Saturday, February 27, 2010

Last Supper No. 3 - Great Cinema Suffers From a Rotten System

It was bound to happen.

When you field a movie for commercial screening without much preparation for publicity, you will end up getting pulled out of cinemas unceremoniously. Good thing I saw it on its very first day - last Wednesday. Unfortunately, Veronica B. Velasco's "Last Supper No.3" is 2010's very first really great Filipino movie shown on commercial theaters. And it enjoyed a mere 2 day screening at the Galleria.

Sure, it won last year's Best Picture at the Cinemalaya Filmfest, but I really don't care about festival films that aren't even offered to the public. I don't even give a shit about those glorious awards won by other Pinoy indies abroad for they only serve to celebrate the indie filmmaker's gargantuan egos. Pakialam ko ba kung napalabas ang mga 'to sa Venice, Locarno, Toronto, Timbuktu, Fiji, Congo or Kyoto? What I care for are the ones that are being offered on commercial theaters! Thus I pay to watch these indies - although several of them have proven how unworthy they are of my money!

"Last Supper No.3" follows the series of misfortunes that befall a gay production assistant Wilson Nanawa (the brilliant Joey Paras) and his cohort Andoy Pamatid (J.M. de Guzman) when they misplace a tapestry of the Last Supper. The owners (Jojit Lorenzo and Beverly Salviejo) eventually take them to court when they refuse to pay the trumped up value of P25,000. As things are gradually and religiously settled, Wilson learns that the ugly bureaucratic tentacles of a fucked up legal system won't let him off that easily - until this had to stretch on for more than 2 years!

Allegedly based on a true story, the movie deftly depicts the moribund state of the Philippine justice system as well as that of man's avaricious proclivity to take advantage of the misfortunes of others. This is serious cinema disguised as comedy, and I take my hats off to the exemplary performance of an amazing cast lead by Joey Paras who's exceptionally and spontaneously funny and sympathetic - a perfect mix that translated to excellent cinema!

On view are great cameos by Maricel Soriano as a government clerk who's not immune to bribes and Liza Lorena as the unstable court lady!

That Galleria had to pull out a really great film like "Last Supper No.3" after just 2 days of screening smacks of charade and the blatant pretense to help indie cinema. There were just 3 of us inside the cinema when I watched, but can't they even wait for the weekend before taking it out to pasture - while the horrible "Pilantik" (there were only 4 of us inside the theater when I saw this) is still being shown as I write this?

Sad state we are in!

Annoying Protagonist and Inappropriate Title in "From Paris With Love"

Director Pierre Morel's "Taken" transcended being just a slam bang action suspense! There was more there that's obviously absent in Morel's latest, "From Paris With Love".

I don't remember being so annoyed watching a protagonist for more than a good half of the film!
Wax (John Travolta) is a secret agent flown in by the U.S. government to pair up with eager-beaver newbie James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) to stop sinister plans by terrorists, but as we are introduced to Wax (who, as a secret agent, has the subtle sophistication of say, Kris Aquino), we see a crass mutant who: 1. imposes that his partner snort cocaine while on the job; 2. shags a dazed hooker in the midst of an operation; 3. sneaks in ammunitions through French airport immigration (this is a US federal agent, geez!); 4. looks menacingly ugly! If Morel and Luc Besson (who wrote the story) thought this was "cool" - what morons?

I don't trumpet morality on screen but showing them off like they're hip is just plain dumb! They were supposed to avert terrorism, not promote drug addiction, solicitation, vigilantism and blatant anti-social behavior!

Sure, the car chases and the explosions will eventually take your mind off these lapses of judgment (and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is a great action hero, not to mention that he is easy on the eyes), but I am personally mortified by the new set of heroes that shall grace the screen in the future! And you wonder why this world is gradually going to the dogs!

Jonathan Rhys Meyers on beauty: "A lot of men are very uptight, but I don't distinguish between male and female beauty. Beauty is beauty." And you wonder why he is an icon among gay men.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers is from Ireland. He had a difficult childhood. His father left his family when he was a child and he spent some time at an orphanage.

