Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Succumbed at Last

I have so far avoided participating in the blog past time of listing my prejudices which are referred to as memes, a title that bears little resemblance to the cultural phenomenon identified by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. But as I, from time to time, pontificate about movies here I thought that Morgan’s Movie Meme which I happened across at I Am Woman, See Me Blog is appropriate in so much that my movie prejudices will give those who read my pontifications an understanding of where I am coming from. And consequently be able to accept my ramblings as gospel or reject them as the ravings of a demented ratbag.
So without further ado, into the deep end.

1. The last movie you saw in a theatre, and current-release movie you still want to see.
For me the cinema, hard top, theatre, call it what you will, is the best place to view a movie, preferably seated centre in the first few rows right down the front, so close that my peripheral vision is filled with the action. I picked up this habit at the first Star Wars movie were being last in at a sell out screening it was the front row or stand. Being that close the opening sequence was amazing. I was hooked and have been ever since, it is just the best place to lose yourself in a movie and the noise of lolly wrappers is almost unheard. At live shows, my preference is centre in the six rows from H to N, that’s where the director and the designers usually sit when putting the finishing touches to the show.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was the last movie I saw in a cinema and its saving grace was Johnny Depp. Depp is without doubt a damn fine actor with some remarkable performances under his belt, Edward Scissorhands, Don Juan DeMarco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Pirates without him would have been a totally forgettable film, Jack Sparrow was a wonderful character who Depp made very believable in an otherwise ridiculous movie.
The current crop of new releases leaves me pretty cold.

2. The last movie you rented/purchased for home viewing.
As an actor Clint Eastwood is Clint Eastwood is Clint Eastwood but as a director he has produced some interesting films. From High Plains Drifter, Mystic River, Unforgiven, The Bridges of Madison County to the most recent to be added to my collection, Million Dollar Baby. When he is directing and acting, Eastwood puts the film first and allows his co-stars to steal the scenes and the awards and Morgan Freeman does that whenever they are together in MDB. Though I do feel that Unforgiven was more deserving of a Best Picture Oscar than Million Dollar Baby. MDB’s final scenes were just too predictable.

3. A movie that made you laugh out loud.
John Cleese is a comic genius who can draw laughs with both his words (written and spoken) and his actions. His writing and performances in TV’s Faulty Towers still leave me out of breath after repeated viewings as does A Fish Called Wanda. From the black humour of an animal lover inadvertently killing an old lady’s pet pooches via the verbal jousting between the psychopath and the anal retentive lawyer to the visual escaping in all directions at once when confronted by the psychopath are so well done that the laughs escape even when you know its coming next.

4. A movie that made you cry.
I am an Aussie Bloke and consequently I don’t cry at the movies. If pushed I will admit to getting the odd lump in the throat that requires a clearing cough or two during poignant scenes like wanton destruction of the buffaloes in Dances with Wolves.

5. A movie that was a darling of the critics, but you didn't think lived up to the hype.
Sofia Coppola is not in the same league as her Dad but it is still early days for her. Her Lost in Translation is pretty much summed up by its title. Bill Murray looked uncomfortable in his role of the aging and bored movie star a not too dissimilar role to that he played in Groundhog Day with great aplomb and Scarlet Johanson as the neglected newlywed didn’t have the screen presence to carry the role. The idea was interesting but the visuals didn’t do much to help the screenplay which was heavily dialogue driven.

6. A movie that you thought was better than the critics.
Stanley Kubrick is amongst the mighty of movies with a string of films that are house hold names, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut but his most beautiful movie Barry Lyndon is virtually forgotten. This film version of Thackeray’s novel is a visual masterpiece, scenes evoking Gainsborough paintings come to life on the screen, often lit only with candles and using a specially made camera lens these scenes are like no others in their breath taking beauty. This film is a feast for the eyes and the story whilst not outstanding is strong enough to last its 3 hours.

7. Favorite animated movie
It has been some years since I last saw the 1940 version of Fantasia but it lingers in my memory like no other movie. The music and visuals are so in tune with each other that they become a perfect match. Even that bloody sanctimonious mouse finds a role for which he is suited. I haven’t seen the 2000 remake but think it would be hard pressed to improve on the original.

8. Favorite Disney Villain.
I am not a great fan of Disney movies. They are too saccharine for my taste and more often than not they murder childhood favourites with their dumbing down approach, especially their treatment of AA Milne’s wonderful characters, grrrrrrr. That being said the water bucket carrying broom in Fantasia certainly does piss off the mouse, whether an animated inanimate object can be a villain is a moot point.

9. Favorite movie musical.

Whether All That Jazz is a musical I’m not sure, it certainly has musical numbers but they are dance orientated rather than show tunes. I suspect it is more of a fantasy bio pic of how Bob Fosse would like to be remembered. He did make the more conventional musical Cabaret which for my money has to be one of if not the best musical ever made. Although set in the 1930’s and made in the 70’s there is a timeless quality to it that makes it just as relevant today, perhaps even more so considering world events. It confronts head on issues that are still alive and doing well today and extols one to become involved as the lyrics from the title song say “What good is sitting alone in your room, Come hear the music play”.

10. Favorite movies of all-time (up to five).
Oscar Wilde said “We are all in the gutter but some of us look at the stars” and this sums up the Werner Herzog film Fitzcarraldo. The first time I saw this movie I walked out of the screening with hope in my heart and an exhilarating feeling of joie de vivre. If a man cannot move mountains he can at least drag a steamboat over one. Add to that a score that features recordings from Enrico Caruso, the greatest tenor to ever open his mouth.

