Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I'm too tired to go out tonight and so thought it would be better if I just stayed home to vegetate. I didn't have much sleep the night before because of a lot of things and I guess it's also a bit too late to go out for my evening constitutional. I tried watching Something's Gotta Give on my sister's DVD but I became restless and gave up somewhere in the middle of the movie. I ended up making some soup for dinner before finally ending here in front of the computer to surf the net... I'm too exhausted to even think.

Monday, August 30, 2004

What could be more stressful than attempting to draw the strip out of a still vague idea with five hours to go before dealine while listening to a friend's problem on the phone and counselling her regarding her marriage? Okay there are lots more precarious situations but this really taxed me mentally.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

I met C again earlier tonight at National Bookstore Megamall. I was on my way to the shelf where the sketch pads were located had she not called my attention. It's been a long time since I last saw her and it's been a very long time since we last talked to each other. I told her I heard about the good news and she held up her hand playfully wiggling her fingers showing me the engagement ring. She's a churchmate of mine from my VCF U-Belt days and she's engaged to be married to a Vietnamese Pastor (she has a heart for Vietnam so things worked out very well for her). We were more relaxed talking to each other now compared to the last time we talked. Gone are the awkward moments in trying to keep the conversations going. We actually had a good laugh all throughout, making me suspect that this is her way of saying "You've had your chance and this is just part of what you're missing." She's also sporting long hair this time as opposed to the "Trinity" haircut she was sporting the last time we saw each other. I think I'm going to cry in the corner now.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The movie Laws of Attraction is the latest flick we got to watch in a string of semi-new movies being shown these days. The story's nothing new and nothing any of us haven't heard of, successful Manhattan divorce lawyer Audrey Woods (Julianne Moore) is a single, attractive woman who can't seem to score in the field of romantic love. She goes around with her divorced socialite mother, Sara Miller (Frances Fisher) doing lunches and going over her rich clients' properties in a bid to see what could be worked out in the cases she's handling. Audrey's mother constantly nags her for being too into her work and leaving not much time for anything else. Audrey had long resolved not to fall in love and get married because from what she sees most marriages end in ugly divorce anyway. One day her orderly world was disturbed by the presence of an upstart and relatively new divorce lawyer named Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan) who was handling her client's wife's case. Rafferty had some pretty unorthodox ways of presenting himself and his arguments in court but if there's something to be said about him is that he never fails to deliver the goods. After a couple of run-ins they made peace with each other, got drunk and ended in bed together. Everything would have ended fine right after that, as Audrey have begun to fall for his charms, if not for a major boo-boo Rafferty did in court that humiliated her again the next day. That started a war of sorts as they verbally slugged with each other in court and in television interviews. Audrey's mom started to notice some change in her daughter's focus and when she found out why she changed her tune from nagging her to find an eligible bachelor to snagging Rafferty. Things come to a head when Audrey finds out an ugly fight brewing between celebrity couple, Serena (Parker Posey) and Thorne Jamison (Michael Sheen). She is a well known young fashion designer and he is the lead singer of a famous rock band and they're both needing the best divorce lawyers to handle their case. Who better to handle their case than these two lawyers? There were occasional stumbles as they raced against each other in building a full proof case but non a big as the mess they got themselves into when they went to Ireland to look over an ancient castle that became the main object of dispute. After going out to attend the townfestival and getting themselves drinking silly they woke up the next day in bed with wedding rings on their fingers. Though Audrey was shocked, to say the least, Rafferty thought it would be best to go along with the idea of them getting married and spare the press of any news of an impending divorce (which is all very ironic). Audrey tries her best not to explode and Rafferty kept mostly to himself to avoid further conflicts during their time together as husband and wife and things would have begun to settle down if not for one last major booboo in court that made Audrey flare up making the usually resilient Rafferty to call the whole thing off. And just when things couldn't sink any lower they get their lessons in love and commitment from the most unlikely time, persons, and place of all.

We're all suckers for romantic comedies that show two protagonists clawing at each other and doing some fine verbal joustings of their own. From Catarina and Petruchio from William Shakespeare'sTaming of the Shrew to Maddie Hayes and David Addison in the 80s classic TV series, Moonlighting. We all love to hear sarcasm and biting wit between the two sexes before different types of sparks fly. We like it better if there's an existing chemistry between them two characters and that's somewhat of a problem with our two protagonists during the first have of the movie. No matter how much bickering they did it just doesn't seem to work. The only character that stands above the rest is Frances Fisher's divorced character who's undergoing a second cycle of teenagerhood (she attends a rock concert, organizes a sort of pajama party where she and her friends would inject their lips with fat taken from their fannies, and refuses to be called "Mother" in public). She very well steals all the scenes she appears in no matter who comes out with her. But it's not all that bad. The movie does have its plusses but not too many sparks fly when you need it to.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

Friday, August 27, 2004

This was a sort of a true story from our DLSU visit last week. Spawned a ton of discussions currently running in the mailing list.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The movie Nosferatu (1922) is Goethe Institut's last silent film offering in their Movies Live series of classic silent movies. Predictably enough a huge crowd of people lined up to watch this movie not because it's the last movie in the series but rather to get the chance to watch the first vampire flm ever made on the big screen. The timing couldn't be more tragic because, personally, the past two films before this were a lot more interesting than this in terms of storytelling. I won't dwell on the story this time (Bob Bankard of PhillyBurbs.com did a great job on that one) but rather on the interesting stories connected to the production of the film and the technical innovations that Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau did to turn Hollywood's attention to him. At a time when when shooting movies inside a studio lot built with lavish sets was the norm, the ever experimental director found a way around the budget restrictions preventing him from building the needed sets by taking his camera and his crew on location to the mountains of Carpathia (specifically Slovakia where a real castle was used). He also employed the locals to appear in his film along with the real actors, the irony of which the locals put in a more believable enactment than the lead actor Gustav von Wangenheim who was a complete and total ham. To create the special effects needed to bring a feeling of dread inside the "Land of the Phantoms," Murnau resorted to one crank/one frame camera technique to produce a jerky animation effect. The result is similar to using stop-motion animation effects. Also due to the limitations of light sources which prevents them from shooting at night, Director F. W. Murnau experimented with reversing the film to show the negative side instead of the usual positive. In doing so they could continue shooting the film in broad daylight without hampering the schedule (in the process they also painted the Orlok's black carriage white). It's also interesting to note that his initial experimentation with a dream-like quality in the film would later be perfected when he created one of the greatest examples of expressionist films, The Last Laugh (produced by UFA). Another stroke of genius in this film was the idea for the vampire as portrayed by Max Schreck. The appearance is a far cry from those popularized by Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and, more recently, Gary Oldman. Murnau's Count Graf Orlock resembles a "shaved, cadaverous rat" with long bony fingers and creepy stare. This was more of a deliberate act on the part of the director who sought to identify his vampire with rats rather than bats and wolves:

