Friday, March 31, 2006

We just returned from watching Ice Age 2: The Meltdown at the mall and I didn't enjoy the whole experience. I found the sequel rather bland and wanting in the story department. The Ice Age is about to end and the valley's about to be flooded by the ensuing melted ice and they have to go hurry up to the huge log found at the other end of the valley in order to survive. This time around the old boys' club has been invaded by a girl with identity issues and two annoying possums. Manny (Ray Romano) think he's the last of his kind and he has to move fast with Ellie (Queen Latifah) if he wants to prevent the extinction of their species. Well that would also be the case with Sid (John Leguizamo) except he discovered that a tribe of pigmy sloths in a variety of colors exist. What about Diego (Denis Leary)? Sadly it seems he is the only remaining sabertoothed tiger living at the time and nobody else noticed or gave a hoot. What's up with that?

Another thing that bothers me was that the old characters, with the exception of Scrat and Sid, were merely background players to the new ones who were isn't as funny as they were annoying. Movie critic, James Berardinelli, hit the nail right on the head when he wrote:
Ice Age: The Meltdown has its share of humorous moments, but most of these involve the squirrel. The main plot involving the exodus and the Mammoth romance is more often dull than amusing. This is a problem, because no motion picture can be entirely successful when secondary characters and storylines trump the primary ones. However, the reality is that when people think of the Ice Age movies, the squirrel comes to mind. We need more of him and less of the laconic Manny and his uninspired sidekicks.
No offense to the fans of the two possums but being wisecracks doesn't always translate to being funny. They were really more of a distraction than a help to the story. And also the supposed conflict coming from the two prehistoric sea monsters were wanting. They could have focused more on that instead of peppering the movie with innuendoes that weren't funny at all. Overall the movie came out just like the courtship between Manny and Ellie, at times amusing but it was mostly awkward and a lot embarrassing.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

One last hurrah before the schoolyear is finally over. The idea for this one came almost instantaneously and it was fairly easy to write. It was just a pain doing crowd scenes. I think I nearly depleted my supply of greytones with this one too. This was during the days of letter transfers and way, way before the advent of using computers for graphics. Sheets of those stuff were hard to look for at the time as I had to move from one office and school supply shop to another. I finally nailed one at Harrison Plaza in Manila. Kids have it easy these days.

Jonas Diego
Jerald Dorado
Reno Maniquis
Edgar Tadeo

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Thus concludes the story for this month. Winter has ended on the East Coast and it's time for the Flanagans to fly back home. They've actually enjoyed their stay in the Philippines and are planning to come back again sometime around next year. We'll see how that goes.

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Excuse me sir, but can I interest you in subscribing to "Good Housekeeping"?

I deliberately stayed away from watching V for Vendetta for a couple of weeks to avoid the crowds and all. And as much as possible I didn't want to hear any reaction from friends and other folks who watched the movie ahead of me, although I did hear comments and comparisons between the theme of this movie with the current US government. Like we don't have enough problems with the local political situation, Lord knows I've had enough of politics and the last thing I want to hear or watch is another movie loaded with subtle messages from the director and producer bombarding its unsuspecting audiences with propaganda. So did the movie perform up to par minus the afforementioned hidden messages? Well, yes and no.

As is the case with most previous movie adaptations I haven't read the original material this movie was adapted from so I couldn't rightly say if the Wachowski Brothers did great or not. All I could say at this point that I had a pretty good time absorbing every minute details strewn along the story (thanks to the waning of a friend who said it may require a second viewing for him to get everything). There's not much to say about how the directors handled the adaptation, however I do have a lot to say about the similarities between this and George Orwell's classic, 1984. Yes, the original Big Brother who uses television to monitor people. Was this a conscious effort on the part of Mr. Moore? The "V" symbols, the totalitarian state ruled by a dictator using the idiot box to spread fear and manipulate their constituents, etc.? The filmmakers claim to be inspired by Clockwork Orange (1972) when they created the look for this film. But other than the futuristic setting in Britain, I see no other factors that could support that claim (if indeed they said it). What of the use of big screens projecting the image of their beloved dictator which in an ironic twist the part of the dictator is now being played by John Hurt while he was the protagonist/victim in the movie adaptation of Mr. Orwell's story.

Still it was an interesting movie to watch starting with the idea of a masked rebel spouting a dose of tongue twister liberally peppered with words starting with "V" without tripping is something else:
"Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is it vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."
That, the weird Guy Fawkes mask, his genius in turning things around in his favor inspite of the fact that he gave a public announcement/warning on television, his manipulating Adam Sutler's (John Hurt) men against him, the very idea that he stood for, the freedom from tyranny, and mostly because of the way he carried himself. All credits belong to Hugo Weaving for fleshing out such an unforgettable character with the use of his voice. Natalie Portman also made quite an impact as the lost Eve whose character changed from being a scared little girl into someone who'd rather give up her life for an ideal she fiercely believes in. It would have worked out for me too if not for the romantic tragedy inserted halfway through the movie. Was it in the original material? Was it the Wachowski brother's idea to insert a love story involving two women to spell out the idea of oppression? Why use lesbians instead of a man and a woman as it was with 1984? The romance between the two protagonists, Winston Smith (John Hurt) and Julia (Suzanna Hamilton) were just as forbidden and hidden from the watchful eyes of Big Brother. They were also caught, beat up, and probably killed too I can't remember much about the ending from this old film. It was as depressing as the one shown in this film. Surely the impact of persecution and oppression is the same, right? But aside from this personal rant in an otherwise touching film it's still great. I'm not too crazy about it, but it's still worth the cash we plunked down.

Also, I think it's worth mentioning that the website Gadget Madness saw the same things as I did (pictured above) when they pointed out the similarities of this bit of production design with the Apple Computer ad (which in turn was inspired by the movie "1984," also the year it was shown) seen below:

The coming of the Mac. It's a historic moment, I know. Lastly do check out the site of Heyoka Magazine that plays soundbites from 1984 along a shot of Big Brother on the screen. Stare into the eyes of Big Brother while listening to the audio to get the full effect.

