Friday, February 27
Written and directed by Aditya Assarat
Starring Supphasit Kansen, Anchalee Saisoontorn, Dul Yaambunying
The world was still heady with holiday hangovers when a great disaster of mythological proportions filled our screens and stunned us immobile by its enveloping devastation.
"Wonderful Town" takes us back to the beaches of Phuket, Thailand where a tsunami claimed hundreds of thousands of lives four years ago. The rushing and crashing of waves fill the screen, a hypnotic lullaby that sings of loss, strangely graceful and sinister at the same time. Foreboding floods in before we get a first glimpse of a town framed by ragged mountains with patches of jungle, idyllic and murmuring with impressionist pastoral warmth. Wonderful, from a distance.
And it is this calm glamour that Ton (Supphasit Kansen), an architect from Bangkok, falls under. He checks in an old hotel and later, while on a site visit to oversee the rebuilding of a hotel along the coast of Phuket, reveals to his foreman that he volunteered for this assignment, preferring the solitude and quiet over the busy city, preferring to stay in an almost empty hotel in a town muted by predictability.
At the hotel, Na (Anchalee Saisoontorn) peacefully goes about performing her chores, changing sheets, folding towels, carefully but vacantly. But when she enters Ton's room, for the first time we see a hint of a sparkle in her eyes, a little tension in the arches of her shoulders. Later that evening, after searingly casual introductions, Na presses her ear against Ton's door, listening to him sing under the shower. The darkness rolls away from the shore as the second half of the movie delicately follows the relaxed conversations and uninhibited sweetness of falling in love that is reminiscent of Il Gon-Song's 2004 movie, Git or Feathers in the Wind. Na spends her afternoons sleeping in Ton's unmade bed, carefully following the creases with her fingers. Ton steals glances and kisses as the wind stirs up a line of drying towels.
Aditya Assarat's eye allows us to soak in the details until every curve of a landscape, every thoughtful brushing of skin against shadow against skin, every hissing summer blade, becomes imprinted in memory and are dialogues in themselves. This hypnotic spell, this immersion of gestures, motives and scenery in a single breath is much like Apichatpong Weerasethakul's atmosphere of strange calm where the mundane is amplified by steady camera pans until it reaches delirious surrealism. But where most of Weerasethakul's movies take a detour to the fantastic, Assarat's abruptly changes in tone as we hear the sea once again while the lovers make love in the darkness, the thief that steals, the waves that are hungry.
Na's brother, Wit (Dul Yaambunying), disapproves of his sister's illicit affair, which has stirred the town to life with gossip, and decides, along with his gang of thugs, to do something about it.
The abandoned haunted house, the crazy local boy, and the gurgling sea---like a forgotten memory from the beginning of the film---rear their ugly prophecies and suddenly fall into place. In an ending that is evocative of Weerasethakul's "Blissfully Yours," drowned ghosts not different from a town left hollow by tragedy, remain ghosts that pull others down to its murky, secretive depths.
"Wonderful Town" is adjective and irony, a heavy current with invisible waves. Assarat's first full-length feature is deceptively haunting, but its message does not lie in an aimlessly drifting bottle in the ocean. It's the in-between, the love (even) among the ruined, that can sweep us away like nothing else can.
Wonderful Town Wins 5 Subanahongsa Awards (Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal)
Aditya Assarat's Wikipedia Page
Wednesday, February 25
Heroes on Extra Joss, not even steroids, Push is; a mildly amped up version of the TV show when it was kinda cool. Being a superhero fan, it was thrilling at first to see the muties work their powers while I thought up of their comic book equivalents:
- Movers (Telekenisis-Jean Grey, Charles Xavier)
- Pushers (Mind Control-Emma Frost, the two above)
- Watchers (Future telling-Layla Miller. Giles?)
- Bleeders (Sonic scream-Black Canary, Siryn, Banshee)
- Sniffs (Tracking through scent with mental picture of location-err, help.)
- Shifters (Casting illusions but not magical in nature, image projection-mind controllers can do this, right?)
