peanuts had looked anything unlike how I saw it in the newspaper everyday. To this day it’s one of my fondest gifts from her. It was probably the first time I realized that something like Peanuts had a history wholly separate from my existence.

I end with one of the sweetest, most profound statements ever to escape a child’s mouth:

“They say that opposites attract… She’s really something and I’m really nothing… How opposite can you get?” – Charlie Brown, 1963

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Sorry, but Daredevil sucks. I really wanted to like it, because the book hasn't been this good in years, but it just disappointed me. It's certainly no Batman & Robin, but I don't know why they gave it to the director of Simon Birch. What's the point of admittedly good fight choreography if your shots don't show it, and your lighting's insufficient? And I know puns may sound alright in a script, but once you start speaking them out loud it just gets ridiculous. Michael Clarke Duncan's Kingpin doesn't come across as intellectually imposing at all, which is a shame because he's such a master strategist and tactician. Colin Farrell's Bullseye was the most consistently-entertaining character but even he, towards the end, started to disappoint with his, well, one-dimensionality. Elektra wasn't bad, but had none of the exotic mysterious qualities associated with the character. Ben Affleck played the same character he's been playing since forever. Favreau was comic relief. And it has the worst music cues of this year thus far. Can we make it any more obvious that we want this to be a franchise? From the schmaltzy Elektra-in-the-rain music to that hip-hop-song-whose-name-I-don't-know going "I'm an outlaw" upon Kingpin's first shot. Yes, we get the point, he's the bad guy.

6ixtynin9 surprisingly better than I expected. Some problems with the execution but overall interesting, with a good story. Even Thailand makes better movies than us. It also subscribes to this theory I have of what the future of cinema will be like, but I'm not telling.

Just saw Storytelling. Todd Solondz is a sick, sick man. I can't help but imagine that he really hates his characters (and thus, all people) sometimes.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Just spent the last half-hour or so looking like an idiot, laughing out loud at the hilarious online comic strip Get Your War On, which you must read. Go. Now. The bits with Voltron are my favorite ("Under God?").

Been busy with Pelikula at Lipunan, trying to watch as much as I can. Have so far seen El Crimen Del Padre Amaro, All About Lily Chou-Chou, Hush, Pagdating Sa Dulo, and parts of Titus. It's amazing that suddenly, there's back-to-back film festivals: practically right after Pelikula at Lipunan, Cinema Paraiso begins, also an NCCA event, and then eKsperimento around the 26th, at the same time as this year's Eiga Sai, which is focusing on one director. Unfortunately, Cinema Paraiso and eKsperimento both are in Intramuros. I don't even know how to get there, let alone how to traverse the maze that it is. Christ, I'm going to be destitute after this.


Our helper has a better DVD player. It can play all regions, and PAL discs. Damn.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Last night's casualties included:

2 orders of Chicharon Bulaklak
1 Four Seasons
2 orders of Tuna Belly
1 Ripe Mango Shake
2 Garlic Rice
1 Sinigang Bangus
1 Chicken Fritters
1 glass of Red Wine
½ glass of Pale

Man was I full.

For some reason I am wondering how many couples broke up last night, and wish that I could have my own quick Amelie-montage of couples fighting, with me whispering the correct figure at the end.


I have to admit that most of my Bush-hating comes from Steven Grant, and his column Master of the Obvious. It's at Comic Book Resources, and yes, deals with comics. However, it also deals with world politics, reviews, popular entertainment, etc. The man's well-informed. If you're curious, just check out his columns. There's been a section in each column on American politics for a long while now, so if that's all you're interested in reading give it a look-see. You'll find out all sorts of sordid things that Bush and Ashcroft have been pulling seemingly behind the scenes, because most of the American people are either ignorant (by which I mean not paying attention to how laws are literally being rewritten without their knowledge, which should never be the case in a democracy) or misguided. When I wrote one of my major papers in Political Science last year I pretty much used Master of the Obvious as my main source of info (it helps that Grant also notes his sources, some from Slate). Meanwhile I'll let you read this piece from the Onion, which as usual is funny but seems all too true:

Saddam Enrages Bush With Full Compliance
WASHINGTON, DC-President Bush expressed frustration and anger Monday over a U.N. report stating that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is now fully complying with weapons inspections. "Enough is enough," a determined Bush told reporters. "We are not fooled by Saddam's devious attempts to sway world opinion by doing everything the U.N. asked him to do. We will not be intimidated into backing down and, if we have any say in the matter, neither will Saddam." Bush added that any further Iraqi attempt to meet the demands of the U.N. or U.S. will be regarded as "an act of war."