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

Click to join

Let's face it the world's not getting any better and no matter how much we want it things will continue to go from bad to worse. But even knowing all this things we either surrender to the inevitable ("That's the way it goes.") or we're just plain apathetic about all this ("Who cares?"). It would have been bad enough if that we're the only case but nowadays a lot of adults and would-be guardians of society are themselves the purveyors of corruption ("Do it as long as it feels good and you're not hurting anybody.") They defend their wrongful actions and brand anyone else who says otherwise as "prejudiced" and "intolerant".

I first heard about this Christian group, Battle Cry in the O'Reilly Factor just now which featured a group of them making a stand in front of the San Francisco City Hall raising their banners and making themselves heard as every other special groups before did. Next thing you know gay supporters showed up on the opposite said of the street and things turned ugly. Here in this video Mr. O'Reilly inteview representatives of both sides and allows them to talk about what happened:

This is really a serious matter, one that shouldn't be taken lightly in the face of what's happening to our culture. The question I'd like to put forth is do you believe that this is a political rather than a cultural issue (as per allegations by the group, "World Can't Wait")? Who's imposing whose ideals on who? Whose side are you going to take? Any comments?

Monday, March 27, 2006

I became an instant fan of this duo after seeing this video on MTV, albeit a closeted one since we were all very much into either Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet at the time. Try to deviate from those two choices and everyone thinks of you as weird. Nowadays I'm still a fan of Eurythmics and Annie Lennox and not much, if at all, of Duran Duran. Funny how that turned out in the end.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I'll get you my pretty... and your little dog too!

Were the people behind the movie, Nanny McPhee marketing it as sort of a Mary Poppins in reverse? That's certainly what came to mind when I first saw the standee some months ago. I was actually expecting a Tim Burtonesque film since that was what the graphics in the standee (which only showed her silouhette with a bit of spirally thing behind her) suggested. A certain air of mystery and nastiness hung around which raised the possibility of us watching something akin to an Addams' Family movie (imagine me doing a nasty snicker while rubbing my hands in a mad professor sort of way). What we were treated to was something different altogether. Not at all dark and grey but weird all the same. It's also colorful in the way Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was presented, maxing the colors out to take advantage of every color there is in the Crayola box. Or something.

Although it wasn't at all what I expected, the story was really something else. The screenplay was penned by Ms. Thompson herself based on the book Nurse Matilda by the late Christianna Brand (1907-1988) was charming and meritorious at the same time. There were originally three stories in the book and I'm not sure if Ms. Thompson also took bits and pieces from the two subsequent stories for her treatment of this movie. The story revolves around the Brown family, a single parent unit with seven unruly children. The dad owns a funeral home, is reserved and isn't home most of the time leaving the kids in the care of hired nannies. Unfortunately the children have run 17 and counting out of their house and Mr. Brown (Colin Firth) is at his wit's end trying to find a solution to his problem. Most of the time he would talk to an empty chair his deceased wife used to occupy while another young help, Evangeline (Kelly Macdonald), whom the children trusts most, keeps the house from falling apart. Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) enters the picture, mysteriously at that too, arriving at their doorstep without so much as a recommendation or anything from the agency. She's not much to look at actually though she was fairly straightforward as she only had to two conditions for herself and five rules the children should learn to complete the job: Go to bed when you are told, get up when you are told, get dressed when you are told, listen and behave. The children raise hell to try and send her screaming out the door like all the past nannies but she doesn't flinch and with a tap of her walking stick she puts a spell on them and turns their ruse back at them. They quickly learn her first two lessons by the end of the second day with them realizing that she means business. But things weren't as well in the Brown's household as their problem is taking another turn for the worse. Mr. Brown's Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury) and the household's benefactress, have threatened to cut off all means of support if he doesn't get married by the end of that month. This sends him into a frenzy, digging up old files of potential widows he could settle down with. He ended picking the least favorite candidate for reasons unknown to everyone else but himself, Mrs. Quickly (Celia Imrie). The children were flabbergasted to say the least, from their knowledge from all the fairy tales their mom used to tell them they knew that step-moms are bad business and they want nothing to do with them whatsoever. The eldest, Simon (Thomas Sangster) tried to reason with his dad but knowing what he knows and has been withholding from the children, he refused to listen driving the kids further away. The kids had no recourse but ask favors a couple of times from their Nanny to use her powers and her permission to ward off potential disasters. The first one was deemed a success when their Grand aunt Adelaide dropped by unannounced supposedly to take one of their children to raise as her own. Simon managed a switch after a lot of distractions involving some farm animals. The second incident involved a supposed marriage proposal to Mrs. Quickly but they were warned the second time around about dire consequences regarding their actions. Though they initially appeared to understand and control the situation, the results of their pranks came back and blew up in their faces. They now have no one to depend on but themselves to try and correct everything they have done.

Having grown up reading fairytales (I like those stories by the Brothers Grimm better than Hans Christian Andersen) more or less I know what I want with children's stories and fortunately this movie is packed with goodies. The story, as was adapted in the able hands of Ms. Thompson, was just right. Like any great children's tales, or parables, if you may, it succeeds in inserting moral lessons without sounding preachy. And the visuals! It may sound funny but it took me a while before I realized how the colors used in the rooms of the house and clothes of the characters weren't the common ones used during the period the story was set in. I didn't think anything about the bright green walls in Mr. Brown's study nor the royal blue colors in the hallway. And don't get me started on the two lambs Mrs. Quickly was tugging during the wedding nor the Bo-peep line of clothes the children were forced to wear. It was quirky but not at all exagerrated to the point of distraction. There were also a lot of funny scenes like the one where Nanny McPhee would unexpectedly appear or disappear in front of Mr. Brown, Ms. Lansbury's Adelaide by herself was funny looking (one of her lines that I laughed at specifically was when she shouted "Incest!" when Mr. Brown proposed marriage to her adopted daughter, Evangeline), her mistaken reaction to the dressed up farm animals, the afforementioned colored lambs, the proposal scene with Mrs. Quickly which the children tried to sabotage, and lot lots more. I think the ending rounded the story nicely because not only did everyone get what they richly deserved but mostly because of the lessons both the children and adults learned. Like I said earlier it wasn't preachy at all but the message was clearly put across as one concerned viewer put it:
"Some films and shows go the kiddie route and say that kids should do what they want and they'll be right in the end. Such as disrupt a father's or sister's date, because in the end the person will be a fiend. So they were right all along (even if they didn't know the truth when they acted -- So what if they were a perfect and kind match?). Or they go the route of kids need to learn their place. This movie went the route of saying kids need to learn to respect their caregivers, but need to be open and share their concerns and fears. Kids can act, but they have to be aware that things can be made worse. And that parents need to let the kids in on big decisions, so they can understand what is happening, and express themselves. Everyone needed to learn in this story."*
Not only in the story actually. The same goes to all the folks working in the movie industry and to all of us as well. I hope we're all seriously listening to this apt advice.

