In Passing

I glimpsed forever in a moment,

As time and earth went past. 

The watches of my yesterday turned dreams into memories,

And hopes to realities, as though perfection loomed.

Yet what forever was in mere seconds?

Always the question, but never the answer.

Google your mind to find the obvious, what eyes cannot recollect.

I woke up in a dream and found all had come true,

Stepping stones to what seconds can do.

 

 

 

Smothered In The Scent Of You

This piece was directly inspired by the poem ‘Somewhere I Have Never Traveled’ by E.E. Cummings. It is a powerful and beautiful piece which expresses love in such a unique way, and I sought to somehow emulate Cummings’ writing style in my piece below. Such of course, will probably never happen. 🙂

Smothered In The Scent Of You

To be smothered in the scent of you, and to never see the sunlight,

Is to never leave the walls and never seek bright sight.

When the point of no return came, I beckoned for you,

And nothing short of tears you repaid.

To be smothered in the scent of you,

Is to remember what should be erased.

To kiss roses as though they gave shelter,

To smell sunlight as though it had scent.

Understanding the cryptic in the stark and reveling in a truth

A singular truth.

The smell of a dead man like the one only ravens breathed and

Monsters kissed.

Bread crumbs lead me farther, and I am grateful.

Even as covered turns to smothered,

And a kiss is a strangle

A struggle for life.

 

To be smothered in the scent of you

Is to inflict pain like the kiss of death upon unwilling lips.

Those that wish not to travel back to pain and smell the

Scent of tears upon their cheeks

As though those tears were poison upon their faces.

No more than a rapture of fluttering fireflies.

Theatricality Onscreen: A Review of ‘Les Miserables’ (2012)

One image I will never forget growing up is that of the sketch-like portrait of a little doe-eyed girl whose long, dark hair flows with the wind. It was something familiar to me, something which I had seen numerous times before. Such was the image of little Cosette on the cover of the VHS of the Broadway version of Les Mis we had and used to watch as children.

Needless to say, our family grew up familiar with Les Mis, and because of such a familiarity, I walked into the theatre at Robinsons Magnolia expecting so much from a film that wasn’t only a remake, but a movie that some would regard as ‘overhyped’.

I honestly don’t feel the need to tell the story, but I will do such for the sake of those unfamiliar with Les Mis and those who have yet to see the film. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is a prisoner who has just been paroled after spending almost two decades behind bars for stealing a loaf of bread. By law, he is required to wear/display a yellow ticket of leave everywhere he goes which identifies him as a convict, and such proves to make adjusting to freedom difficult for Valjean, who must contend with society’s ridicule and scorn. He is offered shelter by the kindly Bishop of Digne (played by Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean), whom he steals silver from. Valjean is caught but is saved by the bishop, who claims that the silver Valjean stole was a gift from him. He tells Valjean to use the silver to become an honest man, and Valjean adheres to his wishes, breaking his parole and beginning the wild goose chase that is somewhat essential to the film with Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe).

Eight years later, Valjean has begun a new life as a factory owner and mayor of a small French town. One of the workers in his factory, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), is forced to leave her job when it is revealed she sends her earnings to her illegitimate daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen/Amanda Seyfried). Unemployment pushes the poor single mother to sell everything from her hair to her teeth to even her body just to support her child.

Valjean encounters Fantine once more when he comes to her rescue during an encounter with an unruly client who claims that Fantine attacked him, and it is here that he discovers what has happened with the woman who was made to leave her job at his factory. Valjean brings the sickly prostitute to the hospital and vows to bring Cosette to her mother’s side. Unfortunately, Fantine passes on and Valjean makes it his duty to find the little girl and care for her like his own. He eventually finds the little girl in the home of the greedy Thenadiers (played to perfection by Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter), wherein she works like a slave whilst Eponine, the daughter of the Thenadiers, lives as a pampered child.

Years pass and Valjean has become the father figure to the now young lady, Cosette (played by Amanda Seyfried). During one day at the market Cosette catches the eye of a young student by the name of Marius (Eddie Redmayne), and they fall in love at first sight, much to the dismay of Marius’ longtime friend, Eponine (Broadway actress Samantha Barks).

It would please me to further elaborate on the story, but such would not be necessary, as a simple Google search would yield a more detailed account. Besides, to the chagrin of some it is not the story which plays the big role in this musical onscreen, it is the music. Not many of you may know this, but Les Mis is a sung-through musical, which pretty much means that everything from ‘Hello’ to ‘Can you help me’ is not said but sung. It takes familiarity with the musical for one to easily discern which parts are songs and which are simply dialogue, something which proves to be a challenge for those unfamiliar with Les Mis. Yet such is not the case for those familiar, as one need only listen clear and listen well to find the songs within the dialogue (hint: the musical accompaniment helps, well duh!).

