Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cloud Atlas: Shrugged Off The Box Office?

The much-awaited epic drama Cloud Atlas is now playing  in US theaters, and looks like despite the hype it's not doing that well in the box office. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 62%  rating and it's causing divisiveness among movie buffs. I was one of the many film fans who have been awaiting this film to hit the local cinemas but not anymore. One critic considered it as a "self-indulgent, ambitious mess", and if this is truly the case it's no wonder it's been overtaken by political drama Argo (starring Ben Affleck and Bryan Cranston) both in revenues and rave reviews. Reportedly, producers spent $102 million in making this three-hour film (with the German government putting in some dough) and with just $9.4 million in opening profit, the producers' ROI presents, er, a cloudy picture.

It seems the problem lies in the storytelling. It is based on David Mitchell's novel of the same title, and naysayers agree that this film is one of those great literature that goes awry when translated into the visual medium. I've seen the trailer and definitely the visual effects and the cinematography are amazing, but the plot line simply, well, flatlined according to critics. It is six interwoven stories at different time frames in different locales. Sounds convoluted, right? Well, it is. And because the film uses basically the same actors, there's the valiant attempt to transform them from one character to another. But such attempt proved futile in my opinion because I've seen excerpts of  "yellowfaced" Jim Sturgess playing the role of a Korean liberator; and my, oh my, it was downright awful. If the directors thought they were going to pull it off with the prosthetic slant eyes, they decided wrong. For me, believability has gone out of the window with a slam when I saw Sturgess as Hae-Joo Chang.

Jim Sturgess as Hae-Joo Chang in Cloud Atlas

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shawn Mullins - Beautiful Wreck, Beautiful Soul

Nothing is a  more pleasant experience than to stumble upon something that can move you in many ways. Serendipity, I think, is what it's called. A serendipitous discovery is what I would consider my introduction to Shawn Mullins' music. It was late '90s and grunge, which sustained me during college years, has lost its appeal  on Generation X. Gradually, the angst-filled lyrics and the incessant riffing became a thing of the past. So I was in auditory limbo, so to speak, when one day I was listening to the now-defunct NU 107 station and this raspy voice threaded through the airwaves half talking, half singing a jaded view of Hollywood. Nothing new about the subject; it's formulaic, but with the husky voice and gentler guitar accompaniment it was a welcomed novelty for me. 

The song was Lullaby, and it was the song that catapulted Mullins from the whiskey-soaked bars and Chinese restaurants into  the mainstream music scene. It was by sheer luck that many days after I got hooked on Mullins my brother, who's been working abroad, brought home with him  Soul's Core, a 14-track album which includes Lullaby.  Apparently my brother had enough of John Fogerty and The Eagles that he'd turned to Mullins too. LOL.

The songs Twin Rocks, Oregon and  Anchored In You instantly appealed to me. With his sometimes melancholy, sometimes congenial voice (you can actually hear his smile), great guitar playing and lyrical simplicity he moved me.  Certainly, he didn't need evocative phrases to accomplish that.  In Anchored In You, which could be his torch song in the album, he simply laments "I'm stoned in San Francisco with you on my mind".

Twin Rocks, Oregon is a poignant piece, probably his autobiographical anthem. Singing in first person as he often does,  Mullins talks about a vagrant artist possibly not unlike himself when he started his musical journey. He begins with "I met him on the cliffs of Twin Rocks, Oregon" then continues describing the man who "had a bottle of Mad Dog he held in his hand/That he waved around a lot to make his point."  The two talk over a shared joint about their shared experience, particularly the frustrations that come in the way in pursuit of one's passion ("I don't reckon I'll be makin' it big/You know it's hard to get rich off a tout of coffee house gigs"), and then their version of vindication (And he said yeah, but ain't it a blessin' to do what you wanna do).

Mullins' visage looks like his voice and music - gritty, with uncompromising lines, and looking like life has thrown some punches  his way. Beautiful wreck is how I would describe it,  to borrow the title of one of his more recent songs, and I kinda like it.  I mean this guy's got a soul for life and for his music that you got to embrace everything about him.

John Paul Encinas: Biggest Bully Of Them All?

I saw this disturbing news last night in 24 Oras of one very angry and very huge customer named John Paul Encinas verbally and physically attacking a lady cashier. Apparently the altercation resulted from their disagreement over Encinas' tab amounting to a mere Php85! Encinas could have been provoked, as he alleged, but to retaliate in that way? And his excuse? Kasi daw tao lang siya, which I think is the lamest and tritest excuse for human ill behavior.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What ails President Pnoy?