- Wipers (Ability to erase memory-that dude from Heroes)
- Shadows (Cloaking/Psychic inhibitors-X-men from 1 and 2)
- Stitchers (Heal or unhealing people-Elixir of the New X-Men)
That was fun, more fun than the actual plot. For a movie that's called Push, it has no pull.
Cassie (watcher, a very Layla Miller-looking Dakota Fanning) and Nick (mover) are being hunted down by a clandestine government group called Division because of Nick's involvement with Kira (pusher) who has in her possession a serum that could "change the fate of mutant-kind forever." The middle-half of the movie does keep you second-guessing but the dud cliffhanger ending frakked up everything that came before. A pity really since the movie opens with a really inventive action sequence between the Bleeders and the dynamic duo down the row of noodle houses in (what looks like to be) Mongkok.
So if you have a superhero fetish (sans the costumes), then watch it. Otherwise, I hate to say this but even X-Men 3 was better.
Tuesday, February 24
From the website:
The morning after Slumdog Millionaire took home eight Oscars including Best Picture, Ryan Seacrest debuted a remix of the title song "Jai Ho" featuringing the Pussycat Dolls on his radio show. The remix was composed by A.R. Rahman and produced by popular hip hop producer Polow Da Don.
Listen to the remix here.
It's not actually as bad as I thought it would sound. A little too safe; they should have gone more sampling crazy, strings versus jungle above the Jai Hos. Still, it's dancey and I'm digging the "You are the reason that I breathe" bits. Looks like Bollywood is here to stay.
Original link from AsianCineFest.
Monday, February 23
"The Love of Siam" siblings Tong (Mario Maurer) and Tang (Laila "Ploy" Boonyasak) prepare for a bloody face-off in Thai Horror-Comedy "Buppa Rahtree 3."
Thought the first movie was funny but the horror part was a special effects carnival. Rainbow gore more than scary. And it looks like nothing has changed. And another "Shutter" rip-off? C'mon!
But I'm sure Mario will make it all worth while. Heh.
Wise Kwai has major linkages on the movie plus one with a photo gallery.
Friday, February 20
Here's a short description of the book from Amazon:
Failed rock musician Kenji's memories of his past come rushing back when one of his childhood friends mysteriously commits suicide. Could this new death be related to the rise of a bizarre new cult that's been implicated in several other murders and disappearances? Determined to dig deeper, Kenji reunites with some of his old buddies in the hope of learning the truth behind it all. Humanity, having faced extinction at the end of the 20th century, would not have entered the new millennium if it weren't for them. In 1969, during their youth, they created a symbol. In 1997, as the coming disaster slowly starts to unfold, that symbol returns. This is the story of a gang of boys who try to save the world.
I know, I know. I keep hitting myself on the head over the fact that I haven't read this series. I tried to but I wasn't content at just reading the scans. Something as brilliant as this deserved a physical copy and I haven't stopped thanking the powers that be for this nifty release (with spot lamination on the cover and all; very purty-looking on a shelf too but it will probably take awhile for all the volumes to be released).
Here's a great review of the manga by Ed Sizemore.
No costumes. No crossovers.
Just great writing, great art, and dragons in the Depression era.
Yeah, you read that right.
From Image: Brooklyn 1930. America struggles in the grip of the Great Depression, and ten-year-old Enrico is willing to make any sacrifice to take care of his mother. Even if it means taking a job in the one place he’s forbidden to go... the ring of fire where dragons are trained and fought for cash and glory.
It took 3 months or more before the second issue came out but it's definitely worth the wait. I'm not one to complain when it comes to title delays. On Joe Kelly, and the 20th Century Boys, I know my faith (and my cash) is more than deserving.
Love splits a person in two, it seems to say: we become the loved and the unloved, the pursuer and the pursued; we become mad with love while at the same time thoughtfully detached. Love also forces us to be one or the other. Intersubjectivity, in all its layers and complexities, is personified in Gabrielle Aurore Deneige or Gabrielle Snow (Ludivine Sagnier), the weather girl torn between Charles Saint-Denis (Francois Berleand), the older and married intellectual, and the young, dashing but violently erratic Paul Gaudens (Benoit Magimel).