"Murnau draws from a history that links Vampires to unexplained deaths. The term, Nosferatu, is of modern origin and derives from the Slavic "nosufur-atu" which is a derivation of the Greek "nosophoros" or "plague carrier." The understanding that rat-borne illnesses were the cause of many plagues dominated scientific thinking in recent centuries. While in earlier times many unexplained deaths fueled a developing culture of Vampirism and the concept of the "un-dead" in Europe." *

Speaking of the actor, an interesting story arose regarding his surname, which means "terror" in German, that for years people thought it was too much of a coincidence and that another popular German actor named Alfred Abel (the lead actor in Murnau's future hit "Metropolis") used a pseudonym. But after much research it was found out that it was the good actor's real name and it wasn't something the production crew came up with for the said film.

Those were the good stuff, but no matter how much technical magic Murnau conjures up to try to save the film the story suffers a great deal from producer and art director Albin Grau's story treatment. Apparently Grau was something of a der Vollidiot for basing his story almost entirely on Bram Stoker's famous novel and passing it as his own. When the author's widow, Florence Stoker, got wind of the appaling similarities between this movie and her late husband's work she sued the production company for royalties with the help of the British Incorporated Society of Authors. But since the production company which Grau headed had fallen into bankruptcy they failed to come up with the needed amount to pay for the royalty. The incensed Mrs. Stoker demanded that the original prints of the film be destroyed (you can read the other details of this sordid tale here). Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on whose side you're on) extant copies of the film began surfacing in England and France after Mrs. Stoker's death. Some of these were turned over to Universal Studios who acquired the film rights to the novel in 1928. The movie never did enjoyed its earlier success as no major movie studio became interested in showing in major theaters throughout the country and all limited film showings were always done under the auspices of a film society.

And that's about it, might I also mention that the entire dialogue was written in German so the head of the Goethe Institut tried some method voice acting while reading it to the audience. Music was provided by the jazz band Garlic which was a really bad move, their music almost put me to sleep.

References include - Silents Are Golden: Nosferatu page. * Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror, and Movie Diva.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Putting up Christmas trees in August was based on what I observed in one of the stores inside the mall I'm frequenting. Usually stores don't play Christmas songs until the onset of the "-ber" months but why wait?

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.

Why some critics find M. Night Shyamalan's movie The Village a great disappointment is beyond me. Well sure the expectations are high and there's the marketing ploy that this film is about some supernatural creatures. Or is it? Like Mr. Shyamalan's other film features, the general plot of this movie was kept a closely guarded secret. True, when I first heard about this movie sometime early last year or late last, last year, the news about it was that he was going to tackle the subject of the dreaded Bogeyman and that's what exactly what he did. The story takes place in 1897 in a small village surrounded by a dense forest. The villagers are led by a council of elders led by Edward Walker (William Hurt) who tries to soothe their frightened townmates about the presence of dead animals killed in a particularly strange manner. What happened was they had entered into an agreement with the strange creatures roaming the forest that they wouldn't enter the woods and the said creatures would also honor the agreement by not entering their clearing. The presence of the dead animals scare the villagers out of their wits thinking they made have done something to break the agreement. To further compound the elders' predilection, a brave young man by the name of Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) asks for permission to break the agreement just this once to go to the next town to buy some additional medicine. They turned down his request because there never was an immediate need for more medicines until Lucius was stabbed almost to death by Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), the town fool who was driven to extreme jealousy by when news of Lucius' bethrodal to Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) reached his ears. Ivy was Noah's self-appointed guardian for so long he couldn't bear to part with her for any reason at all. Faced with this dire emergency Ivy's father, Edward, had no choice but to allow her to go into the woods to get the needed medicine for her fiancé. But before he could let her go on her journey he let her in on a secret he and the other elders have been hiding. A secret that only Ivy was fit to know, a secret that could very well affect the existence of the village and the mysterious creatures living in the woods.

The unshakable feeling of dread present throughout the story that has been the trademark of Mr. Shyamalan in most of his films have been toned down in this one. He focuses more on the blossoming relationship between Lucius and Ivy and the predicament that they're in. Lucius is a quiet young man who was most likely born in that isolated location and has been feeling a sense of restlessness. He longs to go out and explore the other side of the woods but can't do so out of respect to his elders and their long standing covenant with the inhabitants of the woods. Matching him in spirit and guts is Ivy, who became blind as a child but never crippled or hindered by this setback. Bryce stands out among the rest of her fellow actors and actresses because of the way she manages to draw sympathy to her character without making us feel bad about her situation. Everyone did a fine job in this movie and Mr. Shyamalan managed to temper the presence of the big name actors and let the relatively new stars shine on their own. Although the surprise ending was a bit of a letdown to what we all expected it to be, I felt it didn't drag the whole story down the tube. Edward Walker and the other elders plan to escape to a time of innocence was understandable but their methods, borne out of desperation, was still wrong. They thought they could leave everything behind and start anew but what they didn't count on was the fact that they're still dealing with fallible people prone to mistakes. What's sadder still is that although the secret they kept was almost found out they didn't even try to correct their mistakes and instead sought to cover it with another one. They instilled a fear of the unknown among their people, a fear of the bogeymen stalking the woods but what they failed to make them understand is that the ones they should fear the most are those living in their midst.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Ever been surprised with finding a great treasure and promising yourself that you'd come back for it later only to be disappointed with its loss? I have. I'll get over it anyway, it's not like I can't live with it or anything.