From Paris With Love? And you'd think there was anything romantic about the film?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Going Cuckoo with Bea Alonzo in "Miss You Like Crazy"

"Crazy" - that's what suddenly comes to mind when you consider all the hallmarks that characterize Mia Samonte played by Bea Alonzo in Cathy Garcia-Molina's "Miss You Like Crazy". Or is the title really a subtext to going bonkers in the process of falling in love?

For what would you call someone who carries rocks in her shoulder bag for the sake of self expression? It doesn't matter that your grandma in her moments of lucidity suggested it once. Paper is a more acceptable option. Or ringing your friends for a chat. Or painting. Or blogging.

Self expression can't be expressed enough on the limited space of a rough stone! Moreover, you shall grow unsightly muscles, lugging stones around. Then you write distressing phrases like "Goodbye, World!" on them - leaving them on public chairs for everyone to see. In clinical psychology, it's as clear as a cloudless sky that she is "crying for help"! She is suicidal! Fast - she needs psychiatric attention! Moreover, she calls people around with names culled from the 12 months of the year. Whoever thought that was remotely funny should be lobotomized! Sure, it may start a trend - people writing on stones as opposed to buying feather-weight paper sheets. It may start a trend too that shall promote a muscle-building literacy; the cumulative effect of picking up stones. It is after all a calorie-burning exercise!

What if you needed to express a complicated situation that requires heaps of paragraphs? Then you would need a truckload of stones delivered to your house? The same house where your catatonic father rests! I am telling you. Writing on stones isn't a good idea! Besides, it's much cheaper to buy a pen and a paper than buying a single pentel pen that should cost you not less than 50 bucks!

My point here is, besides its being mere cinematic, writing on stones has limited appeal, not to mention the glaring fact that it is a product of desperate minds seeking original concepts for would-be romantic blockbusters! Who in their right mind would turn to rocks as a source of romantic inspiration?

I am mortified by lunatics! Fine, it's not even politically correct to mention the "L" word but I am honestly unnerved by them - that doesn't bode well when you're sitting inside a cold dark cinema, building great thoughts about a romantic character like Mia Samonte! You have the sinking feeling of being in the wrong cinema. Is this the romantic comedy that I thought I was watching? Or that other film dealing with major depression, multiple personalities and schizophrenia? Baka "Ligalig part 2"? LOL. Having said that, for the very first time, Bea Alonzo has disappointed me in a movie that's not altogether bad, but teeters with an insufficient inspiration!

That Kris Aquino, the newly proclaimed queen of the hard-sell endorses the film - "that scene at the restaurant" and how it deeply affected her - even before she saw the movie speaks of how drudgingly gullible and simple-minded Miss Aquino is. Who would believe her the next time she tells her public she is hurt by her husband's indiscretions when a mere scene at a restaurant "affects her so"? Try again, your royal highness of all-media!

After a seemingly harmless flirtation at a ferry ride and all over Divisoria, Mia (Bea Alonzo) and Allan (John Lloyd Cruz) become kindred spirits who find happiness with each other. But when Mia learns of Allan's committed relationship with Daphne (Maricar Reyes), she still decides to sleep with him before breaking up with him the next day. Then with a mere stone with "Mahal kita" written on it as his conciliatory gift, she accepts him back, not knowing that he would once again change his mind, like the spineless cuckoo-baiting scum that Allan really is. It is a see-saw predicament that confuses its audience more!

If anyone's ever lied to me, there are certain ground rules that should be observed: 1. I won't sleep with the lying scum; 2. a stone is an unacceptable conciliatory gift (cheap huh) - unless we're talking about those that carry 5-karats of loving; 3. he shall attain my wrath with a stone conveniently tapped against his dumb skull! 4. If I were to choose between a chauffeur-riding cutie like Hans Isaac - and a timorous cheat with questionable corporate credentials like Allan Alvarez, the choice should be a no-brainer, even to the no brains who shriek at highly maneuvered romcoms like this.

And I always though Star Cinema had a battery of the brightest thinktanks around. Apparently not.

Or they've been deceived!

