Friday, December 31, 2004

I can't remember a more depressing holiday season than this one. Just locally we had 2 bad typhoons one after the other, followed by floods and landslides resulting in multiple casualties and millions in property damage. Of course, there is the utter devastation that nature unleashed with an earthquake and subsequent tsunamis upon South Asia, which we were, luckily, spared. The death toll last I heard had passed the 120,000 mark, when just the other night it was 80,000. You can see some video footage of the tsunamis here. Just thinking about that kind of destruction can boggle the mind. Entire villages and coastlines rendered, entire families disappearing. I was watching BBC and they were interviewing this tourist in the hospital, and he was talking about how he was holding his son in his arms and when the wave hit his son just vanished. He was trying to get out of the hospital to join his family in the search for the boy but they wouldn't let him go because his injuries were still too severe for him to be moving about. The whole interview he was semi-weeping and it was just heartbreaking. And that's just one story out of thousands. So many people still haven't been accounted for, even, at one point, both Arthur C. Clarke and Jet Li.

Back to local, and just among people I know, some friends have lost family members, and others have broken up relationships.

This whole year has been kind of weird. There didn't seem to be a dominant feeling about it; there were good times, and there were bad times, but mostly a kind of blah-- punctuated occasionally by the good and bad. And maybe we hold on to those good and bad times as extreme points in contrast to everything else that was pretty much same ol', same ol'.

I'm not a very religious person. These holidays, I pretty much treat as a time for giving thanks.

This year my dad lost 2 siblings, his last living sister and his eldest brother. Both to cancer, which had already claimed his father and eldest sister. It came up during Christmas dinner, to think about what we've lost. It was an awkward moment for me, because I realized that my dad still has 3 brothers left. If I lost 2 siblings, I'd be alone. I wondered about families who would have their first Christmas dinner minus a family member. My tita who lost her husband, my tito who lost his wife. Friends who had lost family members. Even the De Venecias. Their youngest daughter had been in classes both Neva and I had taught. Though we didn't really know her, it's always sad when someone younger than you-- and someone that young-- dies. Someone I know died around Halloween. He was slightly younger than me, a fresh graduate. I didn't know him very well either, in fact I'd only been with him twice, but both times we had genial talks about photography; at the time I was saving up to buy an LC-A and he wanted to get my Quad Cam. When someone younger than you dies it's always a sharper reminder of your own mortality. You feel like it shouldn't happen, which I imagine any parent feels when their own child dies before them.

Is that what we are left with, at the end of the year? To take comfort in that things could've been much, much worse, and in the light of all these surrounding tragedies, we got off lucky? Look around you, at your family members who are still with you, friends and loved ones thankfully in good health. A home and hopefully a job, with clothes and food and things you love: books or comics or films or music or art. Hug them a little tighter, laugh at their jokes a little louder, appreciate things a little better.

Giving thanks.

It's more than enough.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

In the department of people with too little to do, someone has made the Michael Jackson video "Thriller" using nothing but Legos. And on this forum, some guys have started photoshopping stills out of Lord of the Rings. Most are crap, but one or two show some kind of clever wit behind them. Examples:

Randy Lander has an article up about his favorite comic covers of 2004. I agree with some of them, particularly the work of James Jean (who has an artbook coming out in March), Jock, Jim Rugg (great attention-getting covers for a new series), Tony Moore, Frank Quitely (inspired covers for We3), and Mike Huddleston (a very underrated artist). I love Jo Chen's art as well.

But something that I suspected has been confirmed, and it is very very exciting. And if anyone's interested, that's what I want for Christmas next year. Can I get a yeah-ha?!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Not only is there a Clive Owen Sin City poster (finally!), but the trailer's out! And it looks awesome.

The Get Shorty sequel Be Cool has its trailer up, and I'm a bit disappointed that it's not Barry Sonnenfeld directing, but it is nice to see Chilli Palmer again. The Weather Man, after The Family Man & Matchstick Men, may see Nicolas Cage typecast more than he already is, but I actually liked this trailer, and just hope that Gore Verbinski can deliver the emotional goods, the way I was surprised by Brett Ratner's The Family Man. Doug Liman's remake of Mr. & Mrs. Smith doesn't really interest me, other than the action scenes. Hope it'll surprise me too. And via Jason, Appleseed is looking sweeter and sweeter.

Also, check out Woody Allen's Melinda & Melinda & Martin Scorsese's The Aviator.

July 16 sees the publication of Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince.