Monday, August 23, 2004

I finished reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity a long, long time ago it's just that I never got the time to pick up the next title in my book list so I kept putting this comment thing off. This was my first time to read a book of his and I must say that it's not an easy read. If the 10 page preface is any indication of the coming chapters ahead (you have to read it without pausing or backtracking to get his point) I thought I might be in for some hard read. Good thing I was proven wrong. The book wasn't much of a hard read, thankfully Mr. Lewis managed to keep the original flavor of his radio broadcast in this book. There were lots and lots of wisdom nuggets scattered throughout the pages of every chapter and they don't come off as thoroughly religious (the theme of which tends to scare off people). In fact he appeals to the common sense of the reader by laying everything out in the simplest possible terms. So although the realm of apologetics are relegated to the side by most people it's still by no means not important as we're wont to believe, one can't help but be fascinated with what Christianity is all about.

Clive Staples Lewis starts out by humbly describing himself as "a very ordinary layman," who sees himself to be "out of my depth in such waters: more in need of help myself than able to help others" the depth and scope of the arguments he wrote in defence of the Christian faith cannot be denied. He calls out for sobriety in the realm of biblical matters. He reaches out to all who believe to examine their faith a lot closer than before and to think about the creed that they profess outside of the traditions they have gotten used to for Christianity goes beyond labels and religion, "For I am not writing to expound something I could call 'my religion', but to expound 'mere' Christianity, which is what it is and what it was long before I was born and whether I like it or not." The whole book is divided into four as the original contents were published separately when they first appeared. Book 1. Right and Wrong As a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe affirms and discusses the existence of morality (a sense of right and wrong) that, despite the atheists' arguments to the contrary, could not have started with man alone nor would the various theories evolution be capable of coming up with such a thing:

"My reason was that Christianity simply does not make sense until you have faced the sort of facts I have been describing. Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power—it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk." (p. 31; We Have Cause to be Uneasy)
Book 2. What Christians Believe continues the premise that Book 1 has started by elevating the argument further to discussing the popular question "If God is good why does he allow evil?" (he discusses this further in his other book), a benevolent God satisfying His own justice by purchasing our salvation with His own life, the existence of a cosmic adversary that's dependent on his adversary, the concept of free will, and the claims of Jesus as the Messiah sent to Earth to save us from ourselves:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." (p. 52; The Shocking Alternative)
Book 3. Christian Behaviour discusses the laws of Christianity, the struggles of a God fearing human being to keep those laws, and how foolish it is to continue on our own without surrendering our cravings and struggles to God in the first place:

"In the second place, many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility. Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can. You may get some marks for a very imperfect answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone. Not only in examinations but in war, in mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, or ride a bicycle, even in fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it. It is wonderful what you can do when you have to.

"We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God's help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again." (p. 101; Sexual Morality)

Last but not least, Book four. Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity discusses the doctrine of the triune God, the role of each person in the Trinity with regards to those His followers, the important role of believers towards other people, the simple yet complicated matters of it all, warning against diving into something without counting the cost and judging without first understanding:

"Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always has existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has—by what I call 'good infection'. Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else." (p. 177; Good Infection)
If the whole purpose of becoming a Christian is to become a little Christ and the way Jesus describes the cost of following him to be both hard and easy, then you're going to be in for a bumpy ride considering the opposition you're going to face. Christianity doesn't offer a space on the fence for one to sit on, either you belong to His side or not. If you're still wavering between these two sides then I definitely recommend that you pick up this book because it would help you a lot in making the right decision. Of those who made their decision to live for Jesus, Mr. Lewis notes them to be "stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. They are, I say, recognisable; but you must know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of 'religious people' which you have formed from your general reading." If there's anything that Mr. Lewis helps us to define what made him decide to get out of atheism to become a believer in God, is that he discovered there's nothing 'mere' at all about Christianity.
The package has arrived! Though I was still asked to cough up some more dough for the customs people (the peeps who delivered it had no choice in the matter). I'm thinking, "Ok, no big deal...Just give me the package! NOW!" Hehehe. Now because of the very long wait I endured for this package to arrive the whole thing still hasn't sunk in. But the fact can't be denied I have one the original costumes my favorite actor John Goodman used in the 1995 TV-movie adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. Wow. The Hollywood memorabilia arrived wrapped in plastic inside a big white box along with an envelope containing the Certificate of Authenticity, a black and white promotional picture and two newspaper clippings showing the actor in the said scene with Jessica Lange wearing the suit that I won in eBay.

Promotional pic with (left to right) Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin, John Goodman and Jessica Lange.

The loot as it appeared on eBay.

This will be the first and last time that I'll be splurging on something this big a deal (a really huge deal in fact). This collectible was too good to pass up and like I told my good friend through e-mail, I can't be doing this once I get married so I might as well do it while I'm still able. Besides this is like an early Christmas and belated birthday gift to myself.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

What is this "The Wholesome Gallery of Horror"?

We just got back from watching The Stepford Wives at the mall and I must say that though some expectations were not met at all it was still a satisfying story. The tale tells the story of Joanna Eberhard (Nicole Kidman) who embodies the modern woman: headstrong, independent, successful, brutal, detached, and self-absorbed. But after suffering a nervous breakdown after being fired from her executive position in a super successful TV network, her husband Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick) decides to move the whole family out of busy and soulless New York into the calm and sunny suburban town of Stepford, Connecticut. The town is gated signifying the exclusivity of its membership from all outsiders, huge mansions dot the landscape filled with manicured lawns, lush trees, and sparkling fountains, and all women looked like supermodels. The place was a paradise, a literal dream come true for the average citizen looking for that elusive American dream. Joanna was feeling a lot antsy about the whole place and would have left immediately if she hadn't met a couple of familiar faces in Bobbie Markowitz (Bette Midler) and Roger Bannister (Roger Bart). Though the three haven't met each other before this they still managed to become fast friends owing to fact that they all share certain prominence in their respective fields (Bobbie is a successful author and Roger, a famous architect). These two new friend of hers would eventually begin to notice that everything's way too nice and too perfect in the little town of Stepford. All the women look too perfect, too immaculate in their dress, too perky and too well behaved while the men, the men were a complete opposite of the women. The men looked like a bunch of spineless, nerdy, namby-pamby sissies who seem to be too caught up with their regular meetings inside a huge dark house in the middle of the town. Turns out that beneath the sunny picturesque facade that the town trumps up lurks a dark secret cooked up by a mad scientist bent on world domination.