It's Complicated - And It's Fun!

"Fun is not overrated!" Jane quips while enjoying a ride - and a reefer! - with his architect Adam. It isn't!

Jane (Meryl Streep) finds herself drawn to an affair with her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) who's finding marital life with his ex-mistress not a walk in the park. But Jane has found her groove back and is enjoying her uncomplicated life with her 3 grown-up children. Being a mistress of her ex-husband is turning out to be exciting! But what becomes of Adam (Steve Martin) - the sensitive architect?

The glorious Meryl Streep turns in another affecting performance in this light hearted Nancy Meyers ("Something's Gotta Give") rom-com thats rife with hilarious scenes (the webcam debacle, the hotel rendezvous, the reefer scenes, the bedroom trysts).

Carey Mulligan gives a great performance in "An Education" and she gets an Oscar nomination for that, but placing her beside Meryl Streep for something as breezy and cotton-candy coated as her Jane character here (for which she wasn't nominated) only illuminates the obvious - that Meryl is queen! She can make mountains out of molehill roles! Amen!

Complicated hotties: John Krasinski and Hunter Parrish!

Derivative Slasher Flick in Logic-Challenged "Pilantik"

Argel Joseph used to do a lot of tv dramas back when I was a child, but with the untimely death of advice guru Helen Vela, Director Joseph took a protracted sabatical!

And it seems he must have overdosed on a lot of slasher flicks during his hibernation that eventually resulted in a derivative flick that's "Pilantik". I wanted to write a haiku about the pervading mediocrity that's become synonymous with Filipino Indie Films, but I realized I'd rather reserve that for when I get more inspiration. Because after all, this film deserves my rant for being horrible. This deserves the wrath of the demigoddesses for wasting my dad's hard-earned cash just so I can watch another trash disguised as an indie cinema.

Spoilers ahead!

Ysmael (Mon Confiado) is a transvestite who turns into an irresolute avenging marauder by night. He carries around an axe and hunts for copulating lovers, then bludgeons them to their death. He then chops off an arm and keeps them at his fridge! Flashbacks show him as a physically abused child whose effete demeanor provoked his stepdad (Pen Medina) and stepbrother to macerate his right fingers, thereby getting rid of his "pilantik" (light feminine flick of the fingers). Meanwhile, his emotionally inferior mother (Ma. Isabel Lopez) is shackled in her room. During a violent altercation, young Ysmael gets hold of the axe, killing his evil stepdad and evil stepbro!

Fast forward to the present! We see Ysmael cooking for his family, until we realize later that the people sitting at the dinner table are rotting corpses. Meanwhile, authorities are in a bind over a recent spate of serial killings. Is it the benz-driving Ysmael? Apparently, it is - coz we see him gallivanting in the night, hacking lovers in a state of pre-orgasm (first one to go is eye candy Jeff Luna).

From out of the blue, we get an entirely different string of characters introduced into Ysmael's life who, it seems is an upright member of the community. (He operates a beauty salon. We also see him comfort a perturbed friend Frida - Kuya Germ's counterpointer Shalala who was funny but misplaced in a dramatic action-thriller!)

While Ysmael and Frida were on their way out of a bar, they met Alfred (Kris Martinez) and his friends. They've apparently heard of Ysmael's riches. So they invite themselves for a rendezvous at Ysmael's crumbling home, setting themselves up for what would become the ultimate gorefest! Just about this time, I have already taken a 2 minute nap, regurgitated my lunch out of predictable tedium and dismay, and narrated to my friend Kyle (who loves his gay Galleria flicks) how the movie was going to end - right down to the letter!

Not only is the storyteller confused, he is also helplessly unimaginative - with scene after scene wallowing with predictability! Mon Confiado performs as though this were his very last movie project. He has to remember that less is more! Watching Confiado as Ysmael was painful. It always does when you see someone pretending to be gay! It reminds me of Jao Mapa in Joel Lamangan's "I Love Dreamguyz". Kyle and I were squirming in our seats.