This Red Meat strip reminded me of a specific scene in Spaced:

Friday, December 17, 2004

Sorry, been busy, I've been meaning to post...

I saw 2046 again, last Sunday, by myself, at the refurbished Greenhills theaters. It was my first time there since it was renovated, and the shape of the theaters sucks. It's very wide, so when I thought I was choosing a seat in the middle of the theater I thought I'd be a good distance from the screen, but not close enough to the rear that you can hear the projector whirring, which I grew to hate especially during all those Film Festivals they used to have at Shangri-La Plaza (which has since also refurbished its theaters, though I haven't been yet). But no. Despite being in the middle of all the seats available I was still too close to the screen for my comfort, and just felt sorry for everyone else sitting in front of me, which was nobody. There were unfortunately only less than 10 people, and the couple to my right left after about 30 minutes. The family of 3 seated behind me I was walking behind when the film ended, and the daughter who was about my age hated it, remarking "What was with their hair?" which had me remarking, "You fucking imbecile you should've been aborted," although I said it in my head, not out loud. But the dad liked it, and the mom didn't speak. So points for daddy, but sorry, your daughter's a doorknob.

By and large, my initial impression hasn't changed. I do really like the film very much, and focused on different details this time around. I think I have a better appreciation of the structure this time around, too. The beginning part is intended to be confusing because it's still out of context, which is provided later (and repeated, in case you really don't get it). The character arc of Chow Mo-wan is more coherent to me now, especially with the favor to Bai Ling at the end, AFTER the Faye Wong sequence.

The film really is ripe for examination and speculation. What's the story behind Gong Li's hand? Why was futuristic Takuya Kimura injured after departing 2046? Is it meant to be a literal translation of Chow's emotional injuries? Where is the significance of 2046 in regards to what it means for Hong Kong? Harvey has an idea, but if anyone else can shed more light on this I'm all ears. I have this idea of 2046 being an ideal for the character of Chow Mo-wan, because it was in that room that he had his happiest moments with Maggie Cheung's Su Lizhen, and that's why it represents, in his fiction, a happy place where nothing ever changes, and thus, no one ever leaves. I think that was his dream: to recapture, or return to that room, and never leave (I think dialogue with a similar tone/spirit is in one of the deleted scenes of In the Mood, but I'm not sure).

I'm now less convinced of Chow's feelings for Bai Ling. Not to belittle Bai-- if you remember, the story stayed with her more than it did Chow for a good while. Her feelings were intensely genuine, and now that I think about it their whole relationship was another echo of Days of Being Wild. How Chow treated Bai, Leslie Cheung's character treated both Maggie Cheung and Carina Lau. I don't think Chow saw Faye Wong as a challenge, either. I think that she reminded him of Maggie Cheung's Su Lizhen (the writing helps). Perhaps this is why he wanted to help her with her relationship despite its circumstances. If he couldn't have his happy ending, he could at least help encourage others to find theirs. Almost a romantic notion, that in an alternate universe, he and Su Lizhen could've ended up together.

Also, little smatterings: Takuya Kimura was EXCELLENT. The first and last shot are the same: the resting place of the secret, which was also the last shot of In the Mood. The smeared lipstick of Gong Li in the beginning, which Neva first brought to my attention, being explained in the end.

Any film that has inspired this much thought given me so much to chew on has to be on my list of favorite movies of the year.

The only place it's showing now (practically) is Glorietta 4. Only lasted a week in most places. :(


Christmas traffic has now reached the point where I don't want to leave the house anymore. My blood pressure goes up, I swear like a sailor and basically get into a rabid bloodthirsty berzerker rage. The worst part of it is I sometimes end up in a bad mood whenever I get to where I'm heading, which is bad news if it's a party, or meeting up with Neva.

The better-quality new Batman Begins trailer is up. And here's the trailer for Constantine, which bears no resemblance to the character I have enjoyed reading since high school.

Here's a short film adapting a short Sin City story. Not bad.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


A new Batman Begins teaser trailer can be viewed here, though a better-quality version is expected Monday.

And here is the teaser for Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, for next summer. That was fast. I thought this was still a ways off. Proudly claiming the "most expensive movie ever" tag.

Friday, December 10, 2004

A second teaser poster for Batman Begins, also tres cool, and, more than the first, actually looks like it's been ripped from the pages of a comic book.

Terrence Malick's first film since The Thin Red Line, The New World, has a trailer. And here's the trailer for Tim Burton's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. It looks like a scary film. Good. Would you like to see the full uncensored sex scene deleted from Team America? Pervert.

