Friday, August 5, 2011

Of Bad Teachers, Frozen Flower and Returning Icons

In Jake Kasdan’s Bad Teacher”, Cameron Diaz is a nasty, devil-may-care Junior High teacher Elizabeth who’s moving heaven and earth to come up with cash that would pay for her $10,000 boob job. She reports to class dismissive of everything else (she just plays movies in class all through the semester), but competes for the attention of hunky new Math teacher Scott (Justin Timberlake), the son of a business scion. But Liz has tough competition: Amy (Lucy Punch), the good teacher! When she learns that the teacher whose class scores highest at the standardized testing will earn a whopping $5,700, Elizabeth turns her class around by drilling her students into a military-style scholastic Olympics. Moreover, she finds clandestine ways to secure the examination’s answer sheet.

Julia Roberts, on the other hand, plays Mercedes in Tom Hanks-directed "Larry Crowne". Mercedes Tainot is another imperious educator of an informal speech class where Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks), a down-on-his-luck and newly down-sized retail store employee, attends. Crowne was made redundant when the company finds his educational qualifications wanting. “There’s no room for advancement,” his bosses reasoned. Prior to this, Larry has been piling up his Employee of the Month citations. As a result of this, Crowne decides to enroll at the local college; ditches his car for a scooter; and applies for a job at his neighborhood diner. In the process, he finds ways to deal with his house's impending foreclosure.

Cameron Diaz makes no apologies playing the inconsiderate, crude, selfish teacher, but despite an annoying foray into a poorly scripted comedy, she comes out with a deceptively winsome character that eventually pays out as its credits roll. That “there is inherent goodness even among the most execrable human beings” is a stretch, but it’s nevertheless a hopeful piece. Roberts, on the other hand, turns on her mega-watt charm to fuel this cinematic misfire. Larry Crowne is another geeky Forrest Gump wanna-be who navigates his neighborhood with the most superficial motives.

At one point, he tells his teacher Miss Tainot (Roberts), “You’re a good teacher.” But if you’ve been attentive, Mercedes Tainot (Roberts) was everything but… She attends her class with a degree of contempt, and talks to them with acidic scorn and palpable disdain. She listens to the presentations of her students half bored, half repellant. Moreover, why she would suddenly find the wrinkly Crowne vaguely attractive is beyond me! Whatever chemistry existing between these Superstars have all but dissipated in their heydays. Tainot is a bad teacher, written otherwise by Nia Vardalos to conjure a feel-good flick in the vein of her “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.

You don’t exactly wonder why it fared tepidly at the box office.

Meanwhile, I was transfixed at my seat while watching a Korean flick - Ha Yu’sA Frozen Flower” (aka “Blood and Roses”). This period piece follows a Koryu king (Ju Jin-Mo) who's fond of a young soldier Hong-Lim (Jo In-Seong). In fact, he favors his presence over the Queen’s - the royal better half who can't even share the king's bed. As the story unravels, Hong-Lim’s loyalty is highlighted. It becomes clear that his allegiance goes beyond subordinate subservience as he enjoys the intimate privilege sharing pillow talk with his beloved king. But there’s a problem: the king needs to provide an heir to the throne or he would have to abdicate his reign. "You have to work hard for that to happen, my king," implies the almost desperate queen. Unable to fulfill his matrimonial duty, the king decides to thrust Hong-Lim to father the Queen’s would-be child. Little did he expect that his much favored chief – and bedmate – would find the Queen’s company ultimately addicting. The plot then thickens.

Populated by a beautiful cast (and some of the most risky sex scenes in a historical epic– they made me blush), “A Frozen Flower” tackles the thin line dividing love and allegiance to duty, and the boundless limits of heady desires. If you think these Korean actors are shrinking violets, you’d be very wrong. Now this is a cinematic scorcher!

The Koryu King and his loyal chief Hong-Lim who would do anything for his king.

Jo In-Seong and Joo Jin-Mo: These gorgeous Korean actors!


I didn’t think it was possible!