The feminist bent of the story was already obvious right from the start although from what I read this remake of the original 1975 movie was too watered down and lost a lot of the feminist flavor that the original film stood for. It all starts out very promising but in somewhere in the middle the story begins to lose its steam making the mystery not quite as suspenseful as it should be. Everything just fell neatly into place spoonfeeding the audience with scattered answers to clues not leaving enough cliff-hanger scenes for us to hold on to. Director Frank Oz should have tightened the editing a bit more and added more depth to Nicole's character and her marriage situation with Matthew Broderick's character. The movie should have taken time out to show how torn apart their marriage had become right at the beginning. Matthew's character too should have shown a lot more desperation and foreboding look during the big revelation. He still came off too nice and not eerie enough to make the audience uncomfortable with the idea that this guy has had enough of being a doormat and is now asserting himself as an individual. That's my only beef so far with this movie which comes around to only a third of the movie. Good thing the ending departs from the original and gives out some good advice that nicely rounds up the whole story, which aside from Nicole Kidman's presence, Glenn Close's acting, Jon Lovitz's and Bette Midler's nasty dialogue, was the saving grace of this whole viewing experience.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

A friend from high school forwarded this mail to me. Been a long time since I posted something from the Department of Forwarded Mails.
Did you know that those who appear to be very strong in heart, are real weak and most susceptible?

Did you know that those who spend their time protecting others are the ones that really need someone to protect them?

Did you know that the three most difficult things to say are: I love you, Sorry and help me

Did you know that those who dress in red are more confident in themselves?

Did you know that those who dress in yellow are those that enjoy their beauty?

Did you know that it's easier to say what you feel in writing than saying it to someone in the face? But did you know that it has more value when you say it to their face?
We just came back from the wedding of my cousin in San Pedro, Laguna. We had to be at their house hours ahead of the ceremony since me and my sister were part of the entourage. She stood as one of the bridesmaids and me, I stood as one of the groom's men (in other words, "pampahaba ng pila"). Days before this I already bought a ready made Barong Tagalog for this ceremony that's cheaper than the standard price of Barongs sold in the malls. But after putting it on outside the church right before the ceremony I should have took the time (and the money) to have it custom fit. The inside of the church was humid but we had to grin and bear it. I took some time to observe the modern changes they made for the altar (part of which looked a lot like a big pile of glass jalousies piled on top of another). And given my aversion to traditions in wedding receptions, I would have preferred to skip the binging and stayed in the car. I really hate being one of the single guys called down to the floor everytime to catch the garter. To me it's always an opportunity to make a fool of oneself in front of hundreds of people. Good thing I didn't get the garter. Well anyway the whole set up was nice, the souvenirs they gave away was nice, and the food was great. The traffic on the way back home was way more than normal so we got home a lot faster than the usual.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Group photo care of Az.

Went with the guys to De La Salle University to participate in a class discussion about the connection between Pinoy pop culture and Japanese anime. There are not much students inside the grounds owing maybe to exams week. RG and Az were only given less than 45 minutes out of the scheduled one and a half hours to talk about the subject owing to one problem after another. Not to mention the mode of travelling to that school via the Light Rail Transit can be one harrowing experience. It's every man (and woman) for himself (and herself) whenever a train comes and the door opens and closes in less than ten seconds max. I shudder to think what would happen if you're unfortunate enough to get half of your body caught in between them doors. I dunno, I don't have much fond memories of La Salle this time. Maybe I shouldn't have set my expectations about this trip too high.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I can't believe I almost missed one of the best German silent films I've ever seen last night! It was the third feature film in Goethe Institut's Movies Live and last night was another of Friedrich Murnau's work which, in my opinion, is the bestest silent film I've seen so far. The Last Laugh (1924) is one the best if not the best study of expressionist film in the whole history of modern cinema which got Hollywood to first notice him (Faust afforded him his first Directorial job in Tinseltown a couple of years later). Emil Jannings has put up an outstanding performance as an aging hotel doorman who takes much pride in his dapper uniform. The classy hotel uniform also affords him a lot of respect from his neighbors from their home at the other side of the tracks as old ladies would inavariably giggle and wave to him, men would stand back and tip their hats to him, and kids look up to him as a sort of benevolent authority figure. Unfortunately due to his old age he was unable to perform some of his duties with regards to lifting the baggage arriving guests have with them, the Hotel Manager demoted him the next day to being a lowly lavatory attendant. More tragically his daughter was set to get married on the same day he was stripped of his uniform. Thinking he couldn't go home without his doorman's uniform, and thus giving his daughter some bad news on the happiest day of her life, he snuck inside the Hotel Manager's office and stole the uniform from the closet. When the wedding guests who have been scanning the entrance points of their community saw him, they immediately welcomed him to the party. The wedding celebration was a success with brandy and cigars flowing freely among the drunken guests partying until the wee hours of the night. And while in a drunken stupor, the doorman dreamed of lifting with one hand a big wooden trunk that six men were unable to lift. Woken up from his slumber he stumbles off to work still groggy from the apparent lack of sleep only to have rude awakening when he discovers that he's been replaced by a younger, more dashing doorman. He hides his uniform in a public depository and goes to work in the lavatory located at the bottom of the hotel. Just then a neighbor decides to surprise him by bringing him lunch got surprised herself when she discovered the truth. She runs back home and reveals everything to the doorman's daughter. Meanwhile the nosy neighbors eavesdrop on the conversations behind closed doors and quickly spread the news throughout the whole community. When the doorman arrives back home he is confronted by his daughter and son-in-law and turns him away for fear of what the neighbors would say. Defeated, he trudged back to the hotel and turns over the uniform to the old nightwatchman who returns it to its rightful place. Then he goes down to the lavatory and sits on a chair while the night watchman takes pity on him and covers him with his coat. While the story should have ended here, the author takes pity on the doorman and writes another ending. The doorman inherits millions of deutschmarks from an eccentric millionaire who has stipulated in his will that the person in whose arms he dies stands to inherit his entire fortune. The doorman shares his wealth with his friend, the old nightwatchman, who goes on a shopping spree before treating him to a buffet treat at the hotel. Then he goes down to the lavatory and accommodates the new lavatory attendant while teaching the lavatory users to be kind and give the appropriate tip for services rendered. And just before the two friends left the hotel, the once poor doorman generously gives tips to all the employees of the hotel and even welcomes a beggar asking alms to join them in their carriage before driving off.