I sort of wish that Iraq would suddenly announce that they just ran out of all their oil. See how quickly Bush's hard-on for war disappears.


Some interesting quotes from a Christopher Doyle interview I found:

"We break the record every year for film used in a Hong Kong film, and yet he discards 95% of it. And I don't care, because if the image doesn't hit the screen, it's still there. I had the visual, and the emotional, and the technical experience of having made that image, and I think that comes back on the screen."

I suppose I should explain this one a bit. See, Wong Kar-Wai doesn't really work with a script. He has a general plot, and basically comes up with scenes on a daily basis, and then allows improvisation and inspiration to affect the story's development. A lot of times he doesn't even know how they will end. In that sense his "filmmaking" is really done in post, the editing process, where he sculpts what will become his film. In other words, instead of building up, he removes what is extraneous. It's an expensive process, but his works are amazing, and very few people are allowed that liberty.

And here's one that made me laugh:

SAB - So in these movies- the guys have such incredible charm, like in Days of Being Wild, when Leslie says, "I'll remember this minute forever."

Chris - Yeah, "Give me one minute of your time... this is the beginning of the rest of your life' kind of thing.

SAB - Can you be that charming?

Chris - No, no, I wish. Those lines are all Wong Kar-Wai's lines. I don't know how he became so charming. (Laughter) That line was chosen by this film magazine as the line of the year, and you can imagine how many poor young girls in Hong Kong lost their virginity because of this line.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Happy Valentines to all lovers everywhere, young and old. You can get more of these heart-warming images here. For all you lovelorn types, and for those who just plain want a good laugh, please click here. It might take a while to load, but it's worth it. I particularly recommend it to Mich and Goldie. If you're not a lovelorn type, but still want to laugh, click here, especially if you hate Michael Jackson.

El Crimen De Padre Amaro kicked off the Pelikula at Lipunan film fest @ Megamall last Wednesday night. The fest is of course brought to you by Mowelfund, and this time they've tied up with the NCCA, which is celebrating National Arts Month. The film itself was just competent. I suspect that whatever acclaim/hype/buzz the film garnered is due mostly to the controversial subject matter, because I found the execution rather lacking. I don't see why it was nominated as Best Foreign Film (Mexico's representative). So I hope that Hero, deservingly nominated, kicks its ass. The screening was maddening, because first of all, things were ridiculously late. They only started letting people in (after "celebrities" and guests) 45 minutes AFTER the film was supposed to start. When Mowelfund savior Boots Anson-Roa gave a short introduction, she sort of mentioned that there would be some speeches from some guests (NCCA Undersecretary, Mexican Ambassador) and a lot of people audibly booed. The guests got the hint and kept all their speeches under a minute. More aggravating than that, however, was the fact that the airconditioning was turned off around halfway through the film. And by the last thirty minutes, it was really, uncomfortably hot. If you looked around you'd see almost everyone fanning themselves with some piece of paper. I really fucking got angry with that. What the fuck am I paying 100 pesos for?! And let's remember that 100 bucks is more expensive than the normal Megamall rate of 60. I really wanted to kick the shit out of someone after that screening. When we got out the first thing I wanted was a drink and a nice blast of airconditioning. Anyway, I calmed down some when we got some food and refreshment at Caltex, but I got a headache from the heat and headed home.

Just saw Volcano High again last night with Neva, who hadn't seen it yet. What a great film. And wonder of wonders, Neva's finally updated her blog.

On a more somber note, please read the recent nanotale of Richard Kadrey's, Crash Kiss. Wounds of Columbia aren't yet healed, but he handles it with his customary eye-opening insights, and gift for language. It's short, as are all his other nanotales, so you don't have any excuse.

Also, may I point you towards the Love Stories blog, which hasn't been updated in a while, but is still well worth a visit. Stories about love in whatever form (requited, familial, paternal, friendly, platonic, etc.), so long as they're true.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Great out-of-context quotes (some quite old):

Mich: Did you just spit?
Chris: I don’t swallow.

Mich: I’m so tired!
Me: Why?
Mich: I was supposed to do 150 guys, but they were so gay, so I just did mga 50.

(Me and Neva visit Mich at Fila, and see her driver, who has fever, in the lobby of the building)
Me: Manong, kamusta na sakit natin?
Mich’s driver: Ayan, nasa taas.