Roles reverse in typical fashion, the pursued becomes the pursuer, etc., until opposite ends seem to merge, a Comme Ci, Comme Ça platitude that is rather suddenly shattered by tragedy. Chabrol maintains a parable-like tone as he steadily follows the twists and turns of loyalties but he does manage to surprise with a gracefully surreal ending: Gabrielle looks us in the eye and challenges us to judge her. It's an unnerving scene. I've been invited in: I was laughing and she was the joke.
It's quite a long journey to a gun ex machina climax but the real pleasure of La fille coupee en deux is watching the elaborate song and dance of lovers when love tears them apart against a symphony of quick-witted musings, pompous tantrums and drunken confessions. 3/5
Wednesday, February 18
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Starring Michelle Williams, Wally Dalton, Will Patton
"From April to July 2008, the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old increased by 1.9 million to 21.0 million, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported..."
"Official figures show there has been a 12 per cent rise across England in the number of people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in education, employment or training."
The headlines wail like an ambulance; the numbers make it impossible to picture. What was quirky and thematically enthusiastic in Richard Linklater's "Slacker" is bleak gravity in the bare and atmospheric tale of a girl and her dog against a struggling America in "Wendy and Lucy."
Alienated, sullen but determined Wendy Carroll (Williams at her startling best) is on a road trip to Alaska to start a new life with her dog Lucy. Her car breaks down in Oregon putting whatever cash she has pinned her dreams on at risk. And it's not much, really, not even enough for dog food. When she loses Lucy, reality's claws dig deeper, holding Wendy down, mobile but fixed, a prisoner pacing a prison cell looking for a way out. And her best friend.
Kelly Reichardt's ode to life on the American fringe is a distant humming of a sweet melody; a world "out there" brimming with possibilities but just impossible to breach. We are suffocated by what Reichardt shows: overlapping parking lots, cramped railways, a vastness that is as bone-dry as it is impenetrable. There is a twinkle of kindness in the parking attendant that befriends Wendy but even he is stuck to a (vicious) cycle of watching the world go by.
I had to look away a couple of times and even made a sandwich to break the film's spiraling spell. "Wendy and Lucy" has a steady calm that is hypnotic but it also this near serene surrender to a dead end existence that will quietly break your heart.
Tuesday, February 17
The Dutch investigators believe beta-blocker drugs could help people suffering from the emotional after-effects of traumatic experiences.
They believe the drug alters how memories are recalled after carrying out the study of 60 people, Nature Neuroscience reports.
But British experts questioned the ethics of tampering with the mind.Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said he was concerned about the "fundamentally pharmacological" approach to people with problems such as phobias and anxiety.
He said the procedure might also alter good memories and warned against an "accelerated Alzheimer's" approach.
In the study, the researchers artificially created a fearful memory by associating pictures of spiders with a mild electric shock delivered to the wrists of the volunteers.
A day later the volunteers were split into two groups - one was given the beta blocker propranolol and the other a dummy drug before both were shown the same pictures again.
The researchers assessed how fearful of the pictures the volunteers were by playing sudden noises and measuring how strongly they blinked, something called the "startle response".
The group that had taken beta blockers showed less fear than the group that had taken the placebo pill.
The following day, once the drug was out of their system, the volunteers were retested. Once again, those who had taken the beta blocker were less startled by the images.
Study leader Dr Merel Kindt explained that although the memories are still intact, the emotional intensity of the memory is dampened.
Dr Kindt stressed that using the procedure for complex conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder was still many years away.Continue reading article here. Original link from warrenellis.com
Now that the premise of Michael Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is more science than fiction, what's to stop us from using these beta blockers in a way the film proposes? It is a very frightening thought.
Monday, February 16
But not this derivative. It begins with a familiar twist---"Six Days, Seven Nights" comes to mind though I wish it wouldn't---and ends with a "Bridges of Madison County" moment, that bit in the passenger seat. The middle is so generic that no amount of beauty shots can keep my interest.