And here is my uber-question - why was Ysmael targetting copulating lovers - unless its Joseph's homage to all those slasher flicks that irreverently kill off horny lovers everytime? You'd think they would illuminate on this salient point in one of their numerous flashbacks, but oh no, they conveniently forgot! I bet so they could show perky nipples flopping about. That's a valid reason, isn't it? ;->

At some point, I overheard a moviegoer ask, "So there are two serial killers?" Exactly, honey! In this film, there were 3 sets of dingbats running around with half a brain - Ysmael, the gay-baiting lotharios, and the filmmakers selling crap to gullible moviegoers who continuously patronize dregs such as this one!

Jao Mapa as Kevin becomes last victim. (Why he would forcefully sodomize a reluctant tranny before he robs off him is beyond me- unless he was really gay in the film, which he obviously wasn't?) Kris Martinez (right) as gay-baiting Alfred who eventually gets his lovely head dismembered!

Armored and Testosterone Driven

If you love world titles, you should be familiar with Nimrod Antal's work - his Hungarian feature "Control" was a spectacular caper that translated successfully into a U.S. crossover, Luke Wilson and Kate Beckensale's "Vacancy".

Antal is known for his attention to his movie's setting. In fact, his location takes center stage and his characters are just the support. In "Control" which is still a personal favorite, it was set in the bowels of Budapest's underground train system. In "Vacancy", it was the convoluted underground alleys of a sullen motel. In Antal's latest work "Armored", this takes place at an abandoned warehouse.

In fact, much of the action takes place there - where an armored van carrying $42 million bank money is sequestered by the guards who were supposed to protect it. But like most perfect crimes, some thing always turns awry! In this case, it's probationary guard Ty (Columbus Short) who suddenly grows conscience in the middle of a would-be perfect heist! Though the film turns out a little short of its adrenaline promise, it will pass for a boredom sorter - for when you have nothing better to do.

"Armored" boasts of brisk action and a stellar cast - Matt Dillon as gang leader Mike; Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno, Skeet Ulrich, Fred Ward and that gorgeous being called Milo Ventimiglia playing the burger-devouring cop Eckhart! The movie clocks at 88 minutes - so if you hate it, it won't be too much of a punishment!

Matt Dillon's next film will be "Rio Sex Comedy" where he will be strutting his stuff on the beaches of Brazil with Bill Pullman,

Matt Dillon could be Milo's older brother, don't you think?

Milo Ventimiglia once said, "I don't seek attention. If anything I'd rather blend in, remain anonymous,"which is hard when you're looking like that... Must be the vegetarian in him.

Milo Ventimiglia looks back on his early days as an extra: "I had one line on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but I met Will Smith and he took 20 minutes out of his day to talk to the kid with one line. To this day, I think that guy is amazing because of that." His next film is titled "Order of Chaos".

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Edge of Darkness - Mel Gibson is Back!

Conspiracy, manufacture of nuclear weapons and government collusion take the spotlight in "Edge of Darkness", Mel Gibson's return to the big screen. After a 7 year absence, the iconic Australian star has finally made a comeback in Martin Campbell's action-drama! Though age is gradually catching up with my all-time favorite actor, his boyish charm is still undeniable!

When unidentified gunmen shoots his visiting daughter in front of their house, Detective Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) initially thought that they were after him. But as he unravels the evidence gathered, he learns of his daughter's unfortunate predicament. Soon, this takes him to the office of a senator!

Not my favorite Mel Gibson movie, but it is nevertheless entertaining, although to be honest, his heavily wrinkled face is starting to bother me. He was once a Greek God whose masculine beauty was second to none. These days, he is just a 54 year old handsome mortal! ;->

Who wouldn't ogle at a face like that?

Full steam ahead. He has 6 movies in various state of development. I am particularly looking forward to his team up with Leonardo DiCaprio and a dramedy called "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" about a criminal (Gibson) who is placed in a tough Mexican prison where he learns to survive with the help of a 9-year-old boy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marino - Heroism Went Out to Sea

See Ara cry in the kitchen, at the sala, on the bed, at the fishpen, then while changing LPG tanks. Then Allen Dizon joins the crying game at his bunk, by the stairs, and every helluva corner of a sea vessel! Oh! As an afterthought, they decided to season it with a wee bit of a narrative idea. Get the drift?