Like I've mentioned before this film stands above the rest not only because it is a fine example of German Expressionism but also because of the deliberate lack of dialogue (or title cards) unlike other silent movies. The whole film is rife with symbolisms and the heightened use of emotions and mise-en-scène. Director Friedrich Murnau also experimented for the first time with the moving camera at a time when cameras are rigidly set in one place with the help of a tripod, he set the camera into a basket mounted on rails, on bicycles, on the chief cameraman's stomach, attached to a scaffolding, or on a custom built rubber-wheeled trolley (you can read more about it here). A technique that broke the mold of traditional film making and bringing it the next level of camera works. It's also interesting to note that his pioneering imagery of a camera shot passing through the glass inspired the same technique used in the opening of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941). Despite his heavy make-up, lead actor Emil Jannings also comes through with his best acting job I've seen to date portraying an aging porter (when he's barely entered middle age). He effectively conveyed his character's thoughts and emotions mostly through his eyes than through body language (a rare thespic ability that reminds me of what actor Tobey Maguire did in his most recent works). With such fine acting as this there's little wonder how he went on to win the very first Best Actor trophy in the history of the Academy Awards some years later. The whole movie was excellently accompanied with the appropriate music that's a mixture of big band and ska that's both playful and tragic as it was performed by SYZYGY (I hope that they would perform again in the next installments). I'm also hoping to see all of Emil Jannings' movies on the big screen in the coming German Silent Film festivals ahead but for the meantime I'm going to see what I can do to acquire this classic movie's DVD.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

It's exam week and Jorge is back! Been a long time since he last appeared and I thought it's about time that he made another appearance. I'm also finally getting the hang of the characters' personality quirks. Ideas for stories and plot twists are coming in like never before. Wow!

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.
The thought of wanting to be book illustrator never entered my mind till I heard that one of my favorite cartoonists became one after an early retirement. A children's book illustrator to be more precise. His first storybook A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story (1991) also became his first animated work. He came out with five other storybooks and it seems there is no stopping him from doing so. Then came another storybook by another retired famous cartoonist, There's a Hair in My Dirt! A Worm's Story (1999) by Gary Larson. Then the idea was further cemented when I discovered some books illustrated with quirky painted and collage works by Lane Smith, which among the titles that he illustrated, The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (1992) and Glasses: Who Needs 'Em? (1995), are those I loved the most. That set me off to look for other books with weird illustrations, spending lots of dough and coming up with the conclusion that these books were far too eccentric for kids to like anyway. Another artist whose books I also started to collect was Sandra Boynton's titles. Or at least I've been trying to ever since I first came upon my brother's copy of The Compleat Turkey (1980) when I was 14. My friends were sold out to the idea of coming up with an informative but humorous picture book when I discussed it with them but the problem was I didn't know where to start or even how to go about it. I sort of laid that dream for some temporary rest while I concentrated on doing comics.

Then came a wonderful discovery (albeit belatedly) that further cemented my resolve to come up with a storybook when I visited the British Council's Magic Pencil gallery currently on exhibit at the Shangri-la Mall (a joint exhibit actually together with Ilustrador ng Kabataan's Meme Na). Actually there were two wonderful discoveries, that it was possible to create children's books in comic book format. Prime examples of those that I've seen so far are two English books like:

Posy Simmonds' Fred (1987), and

Raymond Briggs' Ug, Boy Genius of the Stone Age and his Search for Soft Trousers (2001)

If it's possible for storybooks to be laid out like comic books and for comic books to be laid out like storybooks (like Piranha Press' series of Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children) then the possibilities are endless! And who's to say that I can't combine both in one book? A hybrid children's book that's both a comic and picture book. While I have yet to draw up plans for this for this hybrid kiddiebook I do have plans to do a series of graphic novels that deal with the Philippine Revolution from 1896 to 1901. Pretty ambitious, I know, but I aim this to be the culmination of my life's work. I've already written the script for the first issue and planned out the thumbnails which totals to a whopping 72 pages. But before that I hope to come up with a, as yet unnumbered, series that will introduce the story and main characters starting from the botched Cavite Mutiny of 1872. Hopefully I'd be able to realize this dream in the coming months ahead.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

We just got back from watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which came highly recommended from friends and other people who watched it. I know what to expect from watching the trailers countless times and reading the reviews in different newspapers but it never dampened my drive to watch it. The title of the movie comes from a line from Alexander Pope's poem Eloisa to Abelard, which goes:
"How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd."
Which is really appropriate as Kirsten Dunst's character in the movie did say. The story revolves mostly around Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) who was forced to submit himself to a process involving selective memmory erasure after finidng out that his ex-girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), whom he loved very, very much has submitted herself to the same process earlier. Pioneered by Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) of the Lacuna Inc., the process involves an intricate process of mapping out the memories that would be erased and zapping them to oblivion while you sleep. Joel didn't have any problems with the process at first. In fact he liked it so much he was bragging about it to his image memory of Clementine in his dreams. But as the process had gone through the bad memories and were erasing the good ones he had a sudden change of heart. He tried reasoning with the version of Clem in his memories, dragging her to other parts of his brain not included in the mapping. But no matter where they went or how much they tried to hold on to each other, the inevitable had to happen. Even then, the whole thing raised up a lot of questions among the viewers. Are the Lacuna, Inc. patients better off feeling like a part of their lives have been cut off even without them knowing it? Are they happier with their lives? Like its inventor/s, the process is still fallible and there will still be regions of the mind that will retain bits and pieces of these memories. The answers to these questions invariably negative. Like how would you feel if you were told about a part of your life was robbed from you? Whether we like it or not, bad memories along with the good ones shape our characters. Molding us and maturing us into who we are today.