First off, utter miscast. Richard Guiterrez has turned out to be a competent actor but can't seem to shed off his poster-boy gait to truly become the working-class carrier pilot who is burdened with a father who gambles. KC Concepcion is the movie's joie de vivre, easily lighting up the screen with her breezy casualness and open face. Though likable in her role as a food court promodizer, Concepcion is too refined in gesture and speech to be jologs. Hindi niya talaga keri. And it does get in the way of believability. The actors are just too far removed from the material being more bourgeois than the bourgeois.
Another complaint, which is not solely found in this movie, is the continued demonizing of the affluent and the educated. It's one of the trappings that our commercial movies (and soap operas but that's more of a universal theme) can't seem to shake loose or can't seem to offer a different point of view to.
But what really sinks this dull romantic comedy is Joel Lamangan's direction or lack thereof. Static. Derivative. Lazy. There's no spark in the romance; no timing in the comedy.
Watch if you're a fan of the loveteam. Otherwise, you can has headache.
Friday, February 13
I'll do anything.
Sing songs that lovers sing.
Valentine's Day celebrates the obvious kind of love, the grand gestures, the gun powder in power ballads: If you breathe I want to be the air for you.
And then you have the brilliant Girls Aloud track, "The Loving Kind," penned by The Pet Shop Boys. If the bittersweet synth hook isn't enough to make you swoon, then the held-back poignancy will.
To fit the glove, to be a real-life Montague ideal to a society-molded Capulet thinking, I'm assuming, can be tiresome, and it's not from the lack of trying.
I'll buy you flowers, I'll pour you wine.
Do anything to change your mind.
Nice gender-bendy bit. Not everyone is born spewing sonnets or corny SMS quotes (but they do get the message across). Some of us have to try harder because we're just built that way. One tries to cope with expectations, and sometimes, that's the best you can do.
So down with the cards and enough bluffing.
I'm not the loving kind.
Thursday, February 12
It's a strange feeling, getting old. I feel the same, sleep the same, I even sound the same. But the mirror in the bathroom disagrees. I have gotten heavier around the middle. My eyes a little darker; my hair a little lighter with gray. My teeth stained from the hundreds of cigarettes and a thousand cups of coffee that I have and will consume.
Time has made me wiser. But also older. And let's face it: More and more less of what I was.
I see this sometimes reflected on my partner's eyes. And it's a painful thing to see.
Kim Ki-Duk takes this pain and creates an admonishing parable in his 13th movie, "Time."
Shi gan (Time)
Written and Directed by Kim Ki-Duk
Starring: Sung Hyun-Ah (Woman is the Future of Man), Ha Jung-Woo (The Unforgiven)
Familiarity breeds monotony, and in the two-year relationship of Seh-hee and Ji-Woo (Ha Jung-Woo) it has resulted in obligatory sex and predictable dates in a cafe. In trademark Kim Ki-Duk fashion, Seh-Hee asks Ji-Woo to think of someone else while they fuck. The sex is hotter. Seh-hee is destroyed. The following day, Seh-Hee disappears and without telling Ji-Woo, undergoes cosmetic surgery to change her face beyond recognition. Six months later, Ji-Woo meets See-hee (Sung Hyun-Ah) in the cafe he frequents and dangerous sparks fly out of the blue and into the black. See-hee is Seh-hee and demands the clueless Ji-Woo to choose between them.
This is definitely Kim Ki-Duk's most obvious work as he (angrily) slaps on the movie his disdain for Korea's, and everyone else's, obsession with physical beauty. After Ji-Woo realizes that See-hee and Seh-hee are the same woman, he also gets his face altered leaving Seh-hee desperately looking for him; the feel of his hands in hers her only anchor. If the hands fit, so to speak. And this is a Kim Ki-Duk movie where the laws of reality are ignored and the fantastic and the surreal exist as truths. In the end, "Time" admonishes too much to be really provoking. The vicious cycle ending comes across as preachy, and not the ambigous catharsis that we've come to expect from the director.