That "Marino (Call of the Sea)" is this film production's homage to the OFW's and the seafaring Pinoys is a disservice to this subset of itinerant workers. That the movie shows the "simple and noble acts of heroism" is spurious. What is so heroic about a man who, while grieving for the death of his father-in-law, prefers to gallivanting around Thailand's "Ancient Siam" Recreational Park then caps his afternoon with a lay in the hay with a hooker in Bangkok? That this is the very first film to focus on the plight of Pinoy seamen is purely sensationalist hogwash and ignorant. Remember Mark Reyes' horrible "I.T.A.L.Y. (I Trust and Love You)" shown barely 2 years ago? That film was about the lives of Filipinos working on a cruise ship - and shot in "3 continents, 5 countries and 13 cities" - as though that was going to produce a masterpiece.

In "Marino", a horde of men are thrown together in a commercial vessel where we witness "ultra-thin" slices of their miserable lives. But the spotlight is on Benjo (Allen Dizon) who worries about a myriad of concerns: his wife Mina (Ara Mina) and her sick father, his younger brother Henry (Mike Tan). The rest of the crew is made up of dispensable characters - an awful cook (Victor Basa), a horndog gay man (Rico Barrera), an epileptic crew (Emilio Garcia). On land, we are further introduced to several indeterminate characters: the tricycle driver Arman (Marco Alcaraz) who pines for Mina's affections; Benjo's hopeful ex-girlfriend (Bangs Garcia) and a Filipina hooker who plies the streets of Bangkok (Krista Ranillo).

Director Paul Sta. Ana concocts a chopsuey of badly told stories that reek with fragmented melodrama and borderline acting. It was obvious they were highlighting the middling dramatic prowess of Allen Dizon who has of late been resorting to "woe-is-me" dramatics. That he can cry buckets is no benchmark for a good performance! He didn't move me! I was more annoyed! At the other end of the spectrum is how "Marino" drips with obdurate sentimentality, it is laughable!

The protracted story involving Krista Ranillo is really an expendable beat and is meant to give Ranillo more screen time than the story requires. A lost necklace, it seems, is Benjo's testament to fidelity. This is one guy whose priorities are all skewered! I would be a moron if I were to sympathize with his character.

In these times, heroism and nobility have acquired a new meaning. Why do people tend to believe that heroism is synonymous with leaving the country for a job abroad? What does it make the Filipinos who opt to stay home and work twice as hard for so much less? Are they really less of a hero for staying put? Are we less noble for enduring what our country can provide? Go figure!

Ara Mina (as Mina) is confused. She can't quite make up her mind whether her father suffered a stroke or is comatose? So they killed him off. That makes things less complicated! LOL

Two months of riding the vessel, Benjo already amassed several videos of his family. He even watches videos of him and his father-in-law sharing a light moment on his TV bunk. You can imagine how many other videos he will own one year later. Amazing! After receiving news of his in-law's death, he cavorts with a hooker in Bangkok. Upon his return to the vessel, he engages in a 5-minute crying spell as he grieves (again) for his father-in-law. Akala ko tatay n'ya ang iniiyakan, biyenan pala. Haha! Meanwhile, back in Manila, the dead man's own daughter Mina has moved on.

Mike Tan is a breath of fresh air. He plays Henry, Benjo's younger brother who once again failed his board exams.

Rico Barrera is Errol who slithers his way around crewmates' beds. Others call him "Carol".

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Clint Eastwood Makes Nelson Mandela Proud

After several years of being a political prisoner, Nelson Mandela becomes a free man in South Africa. The winds of change have swept throughout the globe and Mandela wins the national elections to lead the Apartheid-torn country.

In a stroke of genius, he comes up with a brilliant idea of uniting a racially tense nation - through sports! He turns the losing national rugby team around and rally them into their winning form. In "Invictus", Director Clint Eastwood weaves a heart-warming tale of change and patriotism that should teach Manny Pacquiao a lesson on real nationalism. Just play your game - the one you are good and admired at! Don't be a singer when you can't sing! Don't be an actor when you can't even enunciate well. And finally, don't be a politician. You can serve the needy in more effective avenues.