It is inconceivable that I could watch a movie so many times and not tire of it, but such is the case with The Princess Bride. A fairy tale of romance, action, adventure and parody, lots of parody that puts the viewer in an imaginary world that seems real. It reaches out to the kid in us all and feeds the adult with a dry humour that fits the action and the story like a favourite pair of jeans.

There is only one word to describe Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, masterpiece. A stunning adaptation of Joe Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with lines from Eliot and Kippling poems it is a movie to be experienced. Unsettling and inconclusive as it is it has the ring of truth to it along with some scenes that have become hallmarks in movie history.

When the patient cures the doctor you have something special on your hands. Such is the case with romantic comedy Don Juan DeMarco. With Johnny Depp playing against Marlon Brando it is an intelligent and witty film. Doctor: ... why do you think Dr. Mickler is Don Octavio de Flores? Don Juan: Why do you think Don Octavio is Dr. Mickler?

Bob Fosse only directed 6 films with Cabaret being his best known. But his fictional, fantasy bio pic of his own life All That Jazz is a much more interesting flick. Having had more than a passing association with show biz I suspect there in lies its appeal for me. It has some of the best dance sequences I have ever seen on film with the final number being a tour de force in both its imagery and intention.

Thanks to Lizza for bringing this to my attention. And the following has nothing to do with movies except that I like it and it is a break from all these bloody words.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Rush ID shops are almost as common as cats in the commercial areas of Metro Manila and trust me there are lots of your humble moggies out there on the streets. This land is obsessed with 1x1 and 2x2 colour photographs, signed on the back and attached to any and all official and semi official documents.

From renting a post office box, the application for which must have a photograph of all who may receive and/or retrieve the mail, to opening a bank account, 2 1x1’s signed on the reverse, please, a photograph of the claimant is mandatory. A resume without an attached photo won’t even be read. Thinking of registering a business name, 2 2x2 recent, less than a year old, signed on back photographs of the registrant, please, even if the application is being handled by a third party.

From kiosks in malls to small store fronts in shopping strips you can get your mug shot taken and processed within the hour and walk away with a fist full of likenesses with change from 200 pesos. Just look for the Rush ID sign and you’re in business.

Hand over the required number of pics along with the rest of the forms and be prepared for the staple through the frontal cortex. Interestingly the only application that doesn’t require a brace of displayed pearly whites is for marriage. And I’m just not going into that one.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Weekend in the Country

When we left the sealed roads and hit the dirt our journey became a roller coaster ride in slow motion. Our party of 9 had left Manila in a Toyota Hi Ace, which fortunately was equipped with air con, some 3 hours earlier. We headed down the Southern Luzon Expressway hung a right onto the Calabarzon Expressway to Lipa City then through to Padre Garcia, a left at Rosario and then a right at the San Juan Municipal Hall to the dirt road heading for the Barangay of Laiya Aplaya in deepest Batangas.

Louie Almarez was the leader of our troop and it was to his home province that we were headed, for some weekend relaxation, his cousin’s wedding and a game of basketball. He has a house in the neighbouring Barangay of Calubcub II which is well off the beaten track. An idyllic rural retreat nestled in rolling hills surrounded by coconut palms, banana and bamboo trees, and farm lots carved out of the tropical rainforest.

We arrived at his aunt’s house in Laiya Aplaya just before midday and Filipino hospitality kicked in with a brunch of local seafood and rice for the travelers amidst the preparations for the nuptials the following day. The afternoon was spent at the Kabayan Beach Resort frolicking in a warm tropical sea, snoozing whilst a gentle breeze kept the heat at bay, shots of brandy with sprite chasers, karaoke and merienda of spicy chips and ube pastries.

Upon our return to the 50 odd houses, a dozen or so Sari Sari stores, the half dozen dirt roads, church, basket ball court and 3 tricycles of Laiya Aplaya we caught the slaughter and butchery of the pig that was to be breakfast on the morrow. After a dinner of rice and seafood at a second aunt’s house we headed off to Louie’s house to watch the sun set through the fronds of the rain forest and sip gin with sprite chasers. The bamboo bed was not as hard to sleep on as first impressions would have had one believe.

The sun streamed through a cathedral of green as the morning mist slowly dissipated and the hamlet of Calubcub II came to life. Hot sweet coffee fired up the neurons before the chill of the hand pumped water from the deep well cleared any remnants of sloth from proceeding night. Although it was Sunday there was business at hand for the locals as caribou pulled carts and plows to fields to earn their keep.

After the completion of our morning ablutions we headed off to the wedding breakfast of Louie’s cousin, Helen with her new husband Limuel. The porker that drew the short straw the day before was presented to guests in a mouth watering array of dishes amidst a continual barrage of announcements of best wishes for the happy couple and the generosity of their relatives and friends. Around mid morning the festivities were starting to wind down and the serious business of the trip was at hand.

The most common feature of all the barangay’s in this part of Batangas province be they of 10 or 50 houses is a church and a basketball court, more often than not with them sitting cheek by jowl. It should also be stated that when it comes to basketball, Louie will more than likely dribble off this mortal coil. That 2 others of our party were team mates in Manila it was little wonder that we adjourned the 100 meters to the local basketball court after the breakfast festivities. With 2 locals to make up the numbers and a purse of 150 pesos the visitors did battle with the locals under the late morning tropical sun.

The victorious visitors with their entourage in tow rolled out of town to spend a couple of hours on the water in a friend’s bangka before returning to the rain forest hide away for a late lunch and a relaxed afternoon of not doing very much. After merienda we once again loaded ourselves aboard the Hi Ace and bid adieu to roller coaster roads and headed back to where the rubber hits the asphalt.