* IMDB.com: Re: Fabulous Film (comment w/ possible spoiler)
** Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this good movie.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I hate the weekend crowds at the malls. Seems to be like everyone who's everyone who can afford it just hang around the supposedly quiet cafés en masse blocking out whatever quiet time those of us who want to spend some quality time reading in some corner, doing their reports or like me, trying to work on their comic strips. What happened to relative peace and the wall of white noise? Children chattering away and teenagers discussing the things they want to do or buy at the top of their lungs does not a quiet corner make.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I'm sure everyone who remembers Sesame Street remembers this episode. Do kids still play tag these days? I just realized the importance of getting an exercise was the underlying theme of this skit, I just saw them playing tag when I was a kid. In today's generation, would it be more realistic to show Ernie nag and annoy Bert from inside an RPG game instead of having them play and chase each other inside the house? Hmmm...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Just keeping up with the times. This one's another oldie, from 1994 or '95 I'm not sure. Though I'm certain the feeling's mutual with the faculty members if the students go all out celebrating the end of the schoolyear. Congo line and all.

Jonas Diego
Jerald Dorado
Reno Maniquis
Edgar Tadeo

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

There was a bit reediting done on the dialogue because I wasn't able to umm... extrapolate what it is I wanted them to say the first time around. I did have the idea of the script I just didn't figure out exactly how they'd go about it without it coming off as forced or stretched. I'm also still feeling out the finer points of the emnity between these two grown men. Tom's reluctant concession that his son-in-law's quite an agreeable chap after all these years took a lot of courage on his part and he deserves a pat on the back. But then again so does Ben for practicing incredible restraint as he would obviously rather give Tom more than a congratulatory pat.

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.

Norman Rockwell scene this ain't.

I wasn't in the creative mood tonight so I thought of catching a movie that boiled down between the more popular comic book-based movie or something that piqued my interest for weeks now. I picked the latter since the next showing was closer to the time I arrived in and I didn't want to wait more than I wanted to. You know what? I couldn't have been more right in picking a movie that spoke to me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Sure the movie, Glory Road may be as formulaic as the previous sports movies Disney et al have shown and you'd think that one would be blase about watching another movie about a ragtag team being coached to victory by the one person who believed in them. But this one works because this one has a lot more heart not like those in previous sports movies. There's a lot more at stake than the coveted trophy or the chance to show the world that a group of unrelated rejects can band together just before the final buzzer to snatch a goal. It was also about maintaining dignity amidst an almost impossible fight against racial segregation still prevalent during the 1960's in America.

The trailer that started it all for me.

There's also the right casting which lead to an obvious likeability of the lead characters. This then lead to another strength that the movie affords us to witness which stems from the two kinds of family ties both the players and the coaching staff had: the natural, the one that suffered just the same because of their kinship with the people involved with the team and the uneasy affinity the black and white players built over time with each other which the filmmakers masterfully wove into the story without shoving it down our throats (you know how exhausting it is to hear the same message preached by Hollywood over and over again to the point of us being jaded). Josh Lucas' Coach Don Haskins was as much a father figure to his team, disciplining, building them up, and looking out for them as if they were his own kids. But the thing is that even if you know how things turned out the end (college and professional basketball are now being dominated by blacks while white men can't jump) the uphill struggle for these characters are as real for us as it was for them. Now of course, this being a Hollywood production, real life events weren't interesting enough when projected on the bog screen hence the need to embellish parts of the story for the sake of dramatics. But don't let this stop you from watching this movie as there are some surprises left while the credits are rolling in the end. Catch it on the big screen while you still can, if not purchase an original DVD for your yourself. Don't rent, buy! It's worth the wait, your while, and every cent you're putting down for a story and film like this.

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

This is the video for one of the very few Elvis Costello songs that I liked way back in the late 80s. This one's from the album Spike (1989) which I bought after hearing this song playing on the radio. This is a collaboration with former-Beatle, Paul McCartney, the main difference would be the accoustic version playing with the video. It's actually a sad song despite the jingly-happy tone and what I previously thought to be a fictional account of a rape-vitim or something is said to be a song was written for Elvis' grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and was in a nursing home.* Also parts of the lyrics have been changed and do listen closely to the story that "bookends" this video, sort of an prologue-epilogue kinda thing that tells something about the inspiration behind the song.

* Meaning of Lyrics From Songs of the 80s.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Way before Full House or even hosting The World's Funniest Videos with Arleen Sorkin, actor/comedian, Dave Coulier had Nickelodeon's Out of Control (1984). Who could ever forget regular segments like "How NOT To Do Things", "It's Probably True", "Hurry-up" (where a fictitious kid would write in and request Dave to use the machine to hurry things up in school or the playground), and "Let's Eat" (where Dave would visit an actual restaurant, review it, and present the owner with a golden chattering-teeth trophy). Or other skit players like the crazy Floor Director with too much make-up on, Diz, or segment reporters: Hern Burferd and Angela Quigley, or even all-around handy man, Waldo? I remember recording a couple of these shows on tape but unfortunately I'm not sure where it is right now.