Like earlier this evening I was chatting with an old friend who has relocated to another country. I told him almost everything that's been bothering me these past weeks and in summing up these rants, I told him "I wish I had a reset button so I could start all over again from scratch." We all wish we could take back everything we've gone through and sift through all the humiliating and traumatic events. But then we'll eventually realize that it's not in erasing those memories that would make us feel better. But rather in living through them and surviving it all and realizing it's not really up to us save ourselves. We need someone outside our situation who also empathizes with our weaknesses and gives us the strength to pick up the pieces and teaches us the lessons we should be learning. We don't need any controlled brain damage to help us cope with life, simply enough what we need is for God to grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference. ("Serenity Prayer" attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, 1926)

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Okay so my forays into doing half sized panels in the comic strips doesn't seem to be working like it should. My brother brought home last week a copy of last, last week's Philippine News and to my horror I saw how the itty-bitty dialogue could only be read under a powerful electron microscope. Oh boy! Big mistake there. I'm going back to the usual four panel strip again this week.

Sunday, August 15, 2004


Can't say I'd really recommend watching the Alien vs. Predator movie to anyone who's not a fan of these two. But watch we did, me, Lyndon, Az, and Ryan upon the invitation of our friend and fellow Denner, Jon to take advantage of the free tickets to the advance showing of the movie last night. Story goes that a hidden set of pyramids has been discovered beneath the Antarctic and upon further investigation turns out to be a set of ruins founded by ancient ancestors of the Egyptians, Aztecs, the Khmer tribe that built them pyramid ruins in Angkor Wat, Vietnam. A team of scientists from different background have been hastily gathered by Weyland Corporation to go on a scientific expedition personally led by its multibillionaire leader Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen). Unfortunately one predictable blunder after another by the hapless humans trigger a series of events that prematurely started a hunting game between the Alien species and the three Predators. Turns out the every one hundred years the ancient civilization used to make human sacrifices by way of offering a group of people willing to be inseminated by face huggers. The movement of the Predators' hidden weapons in the middle of the pyramid triggered the start of the hunt. The pyramid served as a hunting ground with passages constantly changing every ten minutes to make things very interesting for both monsters.

A lot of questions are raised upon watching the film like how come one set of small ancient tribe have three sets of distinct cultures that wouldn't be existing for at least three to four centuries? How can three distinct languages from three different timelines exist in one cuneiform tablet without causing confusion to the reader? How could a group of humans figure out impromptu what was written or happening without as much as a prolonged background research? Of course there's the requisite number of characters that would be killed off one by one. Based on the character quirks it's almost easy to figure out who's going to be killed off next, like the goofy Graeme Miller (Ewen Bremner). It's also a no-brainer to figure in the first ten minutes of the movie who's going to left by the time the credits roll in the end. The nice thing about all this is that it ties up a lot of background stories to the three Alien movies and an understanding to its connection with the Predator.

We all hung out at McDonald's where we waited the rain to stop after the movie. I swiped these drawings Ryan left on the table.

Predator drawing done in pencil.

Alien drawing done in ballpoint pen.

I thought it would be a shame to just leave it there. Pretty cool, huh?

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Me, Ryan, and Az hung around in Lyndon's place last night after convening the Artists' Den meeting at Starbucks. It was sort of a slow night with not much people attending the gathering so we though it better to transfer to L's house so Ryan can start working on the project he was commissioned to do. To kill a couple of hours we watched an obscure French animation from the 90s titled "Kaina." It's a sci-fantasy story that pits two ancient alien races against each other resulting in the accidental creation of humanoids beneath an uninhabited planet. These humanoids were subject to serve the malevolent alien race by instilling a superstitious religious fear into their heads making themselves to be like gods. Their only hope lies on an ancient prophecy that a sort of messiah will rise up from their people to lead them to their own independence. The problem was, nobody believes in this prophecy because they all think it was some kind of silly superstition. I didn't get much into the animation until the later part so I killed time taking pictures playing with the lighting effects. Here are some of them:

There's a nice alternative/indie feel to this one.

Double exposure on this one came out good.

Another cool painterly figure on the foreground.

I was lying on one of the two beanbags scattered on the floor when I took these. The blurred effects somewhat remind me of my friend Nelz's painted artworks.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Me, Lyndon, and Az trooped to SM Megamall for the second feature in Goethe Institut's Movies Live, a series of four silent films showing every Thursday night in SM Megamall. I enjoyed Friedrich Murnau's classic movie Faust (1926) better than last week's Metropolis because of the fantastic SFX and Emil Jannings' witty portrayal of Mephisto. While the latter almost put me to sleep with its overdrawn scenes the former carries a testimony as to why Hollywood took notice of Murnau's masterful work in this movie. Set in the Middle Ages, the movie opens with an argument between an angel (Werner Fuetterer) and the devil (Emil Jannings) over one man (reminiscent of the story of Job). The devil wants to take over the world so the angel makes a wager that if Mephisto could corrupt the divine in Faust (Gösta Ekman) then the earth will be his for the taking. So the devil starts his plan by engulfing Faust's entire village with the plague. The people rushed to Faust to ask for help in coming up with a medicine that could cure the sick and the dying. But the helpless Faust couldn't do anything and enters into a 24-hour contract with the devil in exchange of some needed services. But things didn't go according to plan as the people realized that his powers were granted by the devil and they didn't want no part of it. Faust runs from the angry crowd back and seeks asylum from Mephisto who drives the people away by scaring them with some hocus-pocus. Mephisto then entices aging Faust with the promise of eternal youth, power, and making the most beautiful woman on earth his bride. When Faust agrees they fly away to a distant land where he seduces and steals the newlywed bride from her husband. But before they could consumate their lust, the 24 hour agreement has come to an end and Mephisto traps Faust into selling his soul to him forever. But after days and months of endless wants he began to feel empty and lonely. He begins to long for the home he once left so he demands that Mephisto fly him back at once. Once they have landed Faust espies the lovely and virtuous Marguerite (Camilla Horn) on her way to church. Struck with her beauty he instructs Mephisto to get her for him and this one task did things started to go the downward spiral for everyone involved, both innocent and guilty.

