Monday, December 21

Next year will be better, I swear!

I'll just sneak this in.

Losing a writer and becoming the only one for an ad agency that is barely breathing, I have become the swamped thing. Though I may not have found the time to write or sketch a review of films that I have seen, it doesn't mean that I haven't seen a few good ones.

Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story is this year's guiltiest pleasure. It's not the best crafted romantic-comedy that I have seen---technically clumsy with an obvious lack of chemistry between the actors---but it is laugh-out-loud hilarious; tears spilled on the popcorn that was spilling.

I liked Bong Joon-ho's Mother better than Park Chan-Wook's Thirst, the former a gracefully-plotted drama with the one of the best opening and closing sequences that I have seen of all time. Thirst is PCW's most focused narrative work so far, but it lacks the emotional resonance of his earlier works, most prominently shown in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Will be posting more detailed reviews soon.

Side project! I've also been reviewing Asian albums for allmusicjunkies.com. Here's a rundown of the reviews I have written so far. (Excuse the editing and proofreading. The people behind the site are still improving it.)
I will be going on my "early retirement" next year and will be focusing my efforts on our furniture shop. Looking forward to more time to write. The new year can't come soon enough.

Monday, October 12

Attack on the Pin-Up Boys (Korea, 2007)

Soju, the Korean rice wine, and SuJu, or Super Junior, the largest boy band in the world, is a deadly combination. Attack on the Pin-Up Boys, produced mainly for Super Junior fans, which stars 12 of the 13 members, is a convincing comedy and a surprisingly energetic satire on fame. I was preparing myself for some mindless fun, hence the soju to make the experience more giddy. While the movie does deliver within (quite low) expectations---loads of slapstick, anime-quirky effects, and the SuJu boys in all their charming glory---it also goes beyond a fluff piece, dissecting both popularity and fandom.

Ugly truths so ugly it has to be funny.

When shit hits the face.

The movie begins with a series of attacks on popular pretty boys who get hit by shit on the face. Not for queasy stomachs, I tell you. At first, students are appalled. Until the victims become celebrities and three popular students from Neulparan High School---judo jock Kangin, dancer Heechul and school president Siwon (yes, their names remain unchanged)---race to get hit by shit. The Super Junior boys aren't exactly playing themselves but the meta-poking does add to the playful criticism of Korea's (or anywhere else's) idol culture. Kibum, the boy detective, ponders about the incidents and the reaction of the masses. Did the ordinary kids feel better that pretty boys or flower boys were being attacked in such a degrading manner? Was it general boredom with their own ordinary lives that made them react with such frenzy?

"When grown-ups say we have potential it only makes us more nervous."

It's also interesting to note that Super Junior is not your typical idol group. The boys that make up SuJu is a cross section of the male population: from the jock to the effeminate, from the scrawny to the overweight. Extraordinary circumstances (and hard work) have made them stars in their own right; Attack on the Pin-Up Boys also shows an insecure boy band while celebrating their differences. Kyuhyun and Ryeowook standout for their comedic timing, while the rest of the members all deliver a very natural performance.

The film doesn't aim to make a statement and it ends thoughtfully, with the desire of those who criticize fame to be famous.

Attack on the Pin-Up Boys is hilarious and super strange. The panda judo member, the Jedi school president and the cartoonish special effects all say that the movie is not to be taken seriously. But it's hard to ignore the undercurrent ugliness of it all.

Here's the prerequisite song and dance at the end, synchronized-dancing crazy Wonder Boy:

Tuesday, October 6

Kinatay (Philippines, 2009)


Like Joseph Garcin in Jean Paul-Sartre's No Exit, Peping didn't realize that the room he was about to enter was hell. And when it dawned on him somewhere between buying balut and the ragged butchering, he couldn't---didn't---want to leave the safety of being in the dark.

Geography and malice are indiscernibles; the mind is in equal footing with matter. The dark, chaotic streets of Manila may as well be purgatory, twisting and squeezing the morality out of the film.

There are no surprises in Brillante Mendoza's parable of a young man's descent to something less human, but it is hypnotic. It is an experience, more than anything else.

This was supposed to be my shelter from the storm. Trapped in a mall while a typhoon drowned and destroyed Metro Manila, Kinatay became the dangerously perfect metaphor to the (perceived) pointlessness of it all.

Its blanket nihilism makes the film susceptible to both severe criticism and blind praises. It is an empty canvas.

A negative space.

Politics. Censorship. Arthouse experiment. A heart of darkness.

You decide.

Wednesday, September 30

A Consolidated List On How and Where To Help and What To Bring

Photo: Erik de Castro/Reuters

There was no danger music to warn us. In a matter of hours, Metro Manila was flooded. There are still homes submerged. Family members still missing, and the death toll is still rising.

Please help if you can.

Reposting this from Facebook:

Sahana Disaster Management System is in need of IT volunteers. The system will be extremely helpful in case of future disasters. Send a message to sahana@kahelos.org.

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Courtesy of ABS-CBN News Online, assorted updates and advisories may be found here, and a list of class suspensions and cancelled events may be found here.
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Unless otherwise specified, all landline numbers are for Metro Manila and therefore require no dialing prefix if you are in that area. If you are outside Metro Manila, add 02 before the number, e.g., 02 XXX XXXX. If you are outside the Philippines, add 632 before the number, e.g., 632 XXX XXXX.

For mobile numbers, callers outside the Philippines should add 63 and drop the 0, e.g., 63XXX XXX XXXX instead of 0XXX XXX XXXX.

Emergency/Rescue OperationsPrivate citizens who would like to lend their motor boats, please call these numbers:

•912 5668
•911 1406
•912 2665
•911 5061
For those who can lend 4×4 trucks, please send them to Greenhills Shoppng Center Unimart Grocery to await deployment. Call this number for more information:

•0920 9072902
Honda Cars and Nissan Pangasinan offer towing services anywhere within the Metro Manila area.

•Hotline: 0922 850 4452
•Maricel: 0922 445 2242
•Arnold: 0922 899 7959
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ABS-CBN Typhoon Ondoy Hotline
•416 3641
Bureau of Fire Protection
•729 5166
•410 6254
•413 8859
•407 1230
•Region III (Central Luzon): (045) 963 4376
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
All numbers are 24-hour hotlines.


•Disaster Relief Operations, Monitoring, and Information Center (DROMIC), DSWD-NCR: 488 3199
•Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU), DSWD-NCR: 733 8635
•Disaster Relief Operations, Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC), DSWD-Central Office: 931 8101 to 05, local 506 or 951 7119
GMA Kapuso Hotline
•9811950 to 59
Jam 88.3
•631 8803
•Text JAM883your message to 2968
Meralco
•16211
•0917 559 2824
•0920 929 2824
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA)
•136
•896 6000
National Capital Region Police Office (For rubber boat requests)
•838 3203
•838 3354
National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC)
Emergency Numbers

•912 5668
•911 1406
•912 2665
Help Hotlines

•911 5061
•734 2118
•734 2120
Office of Senator Dick Gordon
•0917 899 7898
•0938 444 BOYS (2697)
Office of Senator Manny Villar (For rescue dump trucks)
•0917 422 6800
•0917 241 4864
•0927 675 1981
Petron/San Miguel Corporation (For rescue helicopters)
•Lydia Ragasa: 0917 814 0655
Philippine Coast Guard
•527 6136
Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC)
•143
•527 0000
www.GMANews.tv on Facebook
•Post the names and addresses of people in need of immediate assistance.
Relief OperationsIf you are looking for a relief operations site in your immediate area, you may also check here or here. A handy map of donation drop-off points is available here.
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Government Agencies, Socio-civic Groups, and Media Outfits
AKBAYAN


To donate or volunteer, call:

•433 6933
•433 6831
Aquino-Roxas relief operations/Tulong Bayan
Jiggy Cruz sounded the call for relief goods collection and distribution on September 26 (Saturday) on Twitter.

Tulong Bayan hotlines for donations and volunteers are:

•913 7122
•913 6254
•913 3306
•0908 657 9998
•0939 363 3436
Donations can be brought to:

•Balay, Expo Centro, EDSA corner Gen. MacArthur St., Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City
•White Space, 2314 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati, City (care of Monique Villonco)
Ayala Foundation
Online donations may be coursed through the foundation.