Brother, can you spare $20 million? I'm thinking of buying myself a submarine. You know, for when I feel like going to Boracay over the weekend.

An Oldboy toy! Wicked!


[minor spoilage]

So. 2046.

It did not blow me away. I like it a lot; maybe I even love it but just don't know it yet (I still have to see it maybe 2 more times). At first, I was going to write "I don't know if I'm blown away by it" but then thought to myself "Well, if I'm not entirely sure about that, then it definitely means I wasn't." Being blown away is not a state of uncertainty.

This is not a terribly bad thing, because honestly, it was near-impossible to meet my expectations, built up over 5 years of half-starts and still-in-progress-es, and the director (one of my favorites)'s previous work.

I love so many scenes, so many moments, but structurally I did not find it organic. Unlike with In the Mood for Love, I felt more at a distance with 2046, like I couldn't really get to know the characters the way I wanted to. Maybe that's intentional, maybe it's something on my part.

As always, I love the music. Wong Kar-wai's always been good with that, though some people have found the repetition of certain songs annoying. I'm not sure if it's the first time he's used opera, but he uses it to good effect here, and bringing back songs from Days of Being Wild struck a nostalgic chord. This underscores very well those parts where he links 2046 to characters from Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love. I was also delighted to hear Kieslowski regular Zbigniew Preisner's work included. And as usual, he continues to be inspired by Latin American music, particularly with the song that introduces Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi).

As far as cinematography goes, I have to admit I was expecting a bit more. Though the feeling isn't really disappointment. The use of color is excellent, but the composition of shots and movement of camera was a little more reserved, a little restrained. Which, considering the subject matter, I thought wouldn't be the case. There weren't moments or stylishly-cut sequences that made my jaw drop. The closest thing was the occasional juxtaposition of 2 shots, usually conversation scenes. And one shot of the Carina Lau android going from sorrow to glee (and red to blue) in a split-second. But again, this means more concentration on the narrative, not necessarily a bad thing.

Relating the films together satisfies a fanboy aspect of me but I have to wonder about how it affects the characters from a macro point of view. Are we to understand that Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) was in Days of Being Wild (the very last, seemingly useless scene), and in the unseen wake of the events of that film met/consoled Carina Lau, then got married to someone for In the Mood, then, broken by the events in that film, becomes a cad in 2046? That's some arc! Why is he such an asshole to Bai Ling, when it's hinted he may have found the closest thing to genuine feeling (or did I just answer my own question)? And, in the next "episode," why is he so nice and encouraging and supportive to Faye Wong's character? I would like to think it's not merely because of a superficial attraction.

I have a massive crush on Faye Wong. Ever since I saw Chungking Express. I remember making my family wait while I finished A Chinese Odyssey 2002 (produced by Kar-wai, shot by Doyle, starring Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Chang Chen, and Vicki Zhao; watch it, it's cute fun) at my cousin's place, even though they already wanted to go home. Remember the Melissa Auf Der Maur post? The next of that kind was supposed to be Faye Wong, and it's been sitting half-written in some file for months now. I successfully kept my cool when I found out Quark saw her in Taipei (and a little saddened to hear of some diva-ish behavior). I didn't realize HOW much I'd missed her until I saw her onscreen. She didn't look like she'd aged a bit. The same big, inviting eyes, same cute nose, the same cute expressions that look like they were headed for another emotion but stopped short. It was an utter delight to see her again, hear her voice, see her move. Do you remember what she was saying in Japanese? It gains more relevance later in the film, after more information is disclosed.

It's interesting to watch the scenes set in the future, or the storyworld of "2046," because you have to look at it, at least, on 2 levels. Simply, as narrative, what transpires between the characters, and underneath that, as extensions of what Chow feels towards his life and the characters that orbit him, and how he disguises/masks/subverts those feelings. Because of the characters orbiting Chow, I feel that 2046 is more of a spiritual successor to Days of Being Wild than In the Mood was (and initially hyped as).

Alexis and I still wonder if this is really the final, final cut, because Chang Chen and Maggie Cheung seem to be excised from the film almost completely. Also, there are continuity errors. Big, glaring ones like wasn't a certain character dead? How did they turn up again later in the movie? And of Bai Ling, Chow Mo-wan says "That's the last time I ever saw her"-- TWICE. Mysteries remain, like what's the story with the black-gloved hand? In a more tsismis vein, what's with the naming of a character after a famous Chinese actress who was exiled for acting in Red Square and had a hiccup of a scandal involving Doyle earlier in the year?