It is without doubt though that "Time" is visually magnificent. The statue park of Baegumi on the island of Mo which breathtakingly displays the sculptures of Lee Il-ho becomes the only constant in the passage of time and tide. The iron hands that sometimes rise from the depths and oftentimes cradle the lovers is the heart that remains a child. Tarnished, yes, but unchanging.
Wednesday, February 11
Il y a longtemps que je t'aime
Written and Directed by Philippe Claudel
Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Frederic Pierrot
A woman in her forties sits alone almost motionless. She smokes as if it were an afterthought, her eyes are anxious as if scanning the windows for escape. The stillness of everything else, an empty room, her sallow cheeks, makes it appear that the woman was painted in, framed by a vacancy of colors. Another woman rushes in, younger, and awkwardly reaches out to the seated woman. There is recognition but no acceptance.
Philippe Claudel tells a story in vignettes where days dissolve into the next and the lonely drift disconnected to any purpose. From the clipped conversations and embarrassing silences, we slowly piece the story together. The older woman, Juliette Fontaine (Thomas) has been in prison for 15 years and is staying with her sister, Léa (Zylberstein), until she finds a job. Lea's husband is wary of Juliette for a reason, she is sinewy in her silence and cold in her manner of speech. But there is also a vast loneliness in her eyes when she wanders around the city.
Juliette finds her comfort in her weekly visits to her parole officer, Capitaine Fauré (Pierrot) who is obsessed with the Orinoco River. On their first meeting, he warns her of the difficulty of loneliness. Later on, when their meetings have taken a subtly romantic turn, he tells Juliette that no one has really determined the source of the Orinico River, "All that water and no one knows where it comes from." And just like that, he drifts farther without a lifeline.
"Il y a longtemps que je t'aime" is rich in teasing reveals that steadily propels the story forward but it is also a delicate study of imprisonment and the attempts to escape---some silently suffering, some desperately seeking---from one's dark past, from ideals and worlds molded by literature, from unexpected affection that one feels undeserved. Being typically French, the palpable distance of sympathies and atmosphere make the psychological unraveling of Juliette more threatening at the start, and criminally tragic in the end.
A very French Kristin Scott Thomas, in what could be last year's best performance (overlooked by the Oscars), is darkly magnetic, a paradox of coldly-chiseled shoulders and a monstrous yearning for redemption. Elsa Zylberstein plays with extraordinary instinct the shy adoration of a younger sister and the negligible gestures that naturally show that very distinct connection between siblings.
The inevitable face-off at the end feels a little too contrived and hurried, but that last bit with the sisters staring out of the window watching a rain-drenched, refracted world is ultimately one of the most uplifting moments in cinema.
In "Il y a longtemps que je t'aime," love is both prison and escape, damnation and salvation. It is up to us to choose which it will be in our brittle lives.
Tuesday, February 10
Sud Sanaeha (Blissfully Yours)
Written and Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Starring Kanokporn Tongaram, Min Oo, Jenjira Jansuda
Ever had that indecipherable feeling of dreamy watchfulness? You become a vigilant critic, every crease, every scent is memorized as if it were your last day on earth. You become a watchful romantic, haunted by disbelief at the clarity of someone's skin. You become heady with desire; the alliance of hormones and heart rush to the head, an assault of contentment.
In Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Blissfully Yours," bliss begins with escape. The movie starts all too suddenly, in the middle of a scene. A man (Min Oo) afflicted by a mysterious skin decease is being treated by a doctor. He is accompanied by Roong (Tongaram) and an elderly woman, Orn, played by Jansuda with a consistent undercurrent of slyness. We discover the relationships much later in the film. The man, Min, turns out to be an illegal immigrant that Roong, a young factory worker, pines for. Orn helps the lovers navigate through life in Thailand in exchange of cash, and in the afternoon of their visit to the clinic, she helps Roong out of work so Roong can spend time with Min. Orn lends them her car and the two drive out into the dusty open road.