Barangay San Antonio (Parañaque)
The barangay hall, which is located near Parañaque City Hall, will serve as a drop-off point. The address is Sta. Lucia St. corner San Pablo St., San Antonio Valley 1, Parañaque.

Caritas Manila
•563 9298
•563 9308
Relief goods can be sent to Caritas Manila Office at Jesus St., Pandacan, Manila (near Nagtahan Bridge).

Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF)–Ortigas
Please drop off donations at Room 402, St. Francis Square Bldg., Julia Vargas Ave., cor. Bank Drive, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City.

Couples for Christ (CFC)
•727 0682 to 87
•0919 363 4036
•0922 866 7191
•0922 254 2819
The CFC Center along Ortigas Avenue is now accepting donations in cash or in kind.

For those who wish to donate through bank deposit, you may do so via the Bank of the Philippines (BPI):

•Account Name: Couples for Christ Global Missions Inc.
•Account Number 3103-3055-85.
Citizens Disaster Response Center (CDRC)
•929 9820
•929 9822
Relief goods for typhoon victims may be delivered to 72-A Times St., West Triangle, Quezon City.

Corporate Network for Disaster Response (CNDR)
Per Noynoy Aquino, cash donations may deposited with the CNDR. The bank details are as follows:

•Account Number: 0031 0654 02
•Branch: Bank of the Philippine Islands Ayala-Paseo
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
Each drop-off point for donations has its own contact persons.

Drop-off point 1

National Resource Operations Center, Chapel Road, Pasay City

•Francia Favian: 852 8081/0918 930 2356
Drop-off point 2

Disaster Resource Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC), DSWD Central Office, Quezon City

•Rey Martija or Imee Rose Castillo: 951 7119/951 2435
•Assistant Secretary Vilma Cabrera: 0918 9345625
Drop-off point 3

DSWD-NCR Office, San Rafael corner Legarda Streets, Quiapo, Manila.

•Director Thelsa P. Biolna or Director Delia Bauan: 734 8622/734 8642
Gawad Kalinga
A list of needed relief goods, as well as drop-off centers, is available here.

The guidelines for cash/check donations follow below:
Donations within the Philippines:


•Gawad Kalinga Philippine Peso Current Account 3101 0977 56 – BPI EDSA Greenhills
•Gawad Kalinga US$ Savings Account 3104 0162 34 (Swift code: BOPIPHMM) – BPI EDSA Greenhills
Should you need receipts, please fax your deposit slip to Delfin Mangona, Operation GK Walang Iwanan at 726 7405. Kindly indicate name of donor and contact number.
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Donations outside the Philippines:

For donations outside the Philippines, you can choose from the following :

ANCOP USA

You can send your checks to ANCOP USA, PO Box 10095, Torrance, CA 90505. Or go to http://www.ancopusa.org if you prefer to do it online via credit card.

AYALA FOUNDATION USA

You can issue checks payable to Ayala Foundation USA with project noted (Gawad Kalinga Ondoy Relief) and send to :

Ayala Foundation USA
255 Shoreline Drive, Suite 428
Redwood City, CA 94065
Tel. no. 1-650-598-3126
Fax No. 1-650-508-8898
Email info@af-usa.org

Or you can donate to Ayala Foundation USA via credit card by visiting this link.

In “choosing organization to receive the donation”, please choose “Gawad Kalinga-Community Infrastructure Program” for now. By September 29, (Tuesday), you will be able to choose “Gawad Kalinga-Relief”.

DONATE ONLINE AT www.gk1world.com

Click on this link. This facility can accept donations from all over the world.
GMA Kapuso Foundation
•981 1950 to 59
•982 7777, locals 9901/9904/9905
The foundation will accept cash/check, credit card, and in-kind donations. The office address is: 2/F GMA Kapuso Center, Samar St. cor. 11th Jamboree St. Diliman, Quezon City.

Hillsborough Village Chapel
Water, blankets, shoes, and clothes may be sent to Hillsborough Village Chapel in Muntinlupa City. These will go to families whose houses were washed out in the nearby sitios.

Kabataan Partylist
•0926 667 7163
•kabataanpartylist@gmail.com
Drop off donations or volunteer at 118-B Sct. Rallos St., Quezon City.

Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC)
•670 0666
•832 6117
MBC radio stations DZRH, 101.1 Yes! FM, and 90.7 Love Radio are accepting donations, such as bread, canned goods, clothes, and water. The drop-off point is at the MBC Building, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City (beside Star City).

Marika Bouncers Cooperative
The c-op will accept donations starting September 28 (Monday), at 10 AM. Its office is located at 95 Malaya St., Malanday, Marikina.

Move for Chiz
Volunteers are asked to report to Bay Park Tent along Roxas Blvd in Manila. It is beside Max’s Restaurant and Diamond Hotel. They may also proceed to Gilas Minipark on Unang Hakbang St., Gilas, Quezon City.

MusikLokal Luzon Relief
•Warren Habaluyas: 0929 871 3488
•luzonrelief@gmail.com
Starting September 28 (Monday), donations can be brought to Renaissance Fitness Center, 2/F, Bramante Building, Renaissance Towers Ortigas, Meralco Avenue, Pasig City, from 9AM to 7PM.

Office of Senator Kiko Pangilinan
•Vina Vargas: 0917 808 1247
Donations may be sent to AGS Building Annex, 446 EDSA Guadalupe Viejo, Makati.

Office of the President
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has opened Malacañang to victims of Ondoy, according to this report. Heroes Hall will serve as the emergency center.

Operation Rainbow
•Zac Faelnar Camara: 468 7991
Operation Rainbow in Ayala Alabang Village accepts canned goods, ready-to-eat food, bottled water, ready-to-drink milk and juice, clothing, and blankets.

Our Lady of Pentecost Parish
•434 2397
•929 0665
Per Gabe Mercado, donations are very much welcome. The Parish is located at 12 F. Dela Rosa corner C. Salvador Sts., Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

Peace Retreat Movement
Please leave all donations at the Peace Retreat Movement (PRM) office: 2/F Room 72L, Christ the King (HS) Building on September 30 (Wednesday), by 12NN.

Relief Efforts for Pasig
•0916 494 5000
•0917 527 3616
Volunteers may proceed to Valle Verde 1 Village Park.

Relief Operations Center
•Ares: 0917 855 4935
•Rachel: 0918 924 1636
A relief operations center has been established at AGS Annex, #446 EDSA, Guadalupe Viejo (after PET Tower). Please call for more details.

Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)
Rescued animals may be brought to the shelter located on Aurora Boulevard corner Katipunan Avenue.

Philippine Army Officers Ladies Club (PAOLC)
Relief items may be delivered to the GHQ gym at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, or to the Philippine Army Gym at Fort Bonifacio.

Philippine Daily Inquirer
•Megi Garcia: 897 8808 local 260
Donations in kind, such as instant noodles, canned goods, formula milk, blankets and clothes, are urgently needed.

These may be brought to the Inquirer office at 1098 Chino Roces Ave. corner Mascardo and Yague Streets, Makati City, or to any of its classified ads branches, or to any McDonald’s branch within Metro Manila.

Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC)
Contact the nearest chapter to find out how you can help.

To donate via SMS, please follow the instructions below:

•SMS: Text REDAMOUNT to 2899 (Globe) or 4483 (Smart)
•G-CASH (Globe subscribers only): Text DONATEAMOUNT4-digit M-PINREDCROSS to 2882.
As of this update, Globe and Smart have waived transaction fees for donations.

For cash, check, or in-kind donations, the guidelines are below. Please note that LBC and i-Remit Singapore will be waiving transaction fees for donations.

Cash or check

Please send cash or check donations to the PNRC National Headquarters in Manila. Checks should be made payable to The Philippine National Red Cross. We can also arrange for donation pick-up.