Last week, I accompanied my cousin as she checked out some dental equipment she was planning to purchase for a branch of her clinic. This would be in Quiapo. And quite nearby was the notorious cloister – a subcommunity and kingdom of pirated DVD’s. Guess what? This community has finally ceased to exist. Mayor Alfredo Lim has finally succeeded to do the impossible.

Gone are endless rows of DVD shops. Patrol cars were seen parked at several corners. Police officers confiscated stacks of blank discs. Stores were empty, and display grills were taken down. I remember a few years ago when Mayor Lim also dismantled the red-light district along Ermita. No one thought that was possible too. Sure, there’s still prostitution everywhere in the metropolis, but not in the blatant flesh trade that once characterized the place. The good mayor sure has balls the size of Texas. If you want results, trust the good mayor to get his job done, come hell or high water. This event is not exactly celebratory as the country’s only avenue for the rare art films has diminished by leaps and bounds. But then, piracy is piracy.


After 8 long years, the SuperstarNora Aunor – is finally back! The country rejoices! I am very pleased as well. This calls for a celebration. Though I am weaned on Sharon Cuneta fodder (my parents being ardent Cuneta fans), there is no denying that La Aunor’s cinematic work is priceless. She was once the greatest actress of the country (up until she acquired annoying acting crutches: the constipated delivery of lines, etc.) and we will always respect her achievements. At her peak, she was said to be phenomenal as she captured the imagination and hearts of the Filipinos.


However, as she gradually settles back into her country, her so-called “projects” feel underwhelming, at least for a star of her magnitude. A legend is back and she does a film called “Hototay”? LOL. Then there’s a historical epic topbilled by an actor not exactly known for his artistic merits: E.R. Ejercito (portraying Emilio Aguinaldo)! Remember the debacle that's "Lapu-Lapu" (with Lito Lapid and Joyce Jimenez)? Now why am I not clapping? She obviously deserves better, right?

On her supposed vocal setback: she allegedly lost her singing voice after a facelift operation in Japan! A tweety bird told me that facial operations like these may indeed result into the cutting of a nerve called “recurrent laryngeal nerve”. If that happens, this results into the paralysis of that muscles that this special nerve supplies. Effect: loss of voice! Medically, this is called aphonia (inability to speak). If part of the voice is somehow saved, it will be hoarse! Is Ms. Aunor hoarse? Just to recapitulate, children: With damage to the aforementioned nerve, you lose your voice. Not just the singing voice, but the speaking voice as well!

Why La Aunor’s vocal side effect suddenly turns selective is a mystery. Why just lose the singing capability? I’m also told that people lose their singing voice from a variety of factors: abuse, drugs, nodules and fibrosis, advancing age. Now consider the list based on the Superstar's notorious lifestyle in the past and tell me if she cannot check out any of the aforementioned items?

Here’s hoping the Superstar gets all the projects she deserve – and not fall on similar fate of another comebacking hottie, Gabby Concepcion. He was hot, but where is he now? Shame on you, ABS-CBN!

Nora Aunor is the penultimate actress that this country has ever produced. She deserves no less than the best! Not with a cinematic masterpiece named after a Chinese soup dish. Not with a leading man who was never an A-lister to begin with. And definitely not as Ejercito's mother! Riding on the coat tails of Emilio Aguinaldo doesn't necessarily guarantee a memorable flick. It may win a gubernatorial re-election seat for some, but where does that leave the one and only Superstar? Try the Tirad Pass.


duduy said...

That is one long-ass post. :)

Correction lang po.

Nora Aunor is the ULTIMATE. The last word as far as Filipino actresses, then and now, are concerned.

Funny how you mention her in your post, i've been youtubing her old songs for about a week now!

Cathy Pena said...

Darn, I've long wanted to use "penultimate" and you had to do that! LOL

"Tiny bubbles, in Hawaii... Make me feel happy, make me feel fine..."

(Cathy dances with pink top and grass skirt...) ;->

duduy said...

dang. i am weirdly aro... amused ;)