I read just a couple of minutes ago that President Aquino has cut short his dinner with PM Gillard of Australia because he felt ill. According to the report, he excused himself without taking a bite.  I wonder if  it's not his "wheelchair joke" about former PGMA going down the wrong way.  Below is the complete report from Inquirer.

CANBERRA, Australia, Philippines — A “sick” President Benigno Aquino III had to cut short his attendance at the official dinner hosted by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Held at the private dining room of the Parliament House, the dinner was attended by the Australian ruling class — top officials of the Gillard Cabinet, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, diplomats, military officials and other invited guests.
A concerned Gillard then dispensed with formalities and protocol of the banquet, after Aquino complained of “not feeling well.”
“Can I acknowledge Your Excellency, Mr. President. Thank you for gracing us with your presence this evening. We are very, very disappointed that you had become unwell, but we wish you a very speedy recovery and a goodnight’s rest here in Australia,” said Gillard who delivered her speech ahead of the President’s.
“As the President—and I have warmed up—I have remarked and if all members of this delegation could note this that he should be saved from any paperwork during the course of this evening,” she said to chuckles from the banquet guests.
“I know what it’s like to be chased around with paperwork when you’re feeling unwell and I’m sure it’s going to aid his recovery if he is left undisturbed tonight which is my way of acknowledging our other honored Filipino guests,” she added.
Aquino spoke briefly but left soon after his speech without touching his food. The President was escorted by Gillard.
Upon instructions from the prime minister, the guests still went ahead with the traditional toast usually led by heads of state or government, and partook of a three-course meal, with a pan fried snapper as the main course.
Sought for comment, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang confirmed that Aquino, who came from two-day state visit to New Zealand, was sick.
“Yes, a bit. But he should be better tomorrow.”
Asked if his boss was nursing a cold or flu, Carandang said:  “No. He’s fine. He finished all his duties today.”

Random Thoughts

I saw the first and the third Obama-Romney debate, and I think the first one was a debacle for Obama but the third was surely a trophy for him. "Biggest whopper" and "horses and bayonets" should be   memes by now.

Police nabbed last Sunday yet another suspect in the Maguindanao Massacre. Yet 35 months after the carnage, the trial of the Ampatuans continues so sluggishly.  Now, what do they say about justice delayed? Dapat yata i-masaker na lang yang mga Ampatuan!

This just came in - with the tab! According to recent survey, Pinays love to gulp down alcohol more than their male counterparts - 52% versus 48% of the 2,500 respondents. Who do you think is the bigger tipper? LOL, definitely not the sober one!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Paranormal Romance at UP

Do you believe in ghosts? Or do you suspend belief until you see the truth with your own eyes?

Oh, LOL, forgive the dramatic statements above; I blame the horror films I've been watching lately for the theatrics. Let me make it clear that I remain a skeptic to this day of ghosts despite of my "paranormal" experience when I was at the University of the Philippines in Diliman and despite of their alleged manifestations I often see on Paranormal State. I quoted paranormal because I'm still not quite sure if what happened back then was of the supernatural dimension or if it were merely a case of daymare or bangungot as we Pinoys call it. So, here goes my ghost story (well, sort of) as a toast to the forthcoming observance of All Souls' Day. Cheers to the souls of our dearly departed, mayhap including Gogol's dead ones!

During my UP days I stayed at one of the residence halls inside the campus. Here's a hint for those who plan to study in Diliman: The dorm is located behind Palma Hall and is exclusively for girls. It's a big dorm (I think during our time we were around 400 residents there), and it's made up of two floors, a basement and the infamous maze-like corridors. It was at the basement where I stayed for about three years. During my stay there residents were sometimes given the option of their room preference and in my case I opted for the basement because it was quieter and much cooler there.

It was my last sem and my schedule was a bit lax. It was a Thursday and my first class was at 7-8:30 am at the Math building and my next one was 11:30 am. After my Math 1 class I rode the Ikot jeep, bought some supplies plus a newspaper from the Shopping Center (SC) then rode Ikot again to my dorm. Down I went to the mostly unlit and empty corridors. The rooms and corridors were usually deserted during that time of the day since residents were attending classes or doing some other activities around campus. Yes, I know, I should have been out and enjoying my last sem at the university instead of staying cooped up in my room, but I also know that it's fruitless to try to turn back the clock so drop it!:) Anyway, back to my story.