Bank Deposit

Account Name: The Phil. Nat’l. Red Cross

Metrobank

Port Area Branch
Peso Acct.: 151-3-041-63122-8
Dollar Acct.: 151-2-151-00218-2
Type of Acct. : SAVINGS
Swift Code: MBTC PH MM

Bank of the Philippine Islands

Port Area Branch
Peso Acct.: 4991-0010-99
Type of Account: CURRENT

Bank of the Philippine Islands

UN Branch
Dollar Acct.: 8114-0030-94
Type of Account: SAVINGS
Swift Code: BOPI PH MM

For your donations to be properly acknowledged, please fax the bank transaction slip to +63 2 527 0575 or +63 2 404 0979 with your name, address, and contact number.

Credit Card

Please fax the following information to 632 404 09 79 or 632 527 0575:

•Name of cardholder
•Billing address
•Contact numbers (landline and mobile)
•Credit card number
•Expiration date
•CCV2/ CVC2 (last three digits on the back of the credit card)
•Amount to be donated
In-Kind Donations

Local

Please send in-kind local donations to The Philippine National Red Cross–National Headquarters in Manila. We can also arrange for donation pick-up.

International

1.Send a letter of intent to donate to the PNRC
2.A letter of acceptance from PNRC shall be sent back to the donor
3.Immediately after shipping the goods, please send the (a) original Deed of Donation; (b) copy of packing list; and (c) original Airway Bill for air shipments or Bill of Lading for sea shipments to: The Philippine National Red Cross–National Headquarters c/o Secretary General Corazon Alma de Leon, Bonifacio Drive, Port Area, Manila 2803, Philippines.
The PNRC does not accept rotten, damaged, expired or decayed goods. Though we appreciate your generosity, the PNRC also discourages donations of old clothes as we have more than enough to go around.

Urgent needs

•Food items: Rice, noodles, canned goods, sugar, iodized salt, cooking oil, monggo beans, and potable water
•Medicines: Paracetamol, antibiotics, analgesic, oral rehydration salts, multivitamins, and medications to treat diarrhea
•Non-food items: Bath soaps, face towels, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, plastic mats, blankets, mosquito nets, jerry cans, water containers, water purification tablets, plastic sheetings, laundry soap, and shelter materials for house repair
For Mindanao-based donors without Paypal accounts, please get in touch with blogger Mindanaoan. Your donations will be forwarded to the Red Cross.

Radio Veritas
•925 7931 to 40
Relief goods can be brought to Radio Veritas at Veritas Tower, West Ave. corner EDSA, Quezon City.

Sagip Kapamilya
•413 2667
•416 0387
The address of Sagip Kapamilya is No. 13 Examiner Street, Quezon City. Please look for Ms. Girlie Aragon

Cash/check donations may be deposited in the Sagip Kapamilya account:

•Bank: Banco de Oro, Mother Ignacia branch
•Acct name: ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.
•Acct no.: 5630020111
Santuario de San Antonio Parish
Relief goods of all kinds are accepted. The parish is located along McKinley Road, in Forbes Park, Makati. Please contact JJ Yulo or Mike Yuson.

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan Task Force Noah
Please drop off donations at Cervini Hall, Ateneo de Manila University.

TXTPower
TXTPower urges its members, supporters and friends abroad to make donations via Paypal.

One may also donate via SmartMoney (5577-5144-1866-7103) or G-Cash 0917-9751092. All donations coursed through TXTPower will be sent to the Philippine National Red Cross.

Victory
Victory Fort was the first to open its doors to families affected by Typhoon Ondoy last weekend.

Other Victory centers are now engaged in relief operations as well. For a complete list, please see this page.

World Vision Philippines
The donor service hotlines are:

•372 7777
•0917 866 4824
•Pam Millora: 0917 8623209
Donors and volunteers may go to World Vision Philippines headquarters at 389 Quezon Avenue corner West 6th St., Quezon City.

For cash and check donations, see the bank details as provided by Juan Miguel Lago on Twitter here and here.

Additional contact information:

•374 7618 to 28
•374 7660 (Fax)
•wv_phil@wvi.org
Schools, Colleges, and Universities
Assumption College San Lorenzo (Makati)
Please drop donations off at the guardhouse.

Assumption College Antipolo
Assumption Antipolo is also accepting donations. The school is located along Sumulong Highway, Antipolo, Rizal.

Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU)
The campus is now an open shelter and will take in refugees. Call 917 895 2792. Donations may also be dropped off at the MVP lobby.

Ateneo Grade School (AGS)
Rice, noodles, sardines, and drinking water are badly needed for Ondoy flood victims.

Please bring your donations to the AGS Social Involvement Office ASAP. Volunteers also needed to sort and pack food bags.

You may sign up at the GS Campus Ministry Office from 8am to 5pm on September 30 (Wednesday) and October 1 (Thursday).

Ateneo Law School
•899 7691 to 96
Donations and volunteers are needed. Ateneo Law School is located at 20 Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City.

De La Salle Santiago Zóbel (DLSZ)
•Angie Brazan: 09178597602
Starting September 28, 2009 (Monday), from 8AM to 6PM, DLSZ Typhoon Ondoy Relief Goods Collection Center will be accepting donations in kind. Monetary donations are also welcome. Please make cheques payable to De La Salle Zobel. Cash donations are discouraged.

Donors may pass through Gate 7 (Molave St.) to drop off donations at the Collection Center found at the Ground Floor of Gym 5 (Lower Grades area).

Teacher, staff, student, and parent volunteers to man the Collection Center are needed. Please text your contact details to Ms. Angie should you wish to volunteer.

De La Salle University Medical Center (DLSUMC)
•844 7832
•(046) 416 4531
Donations of canned goods, blankets, clothes, and water will be accepted. DLSUMC is located at Congressional Avenue, Dasmariñas, Cavite.

La Salle Greenhills
Donations can be dropped off at Gate 2 of the LSGH campus starting 9AM on September 27, 2009 (Sunday).

Per ageofbrillig, LSGH also has a booth for donations at Unimart in Greenhills Shopping Center.

Playschool International
Relief goods may be dropped off at Playschool International, 46 Ghana Street, Better Living, Parañaque. No cash, please.

Saint Pedro Poveda College
•Social Action Center: 631 8756 local 121
Poveda is now accepting donations of relief goods.

San Beda College of Arts and Sciences Student Council
The student council is accepting donations in cash or in kind. San Beda College is located at 638 Mendiola St., San Miguel, Manila.

Southville International School and Colleges
•825 6374
•820 8702
•820 8703
•829 1675
Southville is accepting donations of canned goods, packed noodles, clothes, drinking water, etc. at the Luxembourg Campus, which is located at Luxembourg St. corner Tropical Ave., BF Homes International, Las Piñas City.

University of Asia and the Pacific
UA&P is accepting donations. Donation booths are at Study Hall A.

You may also get in touch with Dae Lee, the Executive Vice President of the Student Exective Board at 0917 832 3533. Donations and volunteers are needed.

University of the Philippines Sigma Alpha Nu Sorority (Manila)
•0917 885 7188
•0917 665 9948
The sorority is collecting food, water and toiletries. You may drop them off at Unit 12-O One Adriatico Place, Ermita, Manila.

University of the Philippines Diliman College of Arts and Letters
•0929 6454102
CAL is accepting donations in cash and in kind.

University of the Philippines Diliman University Student Council
•Titus: 0917 800 1909
•Jose: 0927 305 6607
•Tin: 0915 490 6106
The council is is collecting food, clothing, and/or cash.

University of the Philippines Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Community Affairs
•928 2947
The office is accepting donations of relief goods.

Xavier School
Please bring donations to the Multipurpose Center (MPC), Xavier School, 64 Xavier Street, Greenhills, San Juan.

Commercial Establishments
7-11
All stores will serve as drop-off sites for donations.

Alabang Town Center
Please drop off donated goods with the concierge. For inquiries, please call 842 2782 or 772 1860.

ARANÁZ
Donations of any kind for Payatas communities affected by Ondoy will be accepted at ARANÁZ stores in Rockwell and Greenbelt.

Binalot (Greenbelt 1 branch)
•Tetchie Bundalian:0922 857 3277
Brainbeam Events, Inc.
•809 0244 (per this business listing)
Relief goods may be dropped off at the Brainbeam office: 2/F MB Aguirre Cornerhouse Building, 15 Pres. Ave corner Elizalde St., BF Homes, Parañaque (across the old Caltex in BF).