* Click here to read episode guides from this show.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Good thing I was able to find a quiet spot in the midst of the Sunday crowd frequenting the coffee shops in the Metro. I finished the work quickly and without any interruption which is a good thing if not a rarity considering the fact that coffee these days shops are frequent haven of the boisterous folks who make it their business to let you in on their conversations whether you'd want to or not.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Is that a salute or are you telling me to shush?

The movie Casanova was one of those rarities I absolutely looked forward to watching ever since I first saw the trailer ("My Lady says the pig must stay outside, but we will take the animal" was brilliant). My sister watched it ahead of us some days before and she had some reviews for a movie she originally thought had a serious tone, she obviously hadn't seen the trailer beforehand or else I'd think her statement constitutes a minor travesty. The costumes were lavish, the lines were witty, and the acting was priceless.

Set in Venice, 1753, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (Heath Ledger) has become somewhat of a legend among the locals spawning puppet plays and excited whispers among the women. He was actually in the middle of a "meeting" with a novice nun when the inquisitor's men barged in and interrupted them. This led to a wild goose chase over the rooftops of Venice before it ended inside an auditorium packed with male scholars presided over by the plucky, Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller) in disguise. Francesca's speech and subsequent revelation of herself, though controversial and got the attention of the crowd was short lived with the arrest of Casanova. He was rescued by his patron (adopted father?) the elected chief magistrate (Tim McInnerny) and subsequently ordered to get married within a month's time or else face banishment from the city. He picked the virtuous and virginal, Victoria (Natalie Dormer), daughter of a rich local merchant to be his bride and after a short agreement with her father they were immediately engaged. This enraged Victoria's next door neighbor and long-time stalker, Giovanni (Charlie Cox) who happens to be the younger brother of Francesca. He insults what he thought to be Casanova (but is actually his squire) and demands a duel early the following morn, the former relents and it would have been a fair fight if Giovanni didn't back out of the duel and let his sister fight in his stead.

Letting Francesca think that she fought with a skilled swordsman in Casanova's stead she began to confide to him her ideas of empowering women, etc. etc. Intrigued by her fierce countenance, intelligence, and strong will he began an unlikely friendship which he fostered because she posed quite a challenge to his reputation. But what's a good movie without a good villain, right? Enter Pucci (Jeremy Irons) a Bishop of Vatican who came in to rid of the city of Venice of its undesirable characters. He first orders a search for the notorious Giacomo Casanova, he follows every lead hoping it would lead him to his prey but unfortunately it always leads to a dead end. In the meantime, Giacomo jealously stalks Francesca around hoping he could solve the identity of her mysterious lover (which only turns out to be an old guy running errands between her and a book publisher) and every clue he gets from her seditious writings, which she writes under the nom de plume: Bernardo Guadi, he translates into gifts given with the sole intention of getting her to notice that the gift-giver, Casanova is truly someone worth her attention (remember he's still hiding under a guise of someone else). Enter Paprizzio (Oliver Platt), a filthy rich pork lard baron and Francesca's betrothed whom she's never met before but was engaged to by her parents to escape their impending poverty. Giacomo plays on this opportunity by first convincing his hapless visitor that he's the famous subversive feminist writer, Señor Guadi and then undergoing a "spa treatment" that's really a torture in disguise thereby buying himself more time to charming the socks off Francesca. This time he gains her confidence by reintroducing himself as Paprizzio. There were also some inopportune times when he would run into Victoria or her father in the most unexpected of times interrupting his moves now that Francesca was beginnning to fall for his charms. Around the same time Pucci discovers the deception after arresting Paprizzio by mistake, Francesca's mother falls in love with her daughter's would be Fiancé, and Giacomo decides to tell the truth moments after Francesca discovers who he really was and moments before he's arrested by the arch-villain's men. Things still work out at the end employing the old "deus ex machina" tactic with some swashbuckling thrown in true Hollywood style for good measure.

But Hollywood or not the whole fim doesn't disappoint, as in fact it surpasses all previous expectations with the fun the actors must have had on the set. The acting by all the principal actors were superb, as stated earlier, the lavish costumes were painstakingly detailed as were the movie sets. This all reminds me again of the 1984 Academy Award winner, Amadeus. Storywise the latter is heavier than the first as it is weighed down by the drama, but they do share a common thread with the aforementioned factors. Three characters stand out in this movie, the first two being Ledger's Casanova and Iron's Pucci are understandable as they are expected to do so, the third being Platt's Paprizzio. Though he was introduced more than halfway into the story he still managed to entrench himself in the minds of the audience not by being a rich pompous, overbearing monster we were expecting as his character's name was being dropped during the first half, but rather he endeared himself as the very rich but somewhat insecure, shallow and feebleminded man:

Watch this five minute clip from the movie where Casanova first meets Paprizzio.*

Can't say I find anything in this movie that I object to aside from the liberal license afforded the protagonist to manipulate his way around the people around him. Well it does remind me of another born liar, Jacob, son of Isaac. God certainly didn't excuse his actions as subsequent events in his life seemed to attest but we sympathize with him just the same not because of the events surrounding his life (he was his mother's favorite, his father loved him just the same but was more favorably disposed towards his older twin brother, and was sent away to a relative's home for his own protection; as Casanova was orphaned early in the movie with his father's death, his mother loved him very much but had no choice but to leave him with his grandmother for his own protection) but rather because of who he is and his role in the story. I could add some more elements contrasting the two stories and characters but I could be reading too much into the story where none exists. Still, do try to catch the movie in the big screen while you can. If not count this worthy enough to be added to your DVD collection as I will most certainly do with mine.