I was very impressed with the production quality of the whole film, the very imaginative scenes shown in the movie like the scene where the devil looms like a giant over the village unfurling his cloak to scatter a plague actually inspired that powerful images seen in Walt Disney's Fantasia's last animation short, "Night on Bald Mountain". There were also lots of unforgettable scenes like the playful romance between Mephisto and Marguerite's aunt, Marthe Schwerdtlein (Yvette Guilbert). This scene alone is worth a lot of laughs that one is tempted to do away with the courtship scenes between the young Faust and Marguerite and just concentrate on the laughs. Camilla Horn turns in some very good acting as Marguerite considering this was her first movie acting. Her scenes involving her character's downfall was very sympathetic. Emil Jannings also very impressive in this movie as he helped carry almost half of the movie with his inspired and spirited acting. The wonderful music accompanying the movie was ably provided by Tots Tolentino and Friends who helped bring the experience of watching this silent film become a delightful viewing experience to us, their appreciative audience.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I tweaked the 5th panel after noticing that Joan's charms weren't making much of an impact. So I came up with this Japanese anime inspired background of flowers, petals, and bubbles. Plus I tried to do that glowy Hollywood effect that old black and white movies have on gorgeous actresses. The operating word here is "tried" I'm not sure it worked.

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.
I had a dream earlier. I dreamed that it was June 12 and I was with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Vice President Noli de Castro and we were exchanging pleasantries while waiting for the Independence Day Parade to start. I made a comment about her gown which was a variation of the baro't saya except it was done with a thick material which was a bit unusual for a traditional costume usually made with light materials. I made a comment that the color of her costume was all wrong since it was all in red. She lifted part of her skirt (while smiled her trademark smirk saying "O!") and showed me that part of the dress underneath was white while the upper part had blue and some yellow hidden even more. Noli,who was wearing a long sleeved plaid polo, was smiling and laughing at the exchange. That's when the parade started and he waved his hand at me that I should already take my place at the back of the cabinet officials. That's when I realized that I was one of the richest people in the country. And my position behind the coterie of cabinet officials shows how high my rank was in society. Apparently what happened was the whole high school batch I was in inherited a huge amount of cash from Emilio Aguinaldo when he was paid by the Spanish government to concede the war and go to Hong Kong. Well almost everyone of us got the money except two of my classmates who refused to have any of it. I caught up with them near the back of the line to ask them why when I forced myself to wake up at 6 a.m. to look for our dog.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I've finally finished all the pages! I've finally finished all the pages!! All I have to do now is save these in .tif files and burn it on those blank CDs I've been buying like crazy these past few days. Right now I'm going out for some late chow to celebrate this victory.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I'm nearly finished with the pages. Just a few more details to take care of here and there before I do the word balloons to fit around the dialogue that's already there. I'm also eliminating the number of unnecessary layers by combining those that could fall under the same "category". I've already taken lots of stock pictures of the vegetables and poultry stuff that I bought last Sunday and I'll be incorporating those into the pages later or maybe tomorrow. I'm going to take pictures of the cake tomorrow morning and hopefully I'd be able to submit everything come night time.

Monday, August 09, 2004

I'm taking another weekly break to do my comic strip. The weird thing about this is that I've been struggling with an idea for a good follow up to last week's episode. Almost all throughout last week I've been looking for that big idea that would carry on the storyline that introduced three more characters from my other comic strip, CLASS. The idea hit me yesterday during the late afternoon that by night time I was able to pencil and ink the whole lot. I'm now almost finished with the strip and I'll be able to submit it in a couple of minutes. I'm having trouble with the dialogue though, it's just I can't make the punchline funny enough to make it fly. I'll try to work on it some more to loosen a few tight screws here and there before submitting it later.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Bought some fresh props from the grocery for the comic strip on the way home from church service. I'll be needing to take stock photos of these needed items from a certain angle and I'm not sure if there are available pictures on the internet for these. I don't feel like wasting more time searching for them pictures anymore. I just need to finish this project so I can move on to other works. Speaking of which I'm making quite a progress with the Siglo: Passion pages. I can't exactly gauge how many percent finished (maybe somewhere 70-80% finished) but at least I could feel the burden lift off my shoulders and somewhat smile to myself with the progress that I'm making. I rarely feel smile at my work (or else look like a silly fool for smiling at nothing in particular) and it's even rarer for me to feel this proud at the results. Though it's not that safe an estimate that the others would like it, it's still safe to say the odds of that not happening is quite slim. Yeeeeee!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Had another deviantART Manila EB (the second one in fact) in SM Megamall. Me and Az actually had some reservations about holding the EB at the Cheesecake place since all we're going to do is take up space for an extended period of time and not order much of anything from them. And sure enough we were driven away from the place after an hour and a half. There were a lot of new faces this time and being a latecomer to this event, I didn't get to introduce myself to a lot of them (I didn't do anything creative with the I.D. either, I tried to pass off a yellow Post-it note as one). But long before being driven away, Edgar Tadeo held a short lecture about the anatomical differences between Japanese characters and Western characters. After which I also took the chance to request a couple of drawings from Ed. I asked him to sketch two of my favorite Marvel Comics characters Wolverine and Venom:



This is a really big deal because he works as both inker and colorist for comic book giants like Marvel and Image among others. Then we transferred downstairs to the Food Court, it was Ryan Orosco's turn to do some short lectures about drawing the human anatomy and doing the correct way of shading one's work. We finished around past 8 p.m. and while the others opted to stay behind, me, Az, and Ryan dropped by Comic Alley and Toy Kingdom to check out some new releases before heading home.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Fritz Lang's Metropolis was the first of a series of German Silent films being shown on the big screen every Thursdays of this month in SM Megamall. It's quite a treat watcing silent films again on the big screen right after last November's showing of Unheimliche GeschichtenSet ("Developed Uncanny Stories") at The Podium. The movie is set in the year 2026 (a hundred years from the date it's made) and it tells a cautionary tale of the rich setting the poor to work underground while they live it up miles above the ground eventually forcing the former to rise up in revolt. The story revolves around Johhan (Joh) Fredersen (Alfred Abel), the only son of the Dictator Freder Fredersen (Gustav Fröhlich) who rules the people with an iron glove. Joh sees the underground city where the poor citizens are forced to work for the first time and he was horrified with the set up. He goes to his father and demands an explanation about his discovery but an explanation wasn't forthcoming he goes back down again and changes clothes with a workman he took pity on. After finishing the workman's 10 hour shift he goes to follow them further underground to an enclave where a stage and an "altar" was carved out of the rocks. There he discovers the young girl whose beauty intrigued him, Maria (Brigitte Helm). Maria was considered to be the poor people's pristess who continues to offer hope with her prophecy that the one who would bridge the gap between the rich and poor is coming soon. Freder wouldn't have anymore of these nonsense so he charges C.A. Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), a scientist and one-time rival for the hands of his beloved dead wife, to create an evil clone of Maria to lead the poor people to their destruction. Rotwang then kidnaps Maria and brought her to his lab and created a perfect copy of Maria out his robot invention (Der Maschinen-Mensch). The evil Maria held another assembly and roused the people to revolt by destroying the machines that made the floating city above them work. What they didn't know that in doing so, the machinery holding back the waters would cause the dam to break and flood the whole underground community.