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Canned goods, water, clothes, blankets, towels, medicine, and emergency supplies will be accepted in branches on behalf of the victims of Typhoon Ondoy starting September 28 (Monday) until Friday.

Fantastik! Manila
•729 0530
•501 7405
Please send donations to 5729 Calasanz St., Barangay Olympia, Makati City.

Jollibee
All stores will serve as drop-off sites for donations.

Luca
Donations can be sent via Luca branches in The Powerplant Mall, Shangri-La Mall, or Eastwood City.

Mail and More
Donations for the victims of Typhoon Ondoy are accepted at all Mail and More outlets. The complete list of all outlets nationwide is available here.

Manor Superclub
Relief items will be accepted starting September 27 (Sunday) at 10AM. Manor Superclub is located in Eastwood City, Libis, Quezon City.

Ministop (Ibarra branch)
Food (non-perishable goods only), clothing, medicines, beds, pillows, blankets, and other emergency supplies can be dropped off at the Ministop store located on España cor. Blumentritt, Sampaloc, Manila.

Moonshine
Donations for victims in Marikina and Cainta can be sent to Moonshine in The Powerplant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati.

Myron’s Place
Myron’s Place in Greenbelt 5, Makati City, will accept relief goods.

Papemelroti
You may drop off relief goods, such as canned goods, milk, bottled water, and used clothes at any of the following Papemelroti branches:

•91 Roces Avenue
•Ali Mall Cubao
•SM City North EDSA
•SM Fairview
•SM Megamall
•Glorietta 3
•SM Centerpoint
•SM Southmall
No cash will be accepted.

Petron
All Petron gas stations will serve as collection points for relief goods.

The Powerplant Mall
Donations will be forwarded to the ABS-CBN Foundation. Please drop them off at the adminstration office, P1 level.

Redkimono
Redkimono will accept canned goods, bottled water, clothing for all ages, basic household items. You may find the contact information for the branch nearest you here.

Recreational Outdoor eXchange
•856 4638 to 39
•rox.cs@primergrp.com
ROX will accept relief goods for Typhoon Ondoy victims. The store address is B1 ROX Building, Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.

Shell
All Shell gas stations will serve as collection points for relief goods.

SMART
Donations may be dropped off at the following SMART branches:

•SM Fairview
•SM North EDSA
•Gateway Mall Cubao
•Ali Mall Cubao
•SM Megamall
•SM Muntinlupa
Starbucks
All Starbucks stores are now accepting blankets, rice, bottled water, and instant noodles for the victims of Ondoy. These will be used to support The Ateneo Taskforce Ondoy.

TeamManila
TeamManila stores in Trinoma, Mall of Asia, Jupiter Bel-Air and Rockwell shall be accepting relief goods for distribution by Radio Veritas.

Total
All Total gas stations will serve as collection points for relief goods.

Unimart (Greenhills Shopping Center)
•721 0592
•721 1717
All cash and in-kind donations will be forwarded to La Salle Greenhills.

Vivere Suites
•771 7777
•771 0158
Vivere Suites will accept relief goods. The hotel is located at 5102 Bridgeway Ave., cor. Asean Drive, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang, Muntinlupa City.

Private Citizens
Karen Ang
•0920 952 0900
Donations may be dropped off at 3 Kagandahan corner Kabutihan Streets, Kawilihan Village, Pasig. They will be forwarded to the Philippine National Red Cross.

Anne
•0915 285 4240
Relief goods from donors in southern Metro Manila are accepted.

Bianca
•412 3861
•0927 8436002
She will pick up donations from Greenhills/San Juan area. Donate food, medicine, or clothing.

Joseph Castillo
•0908 236 8999
•(032) 211 7111
He will send a 20-foot container to Manila and is looking for donations from Cebuanos. Please get in touch with him.

Kelly and Jodge
Relief goods will be accepted at Colonade Residences, Legaspi St. corner C. Palanca St., Makati City.

RJ Ledesma and friends
•0917-8131601
Please call to have your donations (relief goods only) picked up.

Gerald Lim and friends
•0918 979 1229
•0917 797 4098
•0932 699 1794
Donations on wheels! If you have donations to give, but no means of transport, please get in touch.

Colleen Manabat (Heartrio Prints)
She will accept donations of bottled water, canned goods, blankets, clothes, medicines from 9 AM to 6PM. Please drop them off at Stall 2, MGY Building, 2444 Sto. Entierro St., Sto. Cristo, Angeles City. She will forward the donations to Sagip Kapamilya (ABS-CBN Foundation).

Miriam Quiambao
Donations may be dropped off starting September 28 (Monday) at One Orchard Road Building in Eastwood City, Libis, Quezon City. Send a message via Twitter for more details.

Erica Paredes
•0917 474 1930
Donate bread, packed juice, sandwich fillings, and the like. You can help her make them, deliver your own sandwiches to her house, or help her distribute. Call for more details.

Omel Santos
•501 7405
•729 0530
Drop off donations at 5729 Calasanz St., Barangay Olympia, Makati City or call for pick up.

An Xiao
Artist An Xiao has set up a Kickstarter account to make it easy for anyone with an Amazon account to make a donation. She hopes to raise U.S.$500 by September 30 (Wednesday), 8:49AM EDT.

Vivere Suites 5102 Ridgeway Avenue, Fil-Invest Corporate City, Alabang, Muntinlupa City. Contact (+632-7717777) for inquiries or drop off at concierge area. Will accept relief goods.

Wednesday, September 16

Hello Schoolgirl (Korea, 2008)

Can a film really be faulted for aiming to be beautiful?

Hello Schoolgirl
(순정만화) is often blindingly so. The soft afternoon flares, the careful attention to fixing a flickering light bulb, the aerosol snow that melts a heart one floor down and later fills a lonely room; luminously lit and lilting moments that distract from the inelegant motions of lovers with significant age disparity.

Yeon-woo (Yoo Ji-tae) is a polite, 30-year old civil servant who falls for 17-year old high school student Soo-yeung (Lee Yeon-hee). Soo-yeung finds the doting, older man adorable and eventually yearns to take their relationship to a higher level. Over dinner, she blurts out that she never wants to grow up because all the adults in her life have turned into crouching cowards.

Director Ryu Jeong-ha approaches the film as an adult, creating beauty of out self-control, and yes, cowardice.

Yoo Ji-tae's Yeon-woo is what most of us have become in our thirties: complacent, easily pleased with kindness, and comfortable with his place in the society. Pleasures are enjoyed in moderation; love happens when it happens, and if it is from a distance, then so be it. There is no grand unraveling of the character. A joyfully quite ride on a bicycle, driven by Yoo Ji-tae's knack for simmering characterization, becomes the glorious race to the sunset. It's not much, but when was the last time you deliberately made time to look around around and like where you are? (Thank you, The Sundays.)

Exactly.

The other story switches the perspective: Yeon-woo's new colleague, Sook (Kang In), falls for a mysterious older woman, Kwon Ha-kyeong, who always carries an old film camera around. She enjoys the company of Sook, but she fears the coincidences that are too similar with her previous relationship. In contrast, this plot takes delight in the silliness that a youg man is willing to go through for courtship; the absence of pride in the name of love. Super Junior's Kang In (insert inaudible squeal) takes his popular backstage antics to film, making the rough, fumbling Sook frighteningly relatable.

I'm not familiar with the original webcomic by Kang Full, but Hello Schoolgirl is too beautiful for a controversial subject matter. Maybe that is the intention. The hand held cam show the underlying turmoil, but the surface has an untouchable sheen, celebrating the love, but burying the heartache.


Visit Hello Schoolgirl at Han Cinema.

Rating: 3.5

Friday, August 28

StSA: Love of Siam to be released on Region 1 DVD

Thanks to Kevin for leaving a comment about the Region 1 DVD release of Love of Siam on my review of the film (which was written immediately after a viewing of the Director's Cut thus the emotional rambling).

A confession, Love of Siam is responsible for my exponentially growing love for Thai cinema. Equally devastating and buoyant, it is a deliberate drama about different aspects of love: familial, romantic, and to an extent, ascetic.