* This has been added April 11.
** Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

It was love at first sight the first time I saw the video for Smashing Pumpkins' Tonight, Tonight some years ago. Artwise, there's something about watching a video inspired by the silent film era and I knew I saw something like it way, way before. I recently found the answer thanks to Google. The whole thing was highly inspired by a 1902 French science fiction black and white silent film, Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon). Directed, Produced, Written, and Starred in by Georges Méliès:
"...The screen's first science fiction story, was a 14 minute masterpiece (nearly one reel in length (about 825 feet)), created by imaginative French director and master magician Georges Méliès (1861-1938) in his version of the Jules Verne story. This film, Melies' 400th and most notable film, was made on an astronomical budget for the time of 10,000 Francs - risky, but worthwhile since it was hugely successful. Its popularity also led to it being illegally copied, released under others' names, and pirated (including one stolen by Edison's film technicians and distributed throughout the US). [For example, an illegal duplicate of the film was available in the USA from Siegmund Lubin under the title A Trip to Mars.]

Melies wrote the whimsical script, acted in the film in the lead role, designed the sets and costumes, directed, photographed, and produced the film! He hired acrobats from the Folies Bergere to play the lunar inhabitants named Selenites, and the scantily dressed assistants (or pages) who launched the cannon were dancers from the Châtelet ballet. The image of the lunar capsule landing in the eye of the moon is a memorable sight and widely-recognized in cinematic history."
Méliès never profited from it as his fault lies in the fact that he either didn't think it worthwhile to copyright the film or didn't know how to which eventually drove him to the poor house. In this video, you'll notice the steam ship they use to travel in outer space is called the "SS Méliès" in tribute to Georges Méliès.

* References lifted from: Filmsite.org and Wikipedia.

Friday, March 17, 2006

It's like a BEFORE and AFTER picture.

I first noticed the striking resemblance between the two countries while watching FOX News some months before. It was so cool, you'd think that this is where the Filipino-UK connection comes from (Brit pop is such a huge influence on our music and fashion culture starting with the 80s). And today being St. Patrick's Day ("Top o' the morning to ya!") did you know that the similarities don't stop with geography as the Irish share a lot of cultural traits with the Filipinos chief of which is both people's penchant for hospitality? There's also the mañana habit and a host of others I forgot (better check the Lonely Planet's Guide to Ireland for more about this, believe me it's so surreal as if the Irish and the Filipinos fell out of the same tree). Indeed if you also want the know-how of speaking the Irish Brogue then by all means click here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

She doesn't make patol daw 'o!

Jonas Diego
Jerald Dorado
Reno Maniquis
Edgar Tadeo

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I originally planned to have them talking in one of the umbrella-covered tables of Starbucks but I couldn't get a good angle that wouldn't either seriously affect the size of the characters in the panels or at least show their reaction while talking to each other. A lot of other factors posed challenges in creating this one but I think I managed to hurdle over them quite nicely without much hitch.

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.

My sister was a bit perplexed when I suggested that we watch She's the Man in the theaters. I saw end part of the trailer earlier (the one with the football hitting the disguised Amanda Bynes on the nether regions and she reacts belatedly to the "pain") and I thought it looked promising. Good thing the gamble paid off in huge dividends too! FYI, this movie had a lot in common with the 1998 movie, which I also enjoyed, Shakespeare In Love mostly because it was also based on the play of the original romantic-comedy writer, the progenitor of let's-dress-as-the-opposite-sex-just-for-the-heck-of-it, William Shakespeare's The Twelfth Night.

Just in case you missed it the story begins when the high school female soccer varsity team lead by Viola (Amanda Bynes) got cut out of the school's coming semester in favor of beefing up the lacrosse team. Infuriated with the sexist tinged shallow reasons by the coach for cutting off the team punctuated with the embarrassing denials made by her boyfriend, Justin (Robert Hoffman), who also happens to be the captain of the men's team, she sought a way of proving that they're as good as the others are. At about the same time her twin brother, Sebastian (James Kirk) cut two weeks off his new school, the rival school of her soccer team no less, and snuck out to London, England to attend the final round of a band competition. She siezes this opprotunity as the idea of taking his place in school comes to mind, that way she could join the soccer varsity, prove her point and get back at the other team for laughing at her. Plus she could keep her brother, who has problems with his attendance, out of trouble in the new school! What could be more convenient than that? She has her work cut out for her and all she has to do is successfully pull off an act that would put the wool on not only her schoolmates' eyes but also her new teammates who also happens to be her boardmates too. Which she does with no sweat at all which makes you think that she either has a background in theater or the whole school needs to visit the local optalmologist. Initially they thought this new kid looked a lot geeky to be on the team so they alternately ignored and bullied her. However, she managed to pull a stunt that propelled her ratings to the popular stratosphere which she thought would result in smooth sailing for thereon. She didn't count on locker room showers, team initiations, and mistaken identities, and the most beautiful girl on campus falling in love with her. Viola had to resort to evasive tactics which resulted in great comedy among which included the initial awkwardness in getting to know her new boardmates:
Viola: Do you guys play? Bros...brothers..Brethren?
Reactions to accidents that could blow her cover like the belated reaction to her getting hit in the crotch with a soccer ball:
Viola: Oh... right. OWWWW! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! IT BURNS!!!!!
Things also got more complicated when she began to fall for her roommate. There were times she would forget she was in disguise like the time he opened up his problems to what he thought would offer male advice went like:
Duke: I just have troubles takin' to girls.
Viola: Dude, you're hot. I mean you're an attractive guy.. man...guymen...guy-man.
A lot of the comedy situations work mostly because of Ms. Byne's comedic skills honed over a decade now (she started acting when she was 10 years old in Nickelodeon's skit show "All That") rather than the cast's able assistance. What I don't get are the American viewers' constant comparison of this movie to Mean Girls which is very far and different from what the plot is all about. The latter is about wanting to belong and finding one's place in a society prone to the cruel dictates of high school cliques, something that other teen movies like Heathers, Clueless, and Jawbreaker tackled. I also understand that most of the characters' names and sub-plots were preserved from the original which thankfully upped the enjoyable factor for this movie. In fact this one's comparable to another Shakespeare inspired teen movie, 10 Things I Hate About You which also turned out to be quite a surprise (which was based on "Taming of the Shrew"). I also think part of the factor that contributed greatly to this movie's greatness is the fact that scriptwriters, Ewan Leslie, Karen McCullah Lutz, & Kirsten Smith didn't stereotype the characters nor did they dumb things down. Director Andy Fickman should also be credited for doing a great job with this one. I sure hope somebody in Hollywood would do an update on A Midsummer's Night's Dream which should be done the way it should not like the snoozefest with Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, and Calista Flockhart. So unlike the theater play I saw years before that which had me rolling in the aisles. Maybe we could have Ms. Bynes, Mr. Ledger and Director Andy Fickman do it, that would be a riot for sure.