So I got inside my room (which I shared with three others) around 9:30 and opted to read the paper and then fell asleep. I didn't have an idea for how long I was asleep when suddenly I felt a heavy pressure on my chest. I had difficulty breathing and I started to struggle but I just couldn't move my limbs. My eyes were wide open - I was seeing the whirring fan, the sunlight filtering through the yellow curtains, and dust motes swirling in the room. I remember those curtains one of my roomies had brought from home, effectively covering the rows of glass windows (which were about 6 feet high and 5 feet wide), but sheer enough to let some sunshine in. I didn't know for how long I struggled but I finally woke up. I sat up on my bed, breathless, and somewhat puzzled. I looked towards the head of my bed and saw nothing there. My bed was near the windows with only about a foot from them. I looked across the room and saw nothing strange - not a thing was out of place. I got out of the room to compose myself and spent a few minutes upstairs at the dorm's main hall and decided that it was just a bad dream. I then came down to my room again to prepare for my next class and forgot all about the incident.

However, a week after, the same thing happened to me. I got the same schedule but I opted not to go to SC but walked the way from my Math class straight to my dorm, which took around 10 minutes. As my routine, I started reading while lying in bed and before long I was dozing off. And then the dream came again. The same details thus I was in a real panic as I tried to free myself from that something (or someone?) that's preventing me to move. "Oh no, not again!", I screamed in my head, repeatedly. Believe me, I tried to scream but nothing came out of my mouth. I got even more frightened because as the dream went on I became sure that there was somebody holding me down. As I struggled and tried to lift the pressure off my chest and hands (I often sleep with my hands above my head, palms up) my eyes were wide with panic while I saw details of the room - the dust motes, the sunlight, the fan. And then I sensed the presence of a woman standing behind my head, in the small space between my bed and the rows of windows. And standing behind her were two tall men, peering over the woman's shoulders and staring down at me! Strange, I didn't actually see them because I couldn't lift my head or move any part of my body, but I was very certain they were there. Not unlike the first incident, I was not sure for how long I lain there struggling and trying to cry for help. Eventually, I was able to move and get up. And unlike the first incident, I didn't sit in my bed puzzling over what just happened and I definitely didn't look around the room to see if the woman and the two men were actually there. What I did was flee my room pronto, not sparing a second to close the door, and then scampered through the long, dark corridor (damn UP for their cost cutting measures!), took the long flight of stairs two at a time, that by the time I reached the main hall I was sweating, breathless, and scared as hell! If I had gotten curious glances from the dorm's staff I, for the life of me, would not notice nor would I care as I was busy calming myself down and try to rationalize what just took place.

After several minutes sitting in the TV room I recalled details that caused me more goosebumps and more hair to stand on end. I realized that the woman and the two men were also "present" during my previous sleep/wake experience! After my first "dream", everything about the event was all fuzzy to me as I was more puzzled than perturbed that I didn't think much about the details. I knew everyone can have recurring dreams, but to dream of the same dream twice with exactly the same scary details?! I stay rooted and tensed on my seat,very scared to come down to my room. I waited there for a very long time for one of my roomies to arrive from her classes. I never any of my roommates about the incidents lest I'd cause undue fear. It was years later before I told some friends and family about my experience.

A bit of history about the residence hall. The dorm is said to be a former infirmary for American soldiers during WWII, however, this I cannot verify. Although I noticed during my stay there that our beds were steel bunks - they looked quite old but still sturdy. Some of them with attached steel poles, which to me looked like the ones in hospitals used for IV drips.

As with most old buildings it has its share of urban legends. It was rumored that a student committed suicide there and, allegedly, the suicide took place in one of the so-called B1 corridor rooms (my room was one of these rooms). It's said that her ghost roams the corridors of the dorm - day in, day out. Another rumor that had been passed among us residents then (and I'm sure up to now) was that of a former resident of the B1 rooms (again!). According to one version that resident was alone and up one late night in her room typing her assignment (apparently this was way, way back before the advent of computers) when nature called. She got out of her room to a nearby bathroom and on her way back she heard the clicking of typewriter keys. She assumed that one of her roommates decided to sleep over after all and hurried towards their room. According to the story said resident was still hearing someone furiously typing away when she reached her door, but when she opened it the room was still and silent and nobody was there. And when she turned to her typewriter she saw that somebody typed the sentence "Tulungan nyo ako (Help me)" over and over again.