It is also one of the best depictions, if not the most emotionally accurate portrayal, of teen homosexuality. But this seems to have boxed the film into a convenient niche, which I think is a damn shame. The Region 1 DVD will be released by Strand Releasing, which is also distributing Bangkok Love Story, and Lino Brocka's Macho Dancer among others. It's the Theatrical Cut, and not the Director's Cut, that will be released. But I'm not complaining.

The Taiwan Special Edition English-subtitled release comes short in providing good subtitles. Grammatical errors, misspelled names; my copy also had a problem with the subtitle timing. A few lines flashed on the screen ahead of the dialogue and made it quite confusing: Why would Mew be asking Tong if he had already taken a bath? (A line that was supposed to be Sunee's, Tong's mom.) Kevin also pointed out an aspect ratio problem, which totally went over my head.

But it does provide a few extras for fans of the of the movie and the stars. Pchy Witwisit Hiranyawongkul's visit to Taiwan had no subtitles so I didn't get much of what was going on. The deleted scenes with the director's commentary have decent subs. Then there's the August Band mini-concert in Bangkok, in between Siam Discovery and Siam Center, which I quite liked.

Here's hoping Love of Siam sells well so we could have other Thai dramas on Region 1 DVD. It's a welcome glimmer of hope for us Thai cinema fans.

Sunday, August 23

Dorm (Thailand, 2006)

The kicked-up dirt, the caked mud on my leather shoes, and my rag-tag group---the overweight bully, the bespectacled math genius, the giggly volleyball players, the quiet Catholic that was me when I was in grade school---conquered after-school boredom with trips to dark corridors and empty classrooms. If we were feeling more daring than usual, we would go to the garden behind a Gothic, metal church where it was said the school's priests were buried. One time, we did see a ghostly figure, a thin old man who had ashen-gray skin, walking aimlessly around the garden. My friends screamed and ran, stumbling on rocks and shrubs. I was rooted to the ground. Because he had seen me. I remember my knees felt like buckling but I stood firm as the old man walked toward me. When he was less than a few feet away, he called out to me, "Hijo! Have you seen my nail cutter?" I shook my head, and suddenly ran away. I never told my friends that the old man was an almost senile priest.

Dorm (Dek Hor/เด็กหอ) is magical and horrifying this way. Horror with wide-eyed wonder, the kind that is an adventure shared with friends. Director Songyos Sugmakanan is a fantastic storyteller and starts the film with boyhood nostalgia quite similar to his early work along with other directors, Fan Chan, and Japanese thriller 20th Century Boys. Chatree (Charlie Trairat, also the lead of Fan Chan) is plucked from everything familiar and is sent to a boarding school where he is bullied by a gang of students. Songyos cloaks the dormitory in a mossy palette, giving it a more sinister, swampy feel as strange things begin to happen at night.

The frights are simple but ingeniously executed, and often aims to be evocative of childhood fears. The trips to the bathroom with every shadow stretched like clawed hands, the howling dogs, the school disciplinarian we imagined to be the devil incarnate (played delicately tethering to insanity by Thai veteran actress Chintara Sukapatana), the lock that seems to click into place by itself, unearthed forgotten jitters. Songyos doesn't aspire for grand. He is after our memory, and once the connection has been established, disbelief goes into suspended animation. I was a boy again wandering around corridors.

Horror turns to horrifying heartbreak when Chatree befriends Vichien (Michael Sirachuch Chientaworn), another loner who turns out to be a ghost. The hints were pretty obvious but the reveal was still a surprise, a reveal that was so unexpected and so refreshingly original that I gasped at both the anticipated plot twist and the surprising loneliness it meant.

Many would argue that Dorm isn't really a horror flick. Technically, it is. Horror in fiction is a disturbance in the human experience by supernatural forces. As a film, it does not go for the usual out-for-vengeance ghost with creaking bones. It may not frighten but it does horrify---seeing a friend die and decay is horrifying. Alienation, guilt, being unloved, more so.

With Dorm, Songyos attacks an old, familiar genre with such brutal grace that it is at once too beautiful and too painful to watch.

Rating: 5

Dorm (Dek Hor/เด็กหอ)
Directed by Songyos Sugmakanan (Fan Chan/Hormones)
Starring Charlie Trairat (Fan Chan/Hormones), Michael Sirachuch Chientaworn (Hormones), Chintara Sukapatana

Tuesday, August 18

Alternate poster to Buppah Rahtree 3.2

Not really. But I thought this was very witty and cute. Fits the horror-comedy feel of the film.

Sunday, August 16

Dear Galileo (Thailand, 2009)

Dear Galileo,

Betcha never imagined while musing about the motions of bodies that you would centuries later inspire a film about two silly girls who blindly embark on a journey to the other side of the(ir) world with only your theory (of objects falling in uniform acceleration independent of their masses) and a couple of rocks to put that theory into a test to guide them through life-changing decisions.

Consequently, there is a lot of falling in this movie. It begins with best friends Noon (Jarinporn Joonkiat) and Cherry (Chutima Theepanarth) bungee jumping off a bridge to seal their no-fear pact to set off for Europe; Noon hopes to get over a heartbreak, and the other wants to prove her school's decision to expel her wrong. The girls agree to tour and work across Europe indefinitely, and this is where the film takes a familiar turn, at least when it comes to Philippine cinema.

We actually have coined a name for illegal immigrants/workers: TNT or tago ng tago (literally, in English, err, hide and hide), which just goes to show how "ordinary" this has become to the Filipino experience. The similarities of practice---the girls working in restaurants, the running from migration officers, the street-smartness of saving up cash sometimes by cheating or in the movie's case, slipping through the subway turnstile---made me smile. And a little sad.

What makes this film different though is the light-heartedness, the teen-flickness of treatment. This is not some gritty drama about illegal immigrant workers; it's a winsome fairytale that sometimes gets a little too precious. In the Paris subway, Noon hears a dark, handsome stranger speaking in Thai and stalks him. It turns out that the guy, Pisit, played by Ray MacDonald with refreshingly relaxed (read: adult) cynicism, has been living in Paris for quite some time and is staying in a commune with other immigrants and artists. But it's all very wholesome, kiddies.

Joonkiati and MacDonald have a delightful chemistry (though I'm a little uncomfortable with age gap) and are responsible for one of the genuinely warm moments of the film: in a sea of a busy crowd, Noon and Pisit raise placards with questions, written in Thai, that read Raise your hands if you can read this, and my favorite Raise your hands if you miss home. A few passersby raise their hands shyly, some more enthusiatically, all very naturally that I have a feeling that the scene was not staged.

The film is as saccharine as it sounds and mostly gets by with charm and giggling but director Nithiwat Tharatorn has an incandescent eye for capturing the overwhelming grandness and melancholy of Europe's old cities and architecture. His camerawork is also fascinating. His hand held shots has fierce immediacy that gets you into the heat of the panic, especially that bit in the subway where the camera follows the girls running from the police, shaky and stumbling, then blinding daylight. It left me breathless. And it's a sign that Thanatorn can make a great movie if he really puts his mind, and camera, to it.

So, dear, dear Galileo, your theory turned out to be simplified metaphor on the gravity of consequences that was barely carried through until the end of the film but you will be glad to hear that, from the sighs and gleeful laughter that filled the cinema, you're now quite popular with the kids and I'm quite certain that we'll be seeing girls all across Bangkok invoking your guidance and dropping stones off bridges.

In motion,
T.

Rating: 3/5

Dear Galileo (Nee Tam Galileo/หนีตามกาลิเลโอ)
Directed by Nithiwat Tharatorn (Fan Chan, Seasons Change)
Starring Pom Chutima Theepanarth (Hormones), Toey Jarinporn Joonkiat, Ray MacDonald (Fun Bar Karaoke)

Thursday, July 30

Itenerary




Blog holiday, Aha! Aha!
Lots of movies to catch, good times yeah?
Will be back in a week.