Anyways, where can I begin with the acting? In a word, phenomenal. One can thank the casting director of this film for picking actors with a background in theatre (Both Jackman and Crowe worked in theatre, Hathaway is a trained soprano and also has extensive theatre experience), yet one can be certain that even they found putting a sung-through musical onscreen a challenge. But did they disappoint? I think not.

The same can be said for Redmayne and Seyfried, who portray Marius and Cosette so perfectly it seems as though they were made for their parts in the film. Newcomer Samantha Barks (who played Eponine in the 25th anniversary concert), makes a notable debut, singing her iconic ‘friendzone’ anthem ‘On My Own’ with almost the same power and emotion evocative of the original. Baron-Cohen and Bonham-Carter honestly deserve an Oscar nom each for the way they stole the show, bringing a much-needed splice of humor to the serious musical.

Indeed the actors played their parts to perfection in this movie. Jackman and Hathaway’s transformations proved to astound, as did their incredible singing work (which was not always technically perfect). I’m afraid the same cannot be said for Crowe. Baron-Cohen and Bonham-Carter deserve honorable mentions, and so does young Cosette (played by Isabelle Allen), whose haunting rendition of Cosette’s introductory song is one that is nothing short of beautiful.

Yet when has a film ever been perfect? Unfortunately, never.

Technical gaffes like questionable cinematography (when did cropping foreheads become a Hollywood thing?) and the overuse of the clear-unclear technique (the background is blurred, the subject not blurred… forgive me I am unaware of the term for such) will disturb some. The zoomed-in angle is also quite questionable and sometimes cringe-worthy (Valjean dying, Marius’ song after the revolution, a bit of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’).  Another thing I found problematic was the placing of ‘On My Own’. I remember crying my eyes out when I watched the Lea Salonga version, but I found it somewhat disappointing (forgive my standards) that I didn’t feel the same level of emotion when the song was rendered onscreen. I didn’t feel that with Anne’s ‘I Dreamed A Dream’, which pretty much leaked powerful anger and emotion that is challenging to evoke, and that disappointed me. I honestly blame it on the placing of the song and the lack of build-up in the scenes that would make one anticipate hearing ‘On My Own’. Another thing that some would consider ‘a gaffe’ is the fact that the director chose to stay true to the ‘sung-through’ aspect of the film. Some would probably praise Hooper for choosing to stay true to the musical, but not everyone would find such appealing, especially if the actors aren’t able to deliver technically-perfect singing 100% of the time. One could cite as an example the 2004 adaptation of another sung-through musical: The Phantom of the Opera as a possible ‘model’ for this film in terms of keeping dialogue and music in balance. (Unfortunately, the film does not follow Phantom’s style of dialogue-music, as evidenced the fact that Hooper chose to stay true to the musical).

Besides these minor gaffes, one can definitely say that the film lives up to the hype in more ways than one.There is definitely no doubt as to why the film is in contention for major trophies this awards season, and one need not be astute to predict that it will not take home at least one (or more) of the major awards for which it is nominated. 🙂

Acquired Taste: A Review of Sisterakas

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Almost a decade has passed since the last time I watched a Filipino film in the movie theatre, yet I remember the experience as though it were yesterday. The movie I remember watching was Sigaw (The Echo) a horror movie that was part of the 2004 Metro Manila Film Festival which starred Iza Calzado, Richard Gutierrez and Angel Locsin (I don’t remember the others, forgive me). In my opinion, the experience proved to be an inappropriate introduction to Filipino films, as I remember not being able to sleep for the next few nights, worried that blood would drip from the ceiling where a dead person lay watching me, or that a little ghost child was hiding under my bed. Even the movie’s plot proved to be traumatizing to me, as I recall picturing the horrific events in the film before I slept. That, in turn, would cause me not to sleep at all.

Ever since that not-so pleasant experience, I have found myself voluntarily kept away from watching local movies in theaters, and the next few movies I’ve seen were all Hollywood films (The Lucky One, The Avengers…). In fact, just like any other person these days I’m the type who grew up on Hollywood movies, finding myself to be more knowledgeable about foreign stars and foreign entertainment news then their local counterparts.