The only recent interesting things people have been searching for when accidentally visiting this blog are:

Billy Corgan + wife
Diva Plavalaguna porn

The rest are just Aubrey Miles nude, or variations thereof.

Happy birthday to Alexis, and belated happy birthday to Jenny de Dios.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Harvey says that Japanese anime has regularly outsourced some of its workload to Korean animation houses, which may account for how they were able to refine their methods and techniques. I also remembered that since Korea's where Rough Draft is housed, I probably shouldn't be as surprised as I am (see previous post). Rough Draft is one of the best animation houses in history, and their calling card seems to be not just fluid animation, but the ability to maintain the creator's specific style. They do The Simpsons, and the old Aeon Flux and Phantom 2040 series. So every frame of The Simpsons looks like it was hand-drawn by Matt Groening, but of course that's impossible, and every episode of Aeon Flux looks like it was hand-drawn by Peter Chung.


And the Poveda Prom note is simply this: I never went to my prom (just the Senior Ball), Neva never went to hers, so it was our first prom. Unfortunately, it sucked. The emcees were charmless, and didn't realize their microphones were too far away from their mouths; the mobile sucked, so nobody was dancing; we didn't get the table we were promised, etc. But hell, we had a fairly good time. We danced. We talked. Good thing we were with friends. It was nice seeing all of us dressed up: all dresses and suits. I wish I had my camera but it was with my dad while he was in Baguio. Maybe Mich or Goldie will put up pics since they brought their camera. Lest I forget, Alexis and Hannah won Dancing King & Queen, and Goldie won Prom Princess. And Ciudad played a great set.


The Managing The Arts Program at AIM Batch 4 is ongoing now. Students include Laurice Guillen and husband Johnny Delgado (Goin' Bananas!), Nestor Torre, and Marvyn Agustin (who's dorming for some reason). Star-studded! I'm going to see if I can sit in on some classes. Neva, Mich, and Chris are talking about attending Batch 5 in June.


If you have nothing better to do, go here and vote for Newsradio, "full season" specs, please. It's one of my favorite shows of all time and I'd love it if the entire run were available on DVD.

Friday, February 07, 2003

What is it with Koreans? Why do they suddenly seem to have an influx of both money and insane creativity? Suddenly I’m aware that there even IS a Korean film industry, and that they’ve been coming out with some of the more interesting Asian films in recent memory. Normally I only hear about Hong Kong/China and Japan, but now you hear about Attack the Gas Station, My Wife Is A Gangster, and these two films I recently saw: My Beautiful Girl Mari and Volcano High. I saw My Beautiful Girl Mari about a week or two ago. It’s a lovely animated film about two boys who discover a portal into another fantastical world. Both the boys’ boring, lonely, troubled real-world life and the fantastic sequences in the other world are handled with equal amounts of imagination and sensitivity. The animation and art is beautiful. Far better than anything I would’ve expected from a country that wasn’t even on the map as far as animation goes. Volcano High I just saw Thursday night, and it’s amazing. It’s no Hero, certainly, but it’s a different kind of film anyway. It’s literally the best video game movie I’ve ever seen, except it isn’t based on any video game (as far as I know, anyway). It’s got some great wire work, interesting fight choreography, impressive cinematography, a ridiculously over-the-top, yet fun, story, even CG sequences. Where’d they get the money for all this? And the know-how? There’s some films here I haven’t gotten to yet, called Guns & Talks, which looks promising, kind of like an Ocean’s Eleven except they’re all young, good-looking, and assassins. And Phone, which looks like their answer to Ringu. And Christ, check out this trailer for a film called Wonderful Days. It looks amazing. Not just the animation, the matte paintings, but the character and vehicle design. The music’s terrific, too. I’ve been through it like 4 times already. Even in comics, though I know they have a rich history of manwah (the term for Korean comics, like the Japanese manga), the recently-concluded Angouleme festival had a special spotlight on Korea!

I am green with envy.

And since we’re on the topic of Korea, click here for a laugh.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

My new wallpaper:

Last Wednesday night I watched Hero with Neva, Mich, Quark, and Lia, and all I can say is... Wow. WOW.

Actually, no, that's not all I can say. I can say a lot more. It's a fucking masterpiece. It's wonderful. It's the best film of the year so far, and I wouldn't be surprised if it stays that way, or at least in the top 5. You certainly won't find a more beautiful film this year, and though it's a bit early yet to say that, I daresay I'll still be right come December.