Wednesday, July 29

Hansel and Gretel (Korea, 2007)

Creepy can be gorgeously dense. The house that traps adults and the forest that stands guard are thick with swamp-green shadows and murmuring. Hansel and Gretel (헨젤과 그레텔) is a visual feast of horrors and sweets; details, details, details make your eyes dart from one corner of the room to the other. Toys, gems, cupcakes, storybooks, that robot-printed couch that I would like to have, silhouettes on walls, and bunnies, lots and lots of bunnies. (And what's with all the carrots, what do they need such good eyesight for anyway? It must be bunnies!---Thank you Joss Whedon, and Anya, for now making me forever suspicious of rabbits.) The candied claustrophobia swells halfway into the movie when director Lim Pil-Seong shows us grandly the chasm that separates fantasy and reality.

Creepy can be cute. Very cute. Jin Ji-Hee is a precocious child actress who can go from nice to scary to weepy in a snap, but it is her voice that sends the tingle down my spine. Low and grainy, it is an otherworldly, underworldly sound. Hansel and Gretel plays at opposites with utter delight. The malicious eyes above the gap-toothed grin, the children toying with the adults, it reverses the roles in the grim fairytale. Three children who never age lure adults into their house and "audition" them to be their parents. Eun-soo (Cheon Jeong-myeong) crashes his car while arguing with his pregnant girlfriend over the phone. When he regains consciousness, he sees a girl in a red riding hood who leads him to her house where he can rest for the night. Eun-soo meets the other two children and the parents who seem shaken up. The following morning, Eun-soo sets for home but discovers that he couldn't get out of the forest's veiny grasp. The parents disappear. A new couple arrives.

Creepy can be unnerving. The film takes a chilling turn with the arrival of a religious fanatic who is too touchy with girls. The bad kind of touchy. The roles are once again reversed; morals shatter whatever was fantastical and macabre. Lim Pil-Seong inserts the back story of the children as the movie reaches its climax. The exposition runs a little longer than it should, taking some much needed tension away from the final act. The flashback was also quite difficult to watch---I had to look away a couple of times because, even if I quite like watching torture porn, I couldn't stomach watching a man beat a child lifeless.

Hansel and Gretel starts strong and keeps you enthralled until the resolution awkwardly rolls out, which I found a little too...X-men meets Fables. Yes, the mutants and the Vertigo comic, with the telekinesis and the power of the written word. Still, it's a movie that's easy to get lost in. Beguiling, rich like icing, and cruel like the real world.

Rating: 3.5

Hansel and Gretel (Hen-jel-gwa Geu-re-tel)
Directed by Lim Pil-Seong (Antarctic Journal)
Starring Cheon Jeong-myeong (The Aggressives), Eun Won-jae (Natural City), Sim Eun-kyung (Living Death), Jin Ji-hee (Cello), Park Hee-son (Love Talk)

Monday, July 20

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is stubbornly un-Hollywood. It is talky, quite presumptuous (characters, new ones and vaguely familiar ones, walk in and out without much less of an introduction), and the CGI, except for the wonder-filled action sequence at the opening, is mostly used for tone. TONE.

Coming from the mildly amusing but numbingly dull CGasm of Transformers 2, the new Potter film is like a breath of fresh air, but a chilling one at that. Director David Yates' palate remains saturated casting a more dream-like quality---a filmy hazyness, which usually means your eyes are glassy from smoking pot or you're straddling between waking and sleep---a nod to Alfonso Cuaron's atmospheric Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. There is always something sinister lurking behind the fog that envelopes the scenery, making the relationships more precious than they are.

And relationships is what the Half-Blood Prince is all about.

SPOILERISH NOW
.

Harry and Dumbledore's have been handed the Luke Skywalker-Obi Wan Kenobi fate, albeit with quiet tenderness: Dumbledore lays a protective hand over Harry's chest, asking him to step back and hide during the movie's finale; Harry laying a hand over Dumbledore's still chest.

Under the stormy skies of Hogwarts, Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny go through the motions of their own stormy, passive-aggressive teenage love affairs. Yates reminds us that even with the impending gloom-and-doomyness, we are still watching kids who yearn and are quite desperate for some normalcy: love, popularity, a good laugh. I did not find the flirtation and the awkward confessions trivial at all; the darkness of the film only heightened every lovelorn sigh.

More calamitous than the love potion mix-up is Draco's internal conflict. Written as a bratty villain all through out the series, Draco finally went beyond playground bullying and faced the most difficult choice that anyone ever has to make in the Potter-verse. In the end, he couldn't muster the courage, or the malice, to kill Dumbledore. Snape, bound by the Unbreakable Vow made with Draco's mum, took Draco's place as murderer of Hogwarts' headmaster.

SPOILERISH NO MORE
.

I read the book years ago and I remember it being quickly paced. Yates' deliberate pacing may turn-off some viewers who are used to blockbusterish hit-and-run storytelling but it does have its merits. Instead of the clunky and chunky expositions of the book, we get a series of well-plotted reveals that build up. The mood, if a little monotonous, is also consistent all through out and successfully digs its grimy claws into one's psyche. There's that Empire Strikes Back heaviness that is quite difficult to shake off, and the movie's coda shows no effort in clearing the skies.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban still is the best installment but Half-Blood Prince comes a close second, with love among the ruins as the greatest magic of them all.

Rating: 3.5

Thursday, July 16

The Film Club: A Memoir (Twelve, 2008)

"I want you to watch three movies a week with me. I pick them. It's the only education you're going to get."

After a series of conversations with friends on "the art" of watching movies, I come across The Film Club, a memoir by film critic and writer David Gilmour. He chronicles the three years he spent with his son, who dropped out of school, watching movies three times a week. Parenting and films make a combination that's too ideal, too sappy at least to a cynical eye---no, thankfully not a sequel to Tuesdays With Morrie---but David's candid prose shows it as it is, a father's love is awkward, and an awkward, second-guessing kind of love is more fascinating only because it is all too familiar. It's what great movies are about; it's why we stare at the ceiling on sleepless night. The father-son relationship that David draws at the beginning is naturally strange and detached, with nothing much in common, no actual emotional anchor, drifting rudderless. And then the movies arrive.

The film club begins with Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows. David explains, "I figured it was a good way to slide into European art films, which I knew were going to bore him until he learned how to watch them. It's like learning a variation on regular grammar." I loved the thought process that went behind every film he showed his son, Jesse.

If love is a mixtape, then David carefully prepared his with films; movies that became dialogues on morality and romance, cinematography that evoked buried regrets, acting tics that magnified the meaning of gestures, and plots that hinted at possible futures. Ranging from the thoughtful violence of Akira Kurosawa's Ran to the self-destructive fireworks of the documentary Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry, from the talky Annie Hall to the quiet musing of Chungking Express, Jesse was exposed to varying degrees of artistry and failures, of crucial movements in film history as well as guilty pleasures that resonated with sheer entertainment above vision or message.

The memoir's most urgent pleasure comes from David's contagious love for cinema and his critical eye that taught Jesse, and the readers of the memoir as well, how to deconstruct a scene or read meaning in frame compositions without sounding stiff (like I just did) and hifalutin. "Watch out for this scene," David usually goes and as fan of movies myself, I had to dig out dusty VHS tapes or DVDs so I could go along for the ride down Film 101. The writing is irresistible this way.

But at its heart, The Film Club is about a father who is learning to let go of his son, and a son finally realizing his place in the scheme of things turbulent and heartbreaking. The movies in between gave David and Jesse a common ground---a bubble, so to speak---where they could figure out what to do next together. The figuring out part turned out to be the best part in both their lives.

I could have finished the book in one sitting but this is the type to savor. And I assure you, you'll probably be popping Kurosawa's Ran or may be even Verhoeven's Showgirls in your player anytime soon.

Rating: 4

Here they are, the Gilmour Boys.

Wednesday, July 8

Antique (Korea, 2008)

Sweet, light, dusted with quirk and coated with candy cane colors, Antique is a gentle reminder that life is meant to be devoured, bitter chunks and all.

Director Min Gyoo-dong who directed one of the more intriguing Korean high school horror films Memento Mori---where a painful sexual awakening comes face to face with both social monster and vengeful ghost---continues his exploration of gender by adapting popular Japanese manga Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga.

Gone are the gothic and heavy with foreboding doom claustrophobia of Memento Mori. Antique, if anything, glows. It glows by contrast: trauma versus joy, sweet versus bitter, while delicious colors overlap and swirl to the riff of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with a sinister undertone.