So needless to say, I was nothing short of prepared for the worst when I decided (or we decided, rather) to watch a Philippine film on, of all days, New Years Day. I’m not exactly in the mood to explain the origin of such at the moment, but all I can say is we did it solely out of shear boredom and the need to ‘do something and go out’ on the first day of the New Year.

Anyways… let’s talk about the movie.

We originally planned to watch the vastly underrated Brilliante Mendoza film ‘Thy Womb’, unfortunately we couldn’t because the film was rated R-13 and we brought our seven-year-old sister along. It was then we were left with choosing between the conyo romp ‘Sosy Problems’ and the comedy ‘Sisterakas’. We opted for the second one.

Sisterakas tells the story of Bernardo ‘Totoy’ Sabroso and his half sister Detty (played by Vice Ganda and Ai-Ai Delas Alas, respectively). The two have a seemingly ‘okay’ childhood, save for the early hints of Bernardo (later Bernice)’s homosexuality and Detty’s clear inclination towards a future in fashion design. There is also a visible contrast between  their abilities (as children, Detty receives an award for Best in Art whilst Bernardo takes every other medal–foreshadowing, perhaps?). Things take a bitter turn when Detty’s mother discovers that Bernardo’s  mom (who works as the maid of Detty’s family), has been sleeping with Detty’s father. In a fit of bitter rage, Detty’s mother pushes Bernardo’s mother down the stairs, rendering her paralyzed and kicking her out of the house. In a bitter rage, Bernardo promises to take revenge on the Sabroso family for what they did to his mother.

Fast-forward a large number of years, we notice that Bernardo has become a lot of things: successful, open, and well, downright fashionable. She has also seemed to develop a diva-like attitude. Detty, on the other hand, lives a much simpler yet less successful life with two daughters (Kathryn Bernardo and Xyriel Manabat). The two siblings cross paths once more when Detty applies for the job of Bernice’s new executive assistant. Knowing that she is hiring her half-sister for the job, Bernice puts her through a series of uber-hard tasks, all of which are designed to make her pay for what her family did to Bernice (formerly Bernardo’s family). A cutesy insertion into the film is a ‘love’ subplot between Bernice’s nephew and Detty’s daughter (played by the annoyingly forever-trending Kathniel love team). Kris Aquino plays the supporting role of annoying fashion house rival Roselle Hermosa, whom is hell-bent on bringing down Pony Tale (Bernice’s fashion company).

There is no genuine ‘standout’ in this movie in terms of acting, as it is not the acting nor the story that takes center stage in this film but the pop culture punch lines. It takes a certain kind of person to tolerate Vice Ganda’s over-the-top wardrobe and mannerisms, and it takes a whole other kind of person to tolerate Kris Aquino’s attempts to reference her failed marriage and the fact that her brother is president. Yet the critic at GMA News is somewhat correct in saying Ai-Ai Delas Alas proves to be the ‘saving grace’ of the movie, offering the same ‘standard issue Pinoy comedy’ that has made her a household name, whilst staying true to the constant punch lines the film delivers with machine gun precision. I honestly saw no genuine need for the inclusion of the ‘Kathniel’ factor into the Sisterakas equation, as it was not given much screen time to truly shine and be appreciated by fans of this new love team. Yet one can agree that casting the two was a good choice, as it added to the movie’s ‘star power’. One could also consider the addition of young and talented Xyriel Manabat as a ‘star power’ ploy, as even she isn’t even given much chance to shine in the movie.

Script-wise, the movie excels in it’s ability to bring out joke after joke, but that’s about it. A gaping plot hole is present in Bernice’s revenge motivation towards the Sabroso family, as it is Bernice’s mother who has brought pain upon the Sabroso family and not the other way around. Earlier parts of the film suggest that there was no visible ‘abuse’ brought about by the family towards Bernice and his mom, save for her paralyzation.

In a nutshell, it’s the lead actors’ ability to bring out laughs and their jokes that make this movie what it is. One needs a number of things before he/she can genuinely enjoy this film. The first of those things is the ability to tolerate the most over-the-top things. Whether or not we like to admit it, not everyone can manage not to cringe upon seeing Vice Ganda wear the most over-the-top of outfits. Another ‘point of annoyance’ is Kris Aquino. Although some might laud her for openly making fun of herself and her relationship woes, there is no denying the fact that her mannerisms aren’t always tolerable, especially for a number of discriminating moviegoers. Without the ability to tolerate such people, one could not find the movie enjoyable and instead regard ‘Sisterakas’ as the most annoying thing they could ever watch.

Basically, acquired taste is what makes the difference between P200 well-spent on an afternoon of laughs, or money wasted watching a cringe-worthy comedy.