I've been thinking a lot about storytelling recently, and the devices/tricks at hand. I'm more analytical towards 2046 than I expected. Partly because I was re-reading articles on Wong Kar-wai films (coming again, I suppose, from the level of excitement/anticipation that preceded it). So I'm looking at what he's using again: repeating patterns, both in the film and in the structure of the film. Echoed/underscored by music, dialogue. Voice-over narration. Themes explored: longing, coping, memory, the passing of time. Where would Wong Kar-wai be without narrow corridors, too few places to eat (so characters could keep bumping into one another against their will), and hotels that only have one phone? In a way, again, a fanboy part of me is welcoming to these elements. But also a small part of me demands the new. One of the great things about In the Mood was it was made as a reaction to Wong Kar-wai style being appropriated by everyone else. So he abandoned his trademark voice-over, tried some new tricks and it was great. He got to this great "show over tell" aesthetic that I was somewhat hoping to see here. But the voice-over narration favors the "tell over show" style, especially when he returns to a full ensemble cast and not the laser-intense focus on 2 characters that In the Mood was. At times, though, the voice-over felt like spackle applied to the gaps in story and continuity. Hence my impression of lack of organic development. I suppose this is an effect of Kar-wai's process. Since he has no script, the story comes together in a very unique way, and to cover up gaps he has to use narration. This connects with what I mentioned earlier about feeling at a distance: without narration in In the Mood, I was more taken in by the characters' stories, because it unfolds in front of me at the same time it does to them. In 2046, we are told what happened. Sometimes it's already in the past, sometimes the narrator wasn't there to see it but was told the story, and is now relating it to us. This is maybe unavoidable with so many characters, but that intimacy and shared experience is sacrificed. The problem with too many characters is you can't give time to each, not as much as you'd want, and you end up short-changing some or a lot of them. Think about it: what do we really know about some of the characters in the film? What we're told by Chow. Because there just isn't enough space to show scenes denoting character; the "plot," as it were, must go on.

I'm a little wary about writing this now, because I wonder if my opinions will change upon the second and third viewings.

Anyway, sorry this went so long. Just thinking out loud.

ADDED: After re-reading the above, I want to reiterate that I really do like the film very much. :)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Out of the blue, after 5 years of waiting...

2046 comes out today! Hurrah!

And Jonathan Glazer's Birth. And Takashi Miike's One Missed Call. Both of which mark the first time their respective directors have had films in our theaters. A very good thing indeed, especially since there hasn't been ANYTHING interesting since The Incredibles came out!

Another reason to love Iain Banks: he writes "the most impressive re-read this year has been Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore (Top Shelf Productions Inc.), a neglected masterpiece." in his recommendations to Guardian readers (he also mentions Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle & China Mieville's Iron Council).

Another great car ad (and super-cute at the same time).

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Fuck yeah! Please be good. Please please please.

I'm trying not to keep my hopes up, so I won't be too disappointed if it blows, and I'll be totally blown away if it rules the earth. But they do make it difficult...

June 17! Can you believe it's so far away!?

Oh yeah, and Chris Columbus is going to direct the Sub-Mariner movie... after he's done with Rent! Oh, the poor Rent & Sub-Mariner fans...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Is it the best ad ever? I think it may well be. All my geek/fanboy molecules started shaking when I saw it. The live-action TransFormers film in development better kick this shit into the ground! Or there will be bloodshed!


How sweet. Godzilla got his own Hollywood star, at the age of 50. Supposedly the next one, Godzilla Final Wars, will be the last, but you just never know with this guy...

There are some new Mirrormask pics here. And it's been a while since we've had any Red Meat...


Looking for inexpensive books? Try knocking up Dating Kundiman. Tell 'em I sent ya.

Here's a nice article by Jonathan Franzen (author of The Corrections) about Peanuts and his childhood.


Here's another thing that looks mighty interesting: a DVD collaboration between This American Life's Ira Glass, composer Philip Glass, and cartoonist Chris Ware, called "Lost Buildings." It's a story, narrated by Ira, with music by Philip, and hundreds of illlustrations by Ware. Thing is, it's only 22 minutes, and I don't know how much it is (but it comes with a nifty 96-page book). Still, I checked the preview, and liked what I saw. I like to see the possibilities with this kind of storytelling being explored. I especially like the reveals of larger illustrations from a small detail.