I understand that Osamu Tezuka took this same story and updated it to create his manga-turned-anime "Metoroporisu". Considered a classic because of , among other reasons, Lang's near perfect vision of the future and the gigantic sets constructed for the movie (at a time when movies featured mostly classic literature) and not to mention the special effects used in the movie. Also worth noticing is the biblical backdrop from which the story is constructed. These are just some of the glaring comparisons: the Tower of Babel from which Freder Fredersen rules and keeps watch over the city corresponds with the biblical story about the tower built by the people headed by the ambitious Nimrod. The tower eventually lent its name to a city of excesses and cruelty that took a group of people into slavery just like the one stated in the Old Testament of the Bible and a prophesied messiah that would come to save the people from their plight also corresponds with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus. Techno music which accompanied the movie was provided by the brilliant Rubber Inc. and the film showing was sponsored by The Goethe Institute.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

I love playing around with the cramped space provided me in the paper. The fun part is figuring if I could go beyond seven irregular panels without sacrificing legibility. All I have to do now is to wait for this week's edition to see if I was successful with my experiment or not.

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I'm now considering dyeing my goatee red. A fiery fire engine red that will be immediately spotted from miles away. Or green... Parrot green? Forest green? Moss green? Or just green? That would be really freaky. How about yellow? Brown? Both? Or maybe blue for that classic Blue Beard look. Yeah, maybe blue. Or maybe I'll just color my hair red and leave my beard as it is. A fiery fire engine red? Or maybe green...?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I'm tired and bored. I wish I could go out again or do something else. I can't say how much progress I made ever since I scanned and cleaned everything. I finished moving the figures around and adjusting them fit the dialogue. I clearly underestimated the time needed to color the pages (to think that I was confident enough to report that I would be done in 3-5 days. Feh). I can't focus on anything else that hasn't got a deadline. But I'll finish this as soon as possible or I'm doomed. At least I feel I'm doomed.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The movie I, Robot was on the top of my list of movies to see on the big screen ever since I first saw the full trailer (I always confused the teaser trailer with "The Stepford Wives" so it doesn't count). The story is set in the year 2035 and far from portraying a dark and brooding New York City (like "Blade Runner" and "The Fifth Element"), the movie's city is shown to be quite as normal as now with the exception of a few standouts like blue-collar robots, skyscrapers mostly made out of glass, super efficient car parking, and lack of car traffic. Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) himself also stands out like a sore thumb among his peers, with his particular dislike of robots and taste for old traditional stuff. His character is one big pain the neck and the film never explains why until after the first half (I didn't read the original trilogy nor the reviews). Being the best Detective in the force, despite his surly attitude which gets him in a lot of trouble with the Police Chief, he was called upon to investigate the strange suicide case of a good friend of his Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell). Dr. Lanning was also the inventor of the modern Robotics technology and creator of the Three Laws a robot is programmed to do. As Det. Spooner was going about with his investigation aided by the late Dr. Lanning's brainy and lovely assistant, Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), they encounter their robotic suspect hiding in the Doctor's office. They managed to haul it off to the precinct after a long chase and what transpired next intrigued the Detective. First off all the robot, a superior model of the upcoming NS-5, requested that he be called by his given name Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk). Second, after a barrage of questioning it was beginning to exhibit signs of emotions and thirdly it related a series of consistent dreams that's been plaguing him everytime he sleeps. All three qualities are unheard of in a robot, so when Sonny was hauled off by its makers reasoning that there was an error in his programming and it will be disposed of immediately Del Spooner decides to investigate further. But someone at the robotics company wants his investigations stopped and has arranged a series of "accidents" that would efficiently put an end to his meddling.

The movie as a whole reminded me of Minority Report what with the toned down hues of blues and grays, curvy cars, and Spooner's tough-guy-against-the-new-system-because-I-witnessed-the-loss-of-a-kid attitude which reminded me of Tom Cruise's Det. John Anderton and his brooding mien. There were also traces of The Matrix somewhere. I'm not saying that this isn't good, I just can't help myself getting Philip Dick's work confused with Isaac Asimov. The action scenes in both movies cannot be compared and they both rock! The twists and turns in both movies revealing the surprise villain is pure genius! The special effects were seamless! The production design was flawless! And the script? Engaging. Spirituality also came into play throughout the whole film with the terms "prophecy", "creator", "father" (as Sonny refers to Dr. Lanning), the cross on the hill, a messianic figure, etc. Whether this was a deliberate action or not on the part of the director and screenwriters, all i could say is they did a really good job of it. Sure, purists are raising their fists in anger for tampering with a story that not once touched the issue of religion, but there wasn't that great an alteration to the original story. At least that's what I heard from a reliable source (thanks Daniel!). There are also plans to do a series of sequels as Director Alex Proyas was wont to talk:
"By the way, I, ROBOT was created with the intention of it being the first in a series of films - early on I decided there was no way a single 2 hour movie could do justice to all the ideas Asimov explored in his collection of stories. Will there be more films? - we'll have to wait and see"
In the meantime you might want to check out this NS-5 site and think about getting your own robot.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

A deluge of new ideas for the comic strip suddenly came a-knockin' on my noggin's door. I've never experienced something like this since the late 90s when I was working on my previous coming strip. That time I was able to produce some four to eight (and sometimes 10-12) comic strips in one submission. Of course it only works if one's working with a stable of characters he's known for years. I just pray that I'd be able to come up with really good ideas that not only entertains and provide the laughs but provides insights into the characters themselves.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?