It's breathtaking. You can ask Neva, right after the introductory text, I already told her "I'm definitely watching this again." Once it started, I was just grinning from ear to ear like an idiot. I mean, I'd been waiting for this movie a long time. One of the best filmmakers, Zhang Yimou, working with my favorite cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, making a wuxia martial arts epic with a dream cast: Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, and Donnie Yen. And, man, it was WORTH it. It's so rare for a film to live up to, and even exceed its hype, but Hero did it effortlessly. The first fight alone was worth the 160 pesos we paid (kind of expensive, yes, but Greenbelt 3 THX = P150 + P10 reservation fee is something I'm willing to pay for a film like this). It's operatic, it's grandiose, sweeping, epic, all the ridiculous adjectives you'd care to use. It's completely unlike anything I expected and yet I was satisfied on every level, and even some I didn't consider. The script, for example. I expected the great cinematography and the wonderful acting, but I didn't think the script would be that good. In a way, it has to be, because much of the film is silent. It's a film where what is said is just as important as what is unsaid. Where gestures are so important. And the structure of the film also took me by surprise: a series of stories within stories, somewhat Rashomon-like and yet not.

The visuals are just staggering. The colors are so alive, so vibrant, they just leap off the screen, and burn themselves in your retina. You could hang frames on your wall. The movement is fluid, graceful. The best wire work ever seen. The effects aren't distracting, and gladly aren't even that noticeable. I think it's a testament that the theater was mostly quiet throughout. No laughing at the wrong places. No talkative people, even in the many silences. Even us, as much as we make hirit sometimes, were just quiet, enjoying the spectacle.

Three scenes in the film brought tears to my eyes. Two involve Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung's doomed relationship, and one wasn't even about the story: the stunning fight between Maggie Cheung's Flying Snow and Zhang Ziyi's Moon in the forest. It's just so gorgeous, I found tears escaping my eyes, the kind that just appear out of nowhere without any preamble, the way they came out of Grima Wormtongue when he saw the army Saruman had amassed. Just by sheer, mindblowing AWE.

How many times do I have to tell you to watch this movie!? And I do mean in a theater. It's a theater movie. You'll miss so much if you just see it on video. I heard it's coming out in the US in November pa. Tough shit, folks. Here's one time I'm happy to be in the Philippines.

It's amusing to think about the connections among the cast and crew of Hero. Donnie Yen and Jet Li, for example, are both action superstars in Asia, though of course Li's more popular worldwide. They've both worked together before in the Once Upon a Time in China films. Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung were of course in In the Mood for Love, amongst other Wong Kar-Wai films, all shot by Christopher Doyle. And finally, Zhang Ziyi was discovered by Zhang Yimou when he cast her in The Road Home. And may I further add that I really liked Ziyi in this one, and am so glad she chose to accept the role despite its being relatively small and inessential. Then again, she'd have to be a fool to turn this down. Even on paper the project looked like a sure thing.

Going to the website, you can read a bit about the film. The part I remember most is the story behind the filming of the forest fight, where Zhang Yimou had a man in the forest to keep an eye on the changing colors of the leaves, sending videotapes to him, and when it was just the right color, the whole production rushed there. Crewmembers had to gather all the leaves after every take and arrange them according to three levels of brightness: A for in front of the actors, B for behind them, and C on the floor.

You can get wallpapers here.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Something is wrong with my mouse. The pointer only moves sideways, and not vertically. Which pisses me off. Terribly. It's quite difficult to use a computer using what few shortcut keystrokes you know. Somehow I was actually able to go online, but it was driving me mad. There's a post about being surrounded by prostitutes last Wednesday night that I owe, and a note about the Poveda Prom we attended last Saturday.


Finally saw 8 Mile last night, and just finished watching Catch Me If You Can. Both good films. I can see why people compare 8 Mile to Rocky, but it actually reminded me of The Karate Kid more than Rocky. Which, as Chris pointed out to me, were both directed by the same man. I enjoyed Catch Me If You Can a great deal, never once looked at the time or checked my phone through its 2 hour 18 minute running time. Loved the Saul Bass-inspired titles (which took 4 months to do), and as usual, terrific cinematography by Janusz Kaminsky. Also appreciated that the film had a lot of heart, that at its core it's actually about family.

Tomorrow: HERO! And The Eye.