Matt Damon spins.

"Wanna play rugby in the rain?" invites Matt (who has a convincingly consistent African accent in "Invictus").

Four Couples and a Laugh - Couples Retreat

Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn always had an easy chemistry between them. "Swingers" anyone?

In "Couples Retreat", they recreated fun and moderated hedonism in a couples-only retreat holiday set in Bora Bora (Tahiti) - with mixed results.

Jason and wife Cynthia (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) invite their married friends to join them on a 7-day marriage-saving retreat designed by an eccentric French guru Marcel (Jean Reno). As the therapy sessions begin, each couple begin to re-examine their marital relations. Will their Bora Bora holiday draw them closer or send them to the divorce courts? I'll give you one good guess.

Predictability is a staple in films like this, so you know exactly how the whole story ends. Nevertheless, you go along for the ride and hope that your ride is peppered with delightful characters that will make your journey a pleasure. By good measure, you will have fun. "Couples Retreat" has several funny situations - my favorite was the rollicking scene with hunky yoga instructor Salvadore (the delightfully campy Carlos Ponce - who showed a lot of skin!)

The second half is dampened by its trite storyline. But the story arc really had nowhere to go - until its rousing finish. Do you really expect a 5-hanky ending for a movie such as this one? Fun!

Vince Vaughn lost a piece of his thumb in a car accident - so keep your eyes on his thumb. He dislikes cell phones and doesn't own one.

Jason Bateman as "Jason" wants to save his marriage. On the roles that he gets offered: "I've been offered a couple of leads in some movies that really suck. I mean, you know, if they're offering me the lead, the script ain't that great. The stuff that's good, I'm a little further down the cast list." He is happily married to the daughter of singer Paul Anka.

Muscle-bearing yoga instructor Salvadore - the delectable singer-actor Carlos Ponce!

Smoldering sexuality - Carlos Ponce in color or black and white! This Puerto Rican hottie (who stands 6'1") graduated high school in Miami. And is happily married with 4 kids!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Most Distant Course - Lost Souls in Taiwan

Xiao Tang (the dashing Taiwanese newcomer Mo Zi-Yi) records sounds around Taipei - the raging seas, the rustling of the leaves, the passing train, the blaring karaoke - transfers them on a cassette tape, then regularly mails them to a girl who broke his heart. Unknown to him, she has moved elsewhere and Wu (a new tenant) gets his mails - mails which don't bear his name or return address. As these tapes pile up, Wu (Kwai Lun-Mei) becomes intrigued with the sender and gets clues from his recordings to find him. This takes both of them on a road trip that also includes another lost soul, a shrink(Jiao Xiao Guo) who himself needs psychotherapy.

I love the way the narrative is explored in "The Most Distant Course", taking unpredictable detours in lingering scenes that boast of somber landscapes and unconventional storytelling. The romantic in me is tickled pink. Isn't it a girl's dream for a cute guy like Mo Zi-Yi to constantly send me stuff that he painstakingly records?

It just makes me blush.

Mo Zi-Yi is welcome to keep sending me his "recordings"! And I can't wait for director Lin Jing-Jie's 2nd movie either! "The Most Distant Course" won at the Venice Film Festival in 2007.

Simmering Wait in Cairo Time

It was a post-Valentine surprise to find Patricia Clarkson in my dvd player.

Clarkson, to my mind, is a spectacular actress whose minimalist style of acting packs a wallop. Think Nora Aunor before she got infected with the Richard Merck Syndrome! In fact, actor Noah Emmerich says this of the actress: “Patricia Clarkson’s work is a master class in fullness and minimalism. The scope and power of what she is able to communicate with the slightest of gestures – the sip of a drink or the turn of her head – it’s testament to the depth and potency of her inner life.” I couldn't have said it better!