The movie opens with an awkward confession, Min Sun-Woo (Kim Jae-Wook) admits with much difficulty his liking for Kim Jin-Hyuk (Joo Ji-Hoon). Jin-Hyuk more than turns Sun-Woo down, he smashes a cake on Sun-Woo's face while yelling his disgust.

Years later, Jin-Hyuk puts up a patisserie called Antique and hires Sun-Woo to be his pastry chef. The rest of his staff, a retired boxing champ and Jin-Hyuk's childhood friend and bodyguard---are all bewildered why he opened Antique when cakes in particular make him vomit. For those who haven't read the manga or haven't seen the Japanese series, the reveal is a surprise, one that takes the movie to a darker place, which is still sprinkled with the fantastic: shadow hands that choke manifest a memory that was too traumatizing for Jin-Hyuk to remember.

After Jin-Hyuk rejected Sun-Woo in high school, Sun-Woo has become the opposite of his stuttering past: a Prada-snug love magnet that no man, gay or straight, could resist. Except, of course, for Jin-Hyuk.

Homosexuality is played with flirtatious sweetness all through out with a dash of magic. It's a refreshing approach with no hint of irony and wonderfully free of guilt or tragedy. Joo Ji-Hoon of Princess Hours sheds his refined affectation for the hot-tempered Jin-Hyuk. His comedic timing is ruggedly perfect; the consuming burden of pretending to be happy for his staff and his family never leaves his eyes. (Ji-Hoon was recently convicted of illegal drug use. He was given a suspended jail term and community service. More information about this here.) Kim Jae-Wook of Coffee Prince plays Sun-woo with refinement and grace, and delightfully counters Ji-Hoon's brusque, manly manners with subtle but tender gestures.

Musical numbers, comedy, sexual tension, murder, and cakes, lots and lots of cakes. Antique can be faulted for juggling too many quirks and styles, but it is Min Gyu-dong's unexpected visual hiccups---women in the flour, a boxing ring covered with flowers, a fist fight with a shadow creature---that makes this film explosively sensual while propelling the mystery and plot. It's definitely tricky but Gyu-dong's instincts are spot on. In Park Chan-Wook's I'm a Cyborg but That's OK, the absurd, hallucinatory vignettes often distract from the storytelling and made the mundane more mundane; cool ideas that accidentally became the movie. Here, it is played to heighten the sensation, to make senses more tangible: Seduction in the women rolling in the powdery sugar, Fear in the drawer that sprung out of a child's chest.

Above the din of ecstatic imagination and your own grumbling stomach---have a slice of cake or ice cream within reach, it will come in handy---Antique's coda casually serves a palatable food for thought: Take the sweet with the bitter, the acidic, the spice but never forget the icing on top.

Rating: 5

ANTIQUE 서양골동양과자점 앤티크
Directed by Min Gyu-Dong
Starring Joo Ji-Hoon, Kim Jae-Wook, Yoo Ah-In, Choi Ji-Ho

Visit Hancinema for more Antique goodness. Below is Love is by FT Island MV from Antique.

Monday, July 6

Requiems and cake

Menggay had a face like a doll; those Drew Barrymore eyes could easily light up even the most dreadful study groups, usually Natural Science 1 or Social Science, geology and philosophers. She was very easy to get along with, and she was one of those friends in college I don't remember being introduced to because we had shared too many stories, notes, and giggles. She passed away two months ago from complications during child birth. The baby survived.

GeneticFreak, or Addison was one of the fierce posters over in Comic Kolektor Philippines. It was a forum that I, along with 3 other comic book geeks, put up to build a community of comic book readers in the Philippines. Addie was old school and he knew his stuff. Arguing with him over writers, artists and movies was always fun because his point of view never waivered. He loved The Wrestler to bits and wanted Mickey Rourke to win Best Actor. He passed away last Sunday due to pancreatitis.

Just this morning, W sent me a text message about a friend's husband's passing.

I was watching the Korean movie Antique last night with W. It's a fun film with lots of quirks. It's about a man who put up a patisserie even if cakes make him vomit. It's about varying degrees of love and the varying distances we go to to forget. It's about how we cover the bitter with the sweet, and make joyous moments, because they are so few and far between, even sweeter by indulging our sweet tooth.

It was around 1 a.m. when I sneaked out to the kitchen and devoured a chocolate truffle ice cream. Bitter. Sweet. And grateful.

Monday, June 29

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008)

Because the status was not quo, Joss Whedon, in the middle of the WGA strike last year proved the studio yuppie scum wrong, that, no, money does not make a show brilliant, and that, yes, writers do. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog could very well be the best single episode TV show that wasn't on TV. A 43-minute musical initially produced exclusively for Internet distribution, Joss Whedon self-produced, directed and composed the music with the help of brothers Zack and Jed Whedon and actress Maurissa Tancharoen.

With my freeze ray I will stop the world,
With my freeze ray I will find the time to find the words to
Tell you how how you make make me feel...
- Dr. Horrible

Dr. Horrible, played with geek-buckling precision by Neil Patrick Harris, is a wannabe super villain who video blogs, replies to sent-in emails, and reveals his master plan to rule the world and win over laundromat girl of his dreams Penny (Felicia Day who played the potential and later on slayer Vi in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) through songs. When he receives a response to his application from the Evil League of Evil, he sets to motion his plan to steal the final ingredient to make his freeze ray work---a freeze ray that would freeze time and stop the pain so he could finally confess his love. Aww.

Much like everything else in the Whedonverse, things don't go according to plan. Horrible was successful in stealing the wonderflonium but he also accidentally introduced Captain Hammer (wonderfully hammy Nathan Fillon), his nemesis, the Superman to his Brainiac, to Penny.

The Buffy musical Once More, with Feeling, episode six of the gloomy sixth season is arguably the show's finest hour; I am obviously biased since I named this blog after Buffy's confessional number. A demon descends upon Sunnydale and binds the town and its inhabitants to a spell that made everyone sing and dance...to death. Best kept secrets were sung out loud, silly, oftentimes funny, and ultimately existential. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a more typical musical with songs for soliloquy. The songs this time around are catchier (but shorter, damn!) and the counterpoint vocals of Harris and Day in the exceptional My Eyes---which chronicles a downfall and a falling for someone, helplessly getting smitten beside helplessly fulfilling an evil destiny---packs a contrasting emotional punch that celebrated musical-movies Dreamgirls, Rent or Chicago can only dream of, err, packing.

The musical format keeps things whimsical, a sonic bubble that seemingly contained the plot in comic booky fantasy fulfillment territory. But this is no doubt a Joss Whedon story and if there's one thing that he is a genius at it's the slap-in-the-face, punch-in-the-nose, kick-in-the-shin, drive-a-stake-through-the-heart ending; Whedon cruelly reveals his last card just when you feel the worst has happened.

The last 3 seconds of Dr. Horrible has rightfully earned a degree in Horribleness; a silence and a blank stare that continues to haunt me.

I cannot believe my eyes
How the world’s filled with filth and lies
but it’s plain to see evil inside of me
is on the rise.
- Dr. Horrible

Fate versus free will seems to be a constant in the Whedonverse. Buffy accepted hers (fate) even if it meant a short lifespan; Angel went against his monstrous nature (free will) but only because he rebelled against his vampire fate.

Dr. Horrible at the start was obviously not meant for supervillainy. He declined a grudge match with Johnny Snow because there were children at a park and his ultimate secret weapon's main purpose was to stop time for confession's sake. Even when he was one click away from killing Captain Hammer, he hesitated.

It was crazy random happenstance.

It seems like no matter what he did, Horrible was destined to join the Evil League of Evil. It was his fate to be a villain. Whedon's characters continue to be caught in situations that dictate their roles in the world. He seems to be saying that there is no real good or evil; it's the circumstances that make us, that ultimately define us.

Hero. Villain. Sidekick. Victim. We are everyone at one point in our lives. It's beyond our hands.

Rating: 5

Get Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog here.
The commentary is equally sing-alongy.


Thaw your cold hearts with this preview.

