Friday, March 27, 2009

The ONLY and not the RIGHT Person

I re-read one of my favorite books-- PATCHWORK PLANET by Anne Tyler.

I really love this particular novel of hers. Besides being well-written, this simple tale about the life of black sheep and average guy Barnaby really gets to me. Barnaby's like a neighbor I know, or a brother I was supposed to have.

I'd like to share a good passage from the novel.

Short background: Barnaby's a former village trouble-maker for stealing precious things and whatnot from affluent neighbors. What's ironic is that he comes from a rich family himself, whose father is a well-known charitable man of the Gaitlin Foundation. He married Natalie at a young age and didn't finish college. They have kid named Opal, but they eventually divorce. The novel picks up from when Barnaby was already 30 years old, with a new girlfriend Sophia. He's working as a hired help for Rent-a-Back.

(Patchwork Planet, page 218- 219)

Oh, once upon a time I'd had all I could ask for: a home, a loving wife, a little family of my own. A place in the world. How could I have thrown that away?

At Rent-a-back, I knew couples who'd been married almost forever-- forty, fifty, sixty years. Seventy-two, on one case. They'd be tending each other's illnesses, filling in each other's faulty memories, dealing with the money troubles or the daughter's suicide, or the grandson's drug addiction. And I was beginning to suspect that it made no difference whether they'd married the right person. Finally, you're just with who you're with. You've signed on with her, put in half a century with her, grown to know her as well as you know yourself or even better, and she's become the right person. Or the only person, might be more to the point.

I wish someone had told me that earlier. I'd have hung on then; I swear I would. I never would have driven Natalie to leave me.


This is a new point-of-view to me. How many people tell us "darating din ang tamang tao para sa'yo"?

When the truth is, there is no right person. Even if you're the most incompatible couple, it doesn't matter.

What matters is the journey you spend together and how somewhere, along the way, he/she hecomes the ONLY PERSON.

Wala lang. Ang ganda. Nakatuwa. :-D

Saturday, March 21, 2009

SlumDog Millionaire

SlumDog Millionaire was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won 8, including Best Picture and Best Director. This, despite being a seeming underdog, in a Hollywood world of big stars.

How did they do it?

A. It's another one of those poverty stories. Thus, there's the human interest element in it.
B. America wanted to look like it's actually caring for the Third World.
C. Danny Boyle is a great director.
D. It is the best.

The movie started with a similar question: how did Jamal Malik, a street kid from the slums managed to be one question away from winning 20,000,000 rupees in Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Did he cheat? Was he lucky, a genius? Or because it is written.

That simple, yet stark question transports us to the sullied, rough streets of Mumbai, made more brutal with its desolate parallelism with the bright lights of the television studio.

Jamal and older brother Salim are far from having a charmed life. When their mother dies during a Hindu versus Islam attack, Jamal and Salim had no choice but to fend for themselves, adding to the already big statistic of homeless, street kids in India. Together with the "third musketeer" Latika, they face the harsh realities of being orphans in Mumbai.

And Slum Dog millionaire serves the harshness hot, fresh and guileless. From falling into the hands of gangsters to beg for money-- to working, peddling and stealing in trains, and working as tour guides in Taj Mahal, Jamal and Salim eventually grow up. Salim is a hardened dangerous deviant while Jamal is his exact opposite. But the one thing that drives him to go on in life is his great love for Latika.

Even after several years of parting ways with Latika (she is left behind when the brothers run away from the gangsters), Jamal convinces his brother to go back and search for her. Little did they know, far more dangerous ordeals await them in the Mumbai underground scene.

Touching on sensitive and serious themes, SlumDog succeeded in inserting humor here and there, in places you will not expect. This device is irony at its finest. The best example? Let me say Danny Boyle's depiction of the dirtiest restroom in Trainspotting is nothing close to this!

But what made SlumDog easy on the eyes and lovable to watch was its central theme of Jamal and Latika's love story. It's bittersweet, most times frustrating and heart-aching. It just made me want to shout and root for them. Or even to yell at the top of my voice on the scene when Jamal is meeting up with Latika to escape, "Look out,the villain's coming!"

A. It's another one of those poverty stories.
C. Danny Boyle is a great director.

Based on the novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, SlumDog Millionaire is indeed a poverty story. There are already existing documentaries and films touching on this topic. But SlumDog brings home the award with an exceptional backbone of the poverty-- a striking contrast with a quiz show promising instant fortune. And sure, it helps that it's timely, with this period being the era of reality and quiz shows. In fact, the SlumDog can be in Wowowee in our country (Hep! Hep! Hooray!) Another definite plus is the fact that Director Danny Boyle and his team actually got real-life slum kids to act in the film.

British Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting and Sunshine, did more than doing his homework by not only immersing in the Mumbai slums, but also by paying homage to Hindu commercial cinema. The opening chase scene in the movie was actually based on the "12-minute police chase through the crowded Dharavi slum" in Black Friday (adapted from S. Hussein Zaidi's book of the same name about the 1993 Bombay bombings). The autograph whose Jamal sought at the start of the film was actually Bollywood Star Amihtab's, who is kind of like our "FPJ" here.

And the result is a thorough well-researched take on poverty in India.

B. America wanted to look like it's actually caring for the Third World.

The Oscars has actually been a credible award-giving body (pretty much the opposite here in the Philippines), with its history track of awarding notable stand outs, more recently Crash in 2006 and No Country For Old Men in 2007. I have to give it to them for not going for Benjamin Button. So, no, definitely SlumDog won not because it's a "third world" story.

My answer?
D. It is the best.

And yes, perhaps, IT IS WRITTEN. Slumdog captured the hearts of millions worldwide.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


A superhero known as "The Comedian" is far from being funny and humorous. A cynical and flawed man, he is a maniac and a killer. It's all a joke, he says.

But when one of the superheroes, Rorschach, finds a smiley pin with a blood stains on a gutter, his investigation of The Comedian's murder leads him and the other superheroes to something even bigger than themselves.

I haven't even glimpsed the graphic novel. But the hype and the visual effects I saw on the trailer was enough to make me watch the movie twice in the big screen.

Zach Snyder, Director of "300" did not disappoint. The movie started with a stunning credits, shot live action, but as if they were still pictures with one or two elements moving. The credits narrated the rise and fall of super heroes. How eventually, most of them were forced to retirement or silence.

Until the murder.

Besides a great soundtrack and ironic fight scenes, I liked the way the movie characterized each super hero. Watchmen deviated from the usual super hero movie. Superman as an alien who landed on earth, with bionic powers. Spider Man, a quintissential geek who gets bitten by a genetically enhanced spider. The death of his uncle taught him moral idealism with his last words, "With great power comes great responsibility."

In Watchmen, Rorschach is a psychotic, masked vigilante man. "A comic book villain," Ozymandias aka Adrian Veidt said. Nite Owl, known as Dan, is a weak, confused guy with "a school boy super hero act." Dr. Manhattan, the only super hero with real powers is god-like (not to mention being well-endowed, I can't forget its blueness!). He can kill and destroy with a flick of his hand, can see the past and future, but is slowly retreating from humanity, and ironically has emotional problems of his own. Laurie/Silk Spectre is caught between two heroes-- Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan and is finally coming to terms with the truth of her identity.

No one is super hero-like. They are real people, with real problems, only they have masks, costumes and heightened physical skills to distinguish themselves from the rest of us.

No doubt the material of the film is rich and by the story itself, is unique, something new-- a radical take on the concept of super heroes. Who's watching over them? Is it God? What are they saving mankind for?

"Are you kidding? We're protecting them from themselves," The Comedian said.

"Why should I save the world I no longer have any stake in?", Dr. Manhattan asked.

An in-depth analysis of the super heroes led to deconstructing of human nature itself. Man is created selfish and imperfect.

In the end, Dr. Manhattan's sacrifice, almost Jesus-like, led to the further extinction of super heroes. And the only one who was real and uncompromising ended up committing suicide. And mankind? Who knows if they will ever change?

Unfortunately, though Watchmen was rich with a unique story and has powerful effects and imagery, I couldn't help but think the good material was enclosed in a typical narrative, caught within the pressures of formulaic Hollywood.

It was supposed to be character driven, sadly the plot drove the characters instead. There were scenes that were "cheeky", especially towards the end.

I couldn't help but think that at the start up to the middle of the film, the director had a certain movement or treatment he wanted. But from the middle to the ending, he reverted to contenting himself with a typical story-telling.

Too bad for the heroes, who weren't trite and typical at all.

When I left the movie house the second time around, I wondered if super heroes will ever rise again after all that happened.

And if they do, what kind of super heroes will they be? Say in 2020?

My only hope is that a new Watchmen story is in the works. And if I'm still alive when the movie version is shown, I wouldn't miss it for the world.