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Enjoying a bit of quiet time basking on the afterglow of a work well done. I'm currently working on recreating a bunch of West Side strips from last December 2005 since I wasn't happy with how they turned out.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The thing about the internet is that you'll never know what you'll discover next. Take this strip, The Unfeasible Adventures of Beaver and Steve by James Turner, for example. I stumbled on this strip by following a series of links some weeks ago till I came upon a webring of online British comic strip artists. I read a few but this one stood above the rest. The drawing may be crude but the artist's humor is really something else. Please do read the first part as an appetizer of sorts before jumping down to read the panels below:

Click the image to view the entire strip

Since the author only updates the series twice a week it's best to start with the archive section and work your way up to the present. This one comes highly recommended and definitely worth your while if you're into unconventional and guilt-free humor.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Komikero meeting today in San Pablo, Laguna has been announced more than a month ago and I made sure that I finished the comic strip for next week last night so I can attend today. I wasn't fully confident with my navigational skills as far as Laguna goes (it's been almost two years this month since the first and last time I went there) so I asked Jonas if I could tag along with him on the way there. We arrived around lunch time on the shores of Sampaloc Lake where the meeting place was. The whole place was a lot better than I remembered it. Ed was already there having arrived some five minutes earlier than we did. We didn't see Gerry and the other Komikero's in the vicinity so a couple of calls were made that pointed us to two directions, the second one was right on the money and we found Gerry sketching some blocks away from where we were (or at least the equivalent of street blocks). We then had lunch at the nearby Tahanan Ni Aling Meding before getting down to some serious drawing.

But since I haven't been that good at drawing landscapes (the leaves on the trees are too much of a bother to draw in detail) I took the time to take some shots I could sift through to post in my DA page:

It can't get any more rustic than this.

Needs a smidgen more burnt umber.

Jerald doing a balancing act

Can you hold that pose for an hour or so?

Ed with his masterpiece.

Gerry with his colored marker opus.

See that white blur in the middle? That's rain. Which in Spain falls mainly in the plains.

Good afternoons are made of recreations such as these.

Komikero's in attendance (Ed got cut out, sorry dude).

Lonely cat guarding the nets

We were joined sometime later by other Komikero's: Mylene Panagsagan and Jerald Dorado (had Reno Maniquis joined us, the "Thursday Comic Web Ring" gang would have been complete). Various groups of locals who were passing by stopped to watch us sketching and give us unsolicited opinions of our drawings. I dropped the sketching bit after a while and concentrated on getting some good shots with the camera. I missed a couple of opportunities because some of the subjects were conscious of having their picture taken and looked my way a lot. We decided to pack up and have an early dinner come 5:30 pm at the much heard of grillery, Sikat-Tuna. Seems like everyone swears by the Tuna Belly served in that place those of us who haven't been there decided to give it a try. Soon enough we were swearing by the belly too. P80.00 for a meal? That's a real steal of a deal! After that some of us took the tricycle for the bus station and start heading for home. There's another gathering being planned by the end of this month, a swimming party of sorts and though I would definitely like to go back there again I'm not sure I'd be able to. Probably next month or maybe May.

* UPDATE: You can see more pictures here at Gerry's and Ed's blog.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Click the pause button first and wait for it to finish downloading before clicking play.

Here's another Sesame Street stop-animation classic titled, "The King of 8." This was from the middle to late 70s if I recall correctly, and the King was voiced by the late Jim Henson too. Me and especially our eldest brother has got the words memorized and we get a good laugh out of it whenever we get together and speak the lines even after all these years.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Click the pause button and wait for it to finish downloading before clicking play.

Here's something I stumbled accidently while browsing through the net, a classic episode of everybody's favorite wacky stunt show - Beat the Time! with host Guy Smiley. This is the lone episode where Cookie Monster (my all-time favorite muppet) has to find three things, yes three things that rhyme with the word, "Rain." This is from the time when learning was fun.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I forgot when this came out, probably late 1995 and this is one of my top 10 favorite strips in this series but still I can't help myself echo Nonoy Marcelo's Adam, Emet and d' ants' favorite chant in Ikabod, "KURNEH! BOOOO! HISSS!!!"

Cornball humor aside, check out the other Thursday web comic goodies down in the links below.

Jonas Diego
Jerald Dorado
Reno Maniquis
Edgar Tadeo

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

That's just cruel. I edited the dialogue from the original strip that sees print this week. I didn't get the point across clearly in that one and I think this one finally does. I'll be telling the back story between these two later in the books. I just hope I'll be able to tell it in an amusing but mostly poignant way possible.

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I had a good laugh over this when I first saw this banner ad for the Fish & Rice meal from McDonald's last week at the Ayala station of the MRT. You know summer's arrived here in the country when the commercial establishments' already advertising for Lent.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I was logged out of Blogger watching their list of recently updated blogs animatedly change. I'm always on the look out for new and interesting reads which I strike upon once in a while. I wasn't waiting too long when this came up: God Is Better Than You.

The writer says on the introduction, "The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate all the ways that God is better than you. It's something we all know deep inside, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded of it once in a while. Every day, a new demonstration of God's superiority to you will be posted here." It's not really as profound as it is amusing which reminded me of an old book that I got from a sale, Stupid Ways, Smart Ways to Think About God by authors Michael Shevack and Jack Bemporad. It contained twenty ways of looking or how we relate to God (ten for the stupid and another ten for the smart ones). It's a pity the blogger looks as if he has decided to abandon the project, though I'm not sure if it has been abandoned permanently or just temporarily. Here are some of the ways he has written how God is better than us:
God is better than you because He created butterflies. Can you make a butterfly? I mean a live one, not one of those origami things although God can make those too.