45 minutes into the movie, as the road trip begins and the scenery changes from dry to lush, the movie credits roll out. Roong turns on the radio and a Thai version of Summer Samba (So Nice) plays. Roong puts lotion on her and Min's hands. Fingers become flirty and playful. Colors deepen, yellow to golden, green to deeper green. They step out of the car and walk into a forest.
Bliss begins. Bliss takes over.
The next hour of the film is a celebration of naked intimacy, of moments of abandon at once introspective and instant. Weerasethakul's steady shots frame Min and Roong's childlike euphoria with journalistic clarity yet even the simplest gestures---picking wild berries, Roong resting on Min's lap---are soaked in a languid dream-like state. A waking dream impossibly captured and almost impossible to fully grasp.
In the meantime, Orn is also in the forest frolicking with her lover when her husband's motorcycle gets stolen. Tom, a factory worker, chases after the thief, and Orn wanders into the forest. Where Weerasethakul's "Tropical Malady" took a surreal turn in its second act (a parable that admonishes desire?), "Blissfully Yours" flourishes with calm bewilderment.
Orn stumbles into Min and Roong by a stream; Orn says that somehow the trail disappeared and her wandering led her to them. The stream, clear and reflective, becomes release and salvation for the three characters. Again, Weerasethakul elevates the ordinary to wonder lust. I was specifically transfixed when Orn began to intensely watch her hands under the running stream, palms up then down, weaving, worm-like shadows running across them. And then a kind of miracle. A delicate distortion, the healing cold.
"Blissfully Yours" is a state of being on film that's nearing abstract. But once you pull away, once you let the scenery sing and watch the lovers fall asleep, the bafflement becomes an expanding sun in your stomach. Lightheaded, you desire, too, to lie on the bank and listen to the stream whisper:
Follow your bliss.
Monday, February 9
Season 4, Episode 14 - "Blood on the Scales"
It's the final stretch for Battlestar Galactica (I still get all teared up every time I realize this) and it's pretty palpable that all bets are off. Ever since season 4.5 started, it has been downhill for the men and women of Galactica, which has reached a boiling point with the discovery of a parched, radioactive Earth. Directionless, now unhinged from the promised land, betrayed by the scriptures, and demystified of the prophesies that acted as an interstellar map, the Cylons and humans have banded together to search for a new home. Of course, it will never be that easy. After a controversial announcement to install Cylon FTL drives in the colony ships, an uprising erupts. The violence and heartbreaks rooted in the New Caprica arc and the TV-Movie "Razor" culminate in a bloody coup led by Felix Gaeta in this week's "Blood on the Scale."
I've always had a soft spot for Gaeta. Always quiet, meek, but wildly intelligent. His character's journey from tactical officer to guilt-burdened New Caprica Chief of Staff to then President Baltar to masterminding a coup d'etat with Vice president Tom Zarek is so far the show's most tragic character turn. I kept telling myself that No, not Gaeta. But yes, he ordered the execution of Admiral Adama and President Roslin. He accepted the assasination of the corum. He singlehandedly coordinated the takeover from his seat in the CIC. In one of the most painful moments of the show, Gaeta, after the arrest, confesses to Baltar that he's alright with the fact that he lost but hopes that someday everyone will understand who he was. He is ultimately executed by firing squad, seconds before which he utters, "It stopped," referring to the recurring phantom leg pain.
Lots of great charcter moments in this episode too. President Roslin goes totally badass after being told by Gaeta that Admiral Adama has been executed and delivers the best line of the season so far: I will hunt each one of you down or something then..."I will use every cannon, every bomb, every bullet, every weapon I have down to my own eye teeth to end you! I swear it! I'm coming for all of you!" That just took my breath away. Also, Sam can't be dead. Please? Starbuck cradling him in her arms is such a heartbreaking reunion. Cylon or not, she does love him, only not as much as she loves Apollo. Frak.
It's all these journeys, these intersecting drama and destinies, the too real entanglement of religion and politics, desire and despair, that elevate Battlestar Galactica from a great sci-fic drama show to a revered study of the darkness and light of the human heart.