Thursday, June 18

Independencia (Philippines, 2009)

Independencia plays like Cocteau Twins' Blue Bell Knoll, form and pattern are forefront while the rest---actors, dialogue, chickens---drift like ambient noise, the swirling layers of synthesizers if you will that wall the experience within the confines of cinema. Independencia aims to capture the cinematic style of the period it depicts, here, the 35 mm films shot entirely in sound stages during the American occupation in the 1900s.

Free Form: A short rambling on history and why Jose Nepomuceno and co. are probably throwing a party in filmmaker heaven

The first picture with sound reached the Philippines in 1910, and in 1912, New York and Hollywood film companies started putting up offices in Manila to distribute films. The lukewarm reception led two American entrepreneurs to make a film about Jose Rizal's execution. With the curiosity of the Filipino audience piqued, Jose Nepomuceno produced the first Filipino movie, Dalagang Bukid, in 1919, which was based on a highly popular zarzuela piece by Hermogenes Ilagan and Leon Ignacio.

The U.S. colonial government then had already been using films for propaganda (in the guise of education and information dissemination) and locally-produced films---early film producers included American businessmen and local politicians---were only allowed to tackle "safe" issues of reconciliation among classes, religiosity and repentance, themes that prevailed in zarzuelas and theater. Ironically, the people who encouraged the Filipino film industry to grow were also the same people who limited its growth by setting rigid rules on expression.

The 35 mm film was a haunting reminder of our colonial past.

Independencia
took that format, and the history that came along with it, and squashed the years of silence that the 35 mm format represented. Premiering in the Philippines on Independence Day makes the realization even more poignant.

I have only seen Japanese World War II propaganda films shot in 35 mm (courtesy of the Filipinas Heritage Library) but I could deduct that director Raya Martin celebrated and challenged both format and form. Independencia is stunning, a black and white magic eye that draws you with hypnotic visuals---look closely and details surface. And just as you get used to the shadowy reverie, Martin slaps you with sex and that clever bit of dialogue spoken to the audience. Apichatpongian in the dreamy texture of the jungle, and in the reveal of the darker side of nature reminescent of the tiger shaman in Tropical Malady, what Independencia lacks in momentum it makes up for with seductive mystery.

Raya Martin, whether consciously or not, has handed the 35 mm film back to the hands of early film makers Julian Manansala, Nepumoceno and everyone else who attempted to say something, say anything, but weren't given the chance to capture it on film. Pretty heroic stuff in my book.

Prisoners of Pattern: Thoreau and why that Robots in Disguise song never left my head.

A mother and son run to the woods to live deliberately, to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. The struggle for independence from the American colonial government is mere context to a romantic existential exploration of the absurdity of the concept of freedom. The family (along with the viewers) is plucked from everything familiar and is thrown into a disorienting tangle of trees, shrubs and rivers where they thrive in an illusion of freedom---the jungle itself is a prison of patterns and cycles, the world outside it more so.

Martin seems to say that freedom is not liberum arbitium where we can do as we please even if we are isolated from the rest of society and where values are insignificant to decisions made. In the jungle, there are no societal norms existing, but the values the family holds dear from folklore to, yes, their concept of freedom, is immutable, cultivated from the society of which they were a part of.

The crucial decision that the child makes at the end was dictated by the values he learned from his brief life with his parents.

Could our own values restrict our freedom? (Yes. Hello, Board of Censors.) Or does it dictate what we are free to do? Freedom and responsibility seem to be entwined; there is no freedom from being responsible for one's action. It's a cycle.

Keep moving, keep doing, keep breathing, stay living. Robots in Disguise's Cycle Song in a loop in my head while I am writing this. The mechanical absurdity of patterns, the "unfairness" of the world. Independencia is unabashedly arthouse in form but its thoughtful encounter with the absurd, whether mustached or veined leaf, is all too candidly angsty.

And just because I am free to declare this: It is fucking brilliant.

Rating: 5

Independencia (2009) Directed by Raya Martin
Produced by Arleen Cuevas

Starring Tetchie Agbayani, Sid Lucero, Assunta de Rossi, Mika Aguilos


Links consulted on history of Philippine cinema:

Friday, June 12

Independence Day Viewing: Sabongero and Independencia premiere

Happy Independence Day, Philippines!

62nd Cannes International Film Festival entries Sabongero, directed by Janice Perez, Official Selection to the Short Film Corner, and Raya Martin's Independencia, an entry in Un Certain Regard, will premiere later today at the 14th French Film Festival, Shang Cineplex 3. Serbis by this year's Cannes Best Director Brillante Mendoza will also be shown...Kinatay won't be having its premiere, unfortunately, and this article gives us a clue why.

Yay, freedom! The irony is lost on the Board of Censors, obviously.

Here's the screening schedule for the remaining three days of the festival:

June 12, Friday
Manong Maong and Anino - 12:30 p.m.
Sabongero - 3:00 p.m.
Serbis - 5:30 p.m.
Independencia - 8:00 p.m.

June 13, Saturday
Ridicule - 12:30 p.m.
Dix-Sept Fois Cecile Cassard - 3:00 p.m.
L ‘Esquive - 5:30 p.m.
Flandres - 8:00 p.m.

June 14, Sunday
Un Secret - 12:30pm
Jean de la Fontaine - 3:00 p.m.
Les Quatre Cent Coups - 5:30 p.m.
Van Gogh - 8:00 p.m.

Kita-kits!

Friday, June 5

Fan Chan (Thailand, 2003)

Rating: 4

Aww
escapes your lips, unaware like a sigh, and there's no fighting it. Fan Chan (แฟนฉัน) disarms with its sharp eye for gauzy details making the childhood nostalgia surface like a rubber ball bobbing up and down, foolishly playful among the debris of adult apprehension. You want to stay here in the land of rubber bands and Gumamela soups where freedom's just another word for kung fu role play.

Many have attempted to bottle childhood but have done so by skipping the dirt that a bicycle kicks up or the sourness of the sweat. Some mistake melodrama for meaning and riddle the innocence with tragic awakenings. But there is no concern for meaning when school is out and you're 8 years old and about to dive into a river butt naked.

Fan Chan
is cleverly simple: a young man, Jeab, learns about the wedding of Noi Nah, a childhood friend---a playground sweetheart---and goes back to their last weeks together before they separated ways. The six young screenwriters/directors who debut with this film have the riffs of memory perfected; a Thai pop song is the chirpy time machine to a small town in Thailand in the 1980s. Jeab (Charlie Trairat) and Noi Nah (Focus Jirakul) have been friends since birth, have fathers who are rival barbers and mothers who are best friends. Jeab wakes up late for school everyday, and everyday, Jeab and his father would chase the bus on a bike midway to school. On the bus, he meets an all-boy gang led by the school bully Jack (Chaleumpol Tikumpornteerawong) who constantly poked fun at Jeab and Noi Nah's closeness. Boys will be boys and Jeab was made to choose between playing Chinese Garter (or rubber band jump-rope according to Wikipedia) with Noi Nah or foot ball with Jack and his gang.

The film's English title, My Girl, is quite a turn-off because it reminded me of that Home Alone kid's movie of the same title, the one where it was all cuddly cute until he died. From bee stings, thank you very much. Fan Chan in contrast is unsentimental, which I think is a very, very brave move. Bittersweet is as far as it goes, that accidentally romantic rubber band bit at the end is quite a heartbreaker but as the grown up Jeab confesses, he got over it quickly...why, hello kite.

I am amazed at the similarity of experience; I played the same rubber band games and "brewed" the same nasty flower stew---I even tried the slimy soup at one point, not at all good--- and in a palpable way I was recollecting my own sweat-stained childhood down the tiny but heavily crowded streets of Sampaloc, Manila. Fan Chan is not about the plot, it is a celebration of days running wild with laughter, of the kind of recklessness that only comes with innocence. It deliberately meanders around endless afternoons of playing and bruising (much like My Neighbor Totoro's wide-eyed treks into the forest). And discovering new ways to have fun which, really, childhood is all about.

Minutes after the movie had finished, I began to wonder when I started fearing falling down flat on my face When did making mistakes stop being fun, when did letting go become so difficult?

Look everybody, no hands!



A song from the Fan Chan OST. Technicolor synth-pop, aw yeah.

รักคือฝันไป - Ost.fanchan