God is better than you because He doesn't need to buy candy, flowers or stuffed animals today, nor does He have to take anyone out to dinner just because some grand marketing scheme compels us to.

God is better than you because He can tell you exactly what a sea turtle swimming off the coast of Madagascar is thinking.

God is better than you because He's seen you naked and doesn't laugh.

God is big. I'm talking huge here. He is so incredibly enormous that you can't even begin to comprehend how big He really is. And as the old saying goes... the bigger, the better.

God is better than you because He is bigger than the universe. You will never be that big, no matter how much you eat.

God is better than you because He has millions of people worshipping Him. How many are worshipping you?

God is better than you because He knew that the Xbox 360 would suck before it was even designed. That's why He's saving his money for a Playstation 3 instead.

God is better than you because He knows who is going to win Super Bowl XL. And He knows both teams are praying for a win. And He knows one of them is going to be very ticked off after the game. And He doesn't care, because it's just a stupid game."
Then an idea came to mind. Why not add to the list and add things as to why God is better than all of us combined:
God is better than all of us because He knows how the universe works while we still need books like "The Idiot's Guide" and "Dummies' Guide" to figure out how things work.

God is better than all of us because He will not give up on us while we easily give up on others if we don't get our way.

God is better than all of us because He gave just gave us 10 basic laws to make life better and all we're capable of is making a gazillion laws that complicates life more.

God is better than all of us because He's always right while we punctuate our realizations with "D'oh!"

God is better than all of us because He looks after orphans and widows and commands His followers to do the same.

God is better than all of us because He created a fully functioning being capable of logic and emotions while we think we can do better and come up with robots with limited commands.

God is better than all of us because He's got everything planned out while we can't even manage our own schedule.

God is better than all of us because He's always there by your side 24/7 no matter what.

God is better than all of us because He knows us like the back of His hand while we still surprise ourselves.

God is better than all of us because He never lets us out of His sight which is either a source of assurance or fear depending on what we're doing at the moment.

God is better than all of us because He customized our features and body parts that no two persons are alike.
This list is by no means complete and I'll be adding to it in the coming days and months ahead. Do feel free to add your own list in the comment below.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Mamamatay ka sa kakatawa? Hardly.

Just got back from watching local indie flick, Nasaan Si Francis in the mall. While this is the directorial debut of scriptwriter Gabby Fernandez, who I understand was one of the finalists in Cinemalaya for this story he used in the movie it's also one of the comparably better movies Filipino filmmakers have come up in recent months although there were still some huge plot holes in the story the size of F150s that could have been done away with.

In case you missed it the story starts out with two friends, Boy (Paolo Contis) and Sonny (Rico Blanco) debating on where to get some needed money. Boy needs 30k to start a new life with a good-hearted prostitute he fell in love with while Sonny needs 10k to pay his college tuition fees so he can take his final exams. Boy decides to pawn his carabao to their rich best friend, Francis (Epy Quizon) who was also their former bandmate. Francis is a poor neglected rich boy orphan whose two older siblings played by Ricky Davao and Rita Avila were too busy to look after him. Boy and Sonny has a hard time convincing their friend to shell out the needed money but Francis eventually gives in by giving them a deal: they'll get the money by pushing 50 pills of ecstasy at 1k a pop. But unfortunately Francis keels over and dies before he could hand them over.

Instead of running away from the scene or calling an ambulance they decide to first look for the pills. Francis' older siblings soon arrive and thinking he passed out from his binging they leave him to go upstairs to look for the titles they'll need to sell their ancestral land since they're also in desperate need of cash. From hereon in Boy and Sonny would alternately look for those darned pills while dragging the body to various places in the house and property while trying to evade the numerous visitors that keep arriving like Francis' long suffering girlfriend played by Angel Aquino and the drug pusher played with gusto by Christopher De Leon. Apparently those wild goose chases were intended to be funny. And probably they were if it weren't for a couple of problems:

This old plot of dragging the dead body along for the ride was already done way back in the 1989 movie Weekend At Bernie's and its sequel, Weekend At Bernie's II (1993). I can't believe nobody from the local reviewers and critics remembered this. It worked then with hilarious results but it didn't do so with this because of the second problem I have with the story. If Boy and Sonny were really that desperate for money then they should have gotten out of the house and sold the carabao for the same price. The comedy and the story should have come from someplace else but instead of doing that we were treated to one stupid idea after another. The original idea in WAB worked precisely because the two protagonists Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) didn't have any choice in the matter. They had to keep up the charade if they were to survive that weekend. In this film the two protagonists did have a choice in the matter but they were too greedy and stupid to think of anything else. In the hands of able comic experts in slapstick comedy this would have been forgiveable. Also, the comedy in the older movie came from the shocking way Bernie's corpse was handled in trying to evade unwanted guests from finding out that the central character was dead. Hiding it from unwanted guests as the two characters in this film did, isn't. Neither did the dramatic moments and the flashbacks with Francis' loved ones work that served no purpose other than to slow things down (considering the fact that the pace of a supposedly ridiculously funny story wasn't running as fast as it should be didn't help things any). Director Fernandez should have shortened those dramatic scenes and concentrated on the comedy by pulling in the reins of the punchlines with a snap.

It wasn't all a total loss though, the saving grace brought on by the acting skills of Mr. De Leon, Mr. Davao, Ms. Rio Locsin and singer, Rico Blanco (in his acting debut) somewhat helped saved the movie in whatever scenes they were in. But even then that wasn't enough to save this one. Still I laud the efforts of the Director, the actors, and everyone behind the production unit for coming up with something watchable. Not highly recommended, I'm not obliged to give this an unabashed review just because it's an indie flick, but at least it's a start towards a new direction the local movie studios could dissect and study.