Friday, February 6
JUST LIKE HEAVEN - A TRIBUTE TO THE CURE
01. Just Like Heaven performed by JOY ZIPPER
02. The Lovecats performed by TANYA DONELLY & DYLAN IN THE MOVIES
03. Lovesong performed by THE BRUNETTES
04. In Between Days performed by KITTY KARLYLE
05. Friday I'm In Love performed by DEAN & BRITTA
06. Jumping Someone Else's Train performed by LUFF
07. Boys Don't Cry performed by THE SUBMARINES
08. Close To Me performed by ELK CITY
09. The Walk performed by THE ROSEBUDS
10. Pictures Of You performed by ELIZABETH HARPER & THE MATINEE
11. Let’s Go To Bed performed by CASSETTES WON’T LISTEN
12. Catch performed by DEVICS
13. A Night Like This performed by JULIE PEEL
14. 10:15 Saturday Night performed by THE POEMS
15. A Strange Day performed by GRAND DUCHY (Violet Clark & Black Francis)
16. High performed by THE WEDDING PRESENT
Who knew that a modest label in Connecticut would be releasing one of the best tribute albums ever? Indie darlings past and present come together to repaint the mood swinging lyrics and remix the eternal sunshine of The Cure hits. There's a little room for nostalgia but more than enough space to swoon and dance. The Submarines, The Brunettes and Joy Zipper go for the addictive riff of boy-girl harmonies; The Wedding Present and Kitty Karlyle let the guitars rip happy. Cassettes Won't Listen flirt complete with hand claps, winking: Let's go to bed. Devics take on "Catch" and Elizabeth Harper & The Matinee's "Pictures of You" are simply heart melting, knee-buckling. A little giddy, a little regretful. The Cure's music is an inevitable soundtrack to those of us who grew up in the 80s and well into the 90s. Heartbreak is the reason, music is the celebration.
Available in Odyssey Records, P350.00.
Thursday, February 5
I started reading comic books even before I could read. The pictures were enough. I didn't know their names but I knew they were heroes---she who controlled the weather, he who had incinerating bursts of red light shooting from his eyes, she who rose from the ocean but somehow changed, and he who loved the changed woman. It was very cut and clear back then. But it was undeniable that something clicked in my head after I read my first comic book, an important piece falling into place, the lock and key, the wind-up toy, unstoppable clock work.
So here they are. The titles of 2008 that took me, frightened me, amazed me, and continued to made me.
1. LOCKE & KEY (IDW) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Always on top of the pile, always a slight tremble in my fingers as I turned the pages. Compelling, original, haunting. This scary effer by Joe Hill raised comic book standards to new levels of intelligent sadism.
2. I KILL GIANTS (IMAGE) by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura
This is just a charmer. From the cartoonish pencils to the D&D geekery, it cleverly retells the delicateness of childhood, and how unexpected violence in any form can leave one scarred for life.
3. PHONOGRAM VOL. 2: THE SINGLES CLUB (IMAGE) by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
There is a light that never goes out. And that light is Phonogram. Before this, I never thought that it was possible to fall in love with a comic book---the butterflies in the stomach, starry-eyed kind. And this is exactly what I felt, and what the character Penny B. went through, incidentally, in the first few pages of Phonogram Vol. 2: The Singles Club. Penny, a phonomancer, conjures magic (on the dance floor) as the evening begins. Her friend stands on a corner watching her, after which the entranced spectator utters the most magical words to my ear:
Oh it hurts to see you dance so well.
As the night progresses, we get more of The Pipettes, The Long Blondes, and more Keneckie. It's not for everybody, but for those who do recognize the names, the music, and the palpable love for music, it's pure enchantment---Gillen and McKelvie has written us a love letter about the one thing that we irrevocably love.
4. UMBRELLA ACADEMY (DARK HORSE) by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
Sure, there's Morrison all over it but Way does quirky his own acidic way. And it's the most brilliant superhero book of the year. It's grand and unpredictable. It's crazy and heartfelt. And there's no Didio or Quesada in sight. Pure lightning, as the creators intended it to be.