In Ruba Nadda's "Cairo Time", Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) flies to Cairo to meet her husband Mark who works for the U.N. Unfortunately, setting up refugee camps at the fringes of strife isn't as easy and Mark takes his time to see her. So Juliette is left on her own, rudely realizing that a single woman navigating the streets of Cairo can be overwhelming! Enter Tareq (the very charming Alexander Siddiq of "Syriana") who finds the time to show her around the congested streets and afloat the glistening Nile. When she was offered his company to visit the pyramids, she declines. She promised that her first visit with the magical pyramids would be with her husband. But as weeks draw by, that becomes highly unlikely happening!

After a surreal and hair-raising bus ride and a wedding in Alexandria, she finally decides to see the Pyramids - with Tareq!

The movie takes a ruminative, introspective approach to its storytelling, and Clarkson slow burns! Along with Siddig, she takes us on a very patient journey to wait for love.

With a sweltering cityscape one November, two charming souls seeking for affection, and the exotic landscape, the sound of Adan (call for Muslim prayer), and music from the likes of Abdel Jalim Afez, "Cairo Time" is a satisfying movie that ultimately won 2009 Best Canadian Film at the Toronto Film Festival.

Sharing a moment at the Pyramids.

Clarkson. Attended Yale Drama School and finished her Masters in Fine Arts degree from Fordham University. She is 5'5", Siddig is 6 footer.

Alexander Siddig is at home playing Tareq and says of his role - "It was a real treasure, a treat, to find a character that wasn't intent on trying to blow up the White House or hijack an airplane."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Miriam Defensor-Santiago in a Fishbowl

It must have been a daunting task portraying someone as lividly colorful as the lady senator whose verbal acuity compares to no one. And I have always admired her steely resolve and endless pursuit to justify her every endeavor. Not only is she painfully honest and incorruptible, she is also abrasively sensitive to a fault. But that's what makes this lady a cut above the rest!

Four actresses were tasked to portray her in the "Miriam Defensor-Santiago Story" (shown at ABS CBN) - from childhood to adulthood - Miles Ocampo (the child Miriam), Maja Salvador (the young teen Miriam), Julia Clarete (the collegiate Miriam) and Tessie Tomas (the adult Miriam). I was initially trepidant with this casting as these 4 actresses look so dissimilar. They couldn't even legibly pass as sisters. But as the narrative strain begins to unfold, I was caught with the story of a struggling girl born to an overbearing mother who couldn't take mediocrity sitting down!

We begin to understand Miriam's constant search for excellence, and why she is the way we know her. The drama series humanized the very public and caricaturish Miriam. And it breaks my heart seeing her grieve in public when her favorite child (who calls her "beautiful") commits suicide (supposedly because he couldn't get into UP Law School - as the telefilm suggests). As her constant struggle ebbs, she rationalizes her divine purpose. And if that gives her a degree of peace, I pray she succeeds in getting it!

What the show taught me for sure is that, despite Miriam's occasional delusions of grandeur and intolerance, she is one heck of a hard working and intelligent lady - and that she will probably be immune to this pervasive atmosphere of greed that pollutes our government and our society! And if we have several elections running tomorrow, I shall cast my vote on Miriam Defensor-Santiago - over and over again!

On point of performance, Tessie Tomas was almost spot on, although I was initially reluctant to watch her reduce the feisty senator into a stand-up act! But she was very effective. In fact everyone was! The best performance however was turned in by Julia Clarete who wore the senator's young persona like second skin! She was effusively sincere, her emotions palpable; too bad she is now reduced to the daily shenanigans of a frolicky "Eat Bulaga" when she could run rings around the likes of say, Marian Rivera, or Kris Bernal, or much of the gallery of stars that inhabit GMA-7. Maja Salvador was a curious choice to play teen Miriam. But her very short stint glowingly showcased how passionately Miriam wanted the love and acceptance of an overbearing mother (played by Jean Garcia - and later, Marita Zobel). When she looked at her mother, you could see a daughter's longing to snag her loving acknowledgment - that she indeed is a daughter worthy of her motherly love! Count on Maja to deliver the goods!

Tessie Tomas

Julia Clarete

Maja Salvador

Miles Ocampo