* Other movie reviews worth reading by Anna Barbara L. Lorenzo (Drugs, death get droll treatment) and Butch Francisco ('Nasaan Si Francis?': Crazy In An Entertaining Way).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I didn't realize the latest Dreamworks CGI animation was based on the comic strip, Over the Hedge which I discovered just now. The strip is mildly amusing but quite engaging, reminds me of the old Pogo strip by Walt Kelly. Click the title-link to read more strips from this series.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Click the pause button while waiting for the entire episode to finish downloading.

Here's a full episode of "With Friends Like These" from one of my all-time favorite Nicktoon, Rocko's Modern Life. In this episode Rocko scores two tickets to a wrestling match after mistakenly dialling a radio station when he wanted to order a pizza. His two best friends, Heffer and Filburt who have been dialling non-stop in hopes of winning the tickets do everything they can so Rocko would tag them along to the match.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It's a bit weird that Wilfred's character was shaping up a lot faster than the others by this time. He was only introduced a couple of strips back and look at him go, cracking the corniest jokes this side of the planet. by the way, these benches in between the basketball courts are virtually non-existent in the school this one's based on. Darn weather's wreaking havoc on the wood and paint. Anyway check out the other Thursday web comic goodies by clicking the links below.

Jonas Diego
Jerald Dorado
Reno Maniquis
Edgar Tadeo

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

So... sleepy. Must... stay... awake.

I'm a fan of period films be they plain kind, epic, biographical, adventures, tragedies with the occasional sprinkling of romantic stories thrown in for good measure. There's something about bygone eras that make people like me wax romantic about the innocence of it all. The movie Pride and Prejudice which I watched just now with my parents is a prime example of the last classification (often called "chick flicks") that's good. More of the great kind actually.

Blame it on Keira Knightley for being such an adorable bait that lured me to watching it. Actually I've been a fan of hers ever since I first saw her snow white chompers in Pirates of the Carribean. She turned in an awesome piece of acting as did Rosamund Pike (who played her eldest sister, Jane), Jena Malone (the youngest Bennet, Lydia) and Donald Sutherland (as the unaffected elder Bennet). I haven't seen the 1995 version of P & P which fans of Jane Austen swear by. But I don't think I need to as that old fogey would invariably be compared to this fresher take of a literary classic. Keira never fails to light up the scene with her presence as the feisty Elizabeth. Plus her on screen chemistry with Matthew Macfadyen's Mr. Darcy was undeniable. Other plusses in the film include superb cinematography by Roman Oshin and awesome screenplay by Deborah Moggach and Emma Thompson. I couldn't follow what's being said half of the time but that didn't stop me from drinking in the beautiful string of words generously pouring out of the protagonists' lips:
Mr. Darcy: So this is your opinion of me? Thank you for explaining to fully. Perhaps these offences might have be overlooked had not your pride-
Elizabeth Bennet: My pride?
Mr. Darcy: -been hurt by my honesty in admitting scruples about our relationship. Did you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your circumstances?
Elizabeth Bennet: And those are the words of a gentleman. From the first moment I met you, your arrogance and conceit, your selfish disdain for the feelings of others made me realize that you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.
[they look at each other for a long time as though about to kiss]
Mr. Darcy: Forgive me.
Of course I haven't read the book so what I previously thought to be something close to Shakespearean-language (which were such alien as to bore me completely) turns out to be something akin to old Tagalog movies from the 50s and 60s. This was part of their charm and appeal that makes them worlds away from the present crop of films. Also there were a couple of parts from the movie that were funny but wasn't apparent to me at the time because of a lot of deep english words. These elicited a laugh and a giggle or two from some folks in the audience who were obviously familiar with the written word. I got some transcripts online that finally made me understand what the fuss was all about. Like this scene where a parson by the name of Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) came knocking on the Bennet's household looking for a wife (or rather, he was forced to by his aunt, an aging countess, or lose his inheritance). While he initially took a liking to the eldest daugther, he was deterred from asking her hand because she was engaged to another so his attention was focused on Elizabeth. She initially didn't know what was going on in this scene and she obviously didn't like him very much:
Mr. Bennet: How happy for you, Mr. Collins, to possess a talent for flattering with such... delicacy.
Elizabeth Bennet: Do these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are they the result of previous study?
Mr. Collins: They arise chiefly from what is passing of the time. And though I do sometimes amuse myself with arranging such little elegant compliments, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.
Elizabeth Bennet: Oh, believe me, no one would suspect your manners to be rehearsed.
When she was clued in to Mr. Collins' intentions she protested and ran away from the house. Her mother shouted after her insisting that she consent to his proposal. She finally dragged her husband and insisted that he talk some sense into his daughter. Although he'd also like to see her settled down with a husband, it was far more sensible for him to see her happy with the situation:
Mrs. Bennet: Has no one any consideration for my nerves?
Mr. Bennet: I have every consideration for your nerves, my dear, as they've been my constant companion for the last twenty years.
Do you still want more? This next scene some weeks or months after the last one. Mr. Collins has proposed marriage to Elizabeth's best friend, Charlotte Lucas (Claudie Blakley) and has invited her to come over and stay at their house for a visit. On the day she arrived, her husband's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourg (Judy Dench) came over for a visit:
Mr. Collins: Charlotte, come here!
Charlotte Lucas: Has the pig escaped again?
[looks out window]
Charlotte Lucas: Oh. It's Lady Catherine.
Overall it was a fun movie and something I wouldn't mind watching again on the big screen if somebody would extend an invitation. I honestly came in the theater expecting to be bored out of my wits but came out blown out of my mind. With it I finally understood why this film is among those worthy enough to be nominated in the upcoming Academy Awards. I just wish that this was also included in the Best Cinematography category.

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

I like the way this strip came off right at the start. I would have liked to have created a story prior to this one that shows the trigger that sets Ben off, that back story I told you about last week. I'll probably fill in the gaps in the book which if done properly could have an unprecedented lay out. By the way I deliberately mispelled the word "grown" (second panel) to show Tom's Irish accent slips in once in a while.

* West Side is published weekly in Philippine News.

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