5. FABLES (VERTIGO) by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham
No one does sprawling like Willingham's "Fables." They've moved past the point of novelty years ago. Snow White, Bigby (Big Bad Wolf), Boy Blue, the Frog Prince and Prince Charming and the rest of Fabletown have made a total turn-around and have become living, breathing masterminds, politicians, soldiers, assassins, spies and bums. This is Lord of the Rings meets Leon Uris' Trinity. You just had to be there.
6. AIR (VERTIGO) by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker
The best new book of Vertigo. Terrorism, magic-realism and a love that defies space and time. G. Willow Wilson has a knack for writing memorable lines ("You taste like the sky") and offbeat scenarios that easily pull you in to the story. Opening with a nod to Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses," Air's first issue is fast-paced and a really good example of tight writing. You really have to know---you are compelled to find out---how Blythe, a flight stewardess who ironically fears the vast sky, goes from falling from off a plane to exploring the jungles of a non-existent country in search of a man she loves.
7. THE WALKING DEAD (IMAGE) by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
The best ongoing-series for me. The bets are off when last year's storyline killed off 90% of its lead characters. It's a new series all over again.
8. FINAL CRISIS (DC) Grant Morrison, J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco and Doug Mahnke
You have to give it to DC Comics for coming out with a love-it or hate-it major event. The risks have paid-off with #6 but Final Crisis #1 was undeniably one of the best-looking books around with plot twists that demanded a degree of intelligence from its readers. And that's more than what one can ask from a major publishing group.
9. GREEN LANTERN CORPS (DC) Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
The main title is better than good but Tomasi's GLC is the hyper sibling, with a strange and grotesque cast. Sure, it is lighter in character development but Tomasi's subtle touches during the title's quieter moments speaks louder than inconsistent Origin stories. And I'm really just a fan of Peter Tomasi. Read the Vertigo mini "The Light Brigade" and you'll know why.
10. CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND THE MI13 (MARVEL) Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk
I obviously have a thing for the strange and the quirky. Paul Cornell's Captain Britain (he also wrote the MAX title WISDOM) was the best thing during the Invasion and continues to be Marvel's most creative book. And with Blade smack in the middle of the magical mix, we can expect more ass-kicking, sword-wielding, and wit-whipping fun from this book.
The Thank Your Girls (Kung giunsa pagbuhat og binisayang law-oy: Original script title)
Directed by Charliebebs Gohetia
Cast: Gie Salonga, Pidot Villocino, July Jimenez, E.J. Pantujan, Kit Poliquit
No queen of the desert, no Julie Newmar fetishists can carry a sparkly candle against "The Thank You Girls," a colorful troupe of hard-traveling drag queens in search of a title and a little tenderness. This low budget independent movie is rich in characterization and brims with lust for life; a rollicking fuck-you to poverty, stubbornly poised to laugh at misfortunes and loneliness. Which is quite a feat, really, as both social commentary vehicle---purely coincidental as these girls are set against a backdrop of debt and prejudice---and a gay movie that truly rejoices in what truly defines the homosexuals in this country: quick wit and glittery make-up. And love, of course. Love of and for companionship. Minus the burden of gratuitous nudity and sex, "The Thank You Girls" is able to focus on a staccato of stories, which bounces back and forth from the actual pageant to the next one, until all the girls' mishaps and raison d'etre are told, before finally embarking on the last pageant. But somehow, it's different this time around. After all the hilarious question and answer exercises (If you are stranded in an island, how did you get there?) and casual confessions, it feels like I actually know these girls and I did wish them well as I sat quietly in my seat. As the movie reaches the final stage, spotlights on, stomach in and chest out, a dream sequence all of a sudden rolls out. Glamour shots, flowing white gowns, expensive make-up. A quiet peek inside their fantasies, our fantasies at one point in our lives: To be blindingly beautiful. And if this is what it feels like to be onstage, even if it's just a fleeting moment of grace, then it's all worth it. 4/5