Next Stop, Cinemalaya (Also, Happy Leap Day)

Trixie finally “meeting” her alter-ego Yannie last January 21. 

I’ve always believed that Leap Day is all about making all sorts of, well, leaps – of joy, of excitement, and in this case, of faith. Sige, pati na rin literal na leap. 

After serious coaxing by my scriptwriting instructor, Christian “X” Vallez, I submitted Hang Girl to the Cinemalaya screening committee this afternoon. It was, by no means, a well-thought-of decision but a decision I’m glad I made nevertheless.

If it gets accepted, I’ll probably be the happiest camper in the planet. If not, well, it was still worth the damn try and I’ll be even more driven to make another film. Win-win.

*Crossing fingers, toes and limbs starting now* 

I miss my crew. 

Advertisements

My Oscar 2012 Wish List

Oscar season is here again, and for the first time ever, I made an effort to watch all the Best Picture nominees before the big day. This also means that, for the first time, I have a clearer idea of who to pick in making my annual Academy Award winners wish list.

Of course, the roster of nominees isn’t without its share of eyebrow-raising upsets: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is up for Best Picture and Transformers: Dark of the Moon scored more nominations than Drive and The Ides of March combined.

Then again, I’m sure the ceremonies will also have its share of niceties.

For one thing, Billy Crystal‘s doing hosting duties again this year. After that sleepwalking misfire perpetuated by Anne Hathaway and James Franco last year, the Academy probably thought “The hell with trying to be hip, let’s revert to formula”. Although part of me wishes they still hired somebody new to liven up the proceedings, we all know Crystal (himself an 11th hour replacement for Eddie Murphy) is a pro.

We’ll see how he fares in his 9th hosting stint tomorrow.

Without further ado, here’s my Oscar 2012 Wish List:

BEST PICTURE

Odds are in favor of The Artist to win this major prize. In an era where CGI is slowly turning into the life-blood of movie-making, much to the ire of cinema purists, comes this exuberant, predominantly silent, black and white film that pays homage to talking cinema’s humble beginnings. By boldly ignoring the demands of commercialism and choosing instead to strip down to the basics of pure storytelling, this film doesn’t just define a generation. It celebrates the magic of cinema, which is what the Oscars is should be all about.

Strong Contenders: Of course, don’t dismiss Hugo as a potential upset. This dazzling 3D fantasy was a huge leap of faith for Martin Scorcese. And just like The Artist, it’s also a celebration of cinema’s glorious past. Same goes for Alexander Payne‘s The Descendants, a well-written, beautifully-acted drama that evokes every possible emotion. Tate Taylor‘s heart-wrenching The Help and Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris are also strong possibilities but both are handicapped by lack of nominations for directing and acting, respectively. And then, there’s also Moneyball. This riveting underdog tale is the first baseball movie to be up for Best Picture since 1989’s Field of Dreams. But if it scores a surprise homerun, it would be a major upset.

LONG SHOTS: Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life is visually stunning, but it divided audiences when it was released. Some liked the pseudo-experimental narrative, while others simply wondered what the hell was going on. War Horse galloped its way into moviegoers’ hearts, but is still far from being on the same league as Steven Spielberg‘s more iconic films. And speaking of not being on the same league, it still baffles us how Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close arguably Stephen Daldry‘s most manipulative work to date, managed to score a nod. Never, since 1963’s Cleopatra, has a Best Picture nominee been this critically lambasted and reviled. While it boasts a powerhouse cast, the film (just like the book it was based on) polarized audiences for trivializing a recent world tragedy. A dubious adjunct to the roster, at the expense of other worthy candidates like Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  

BEST DIRECTOR

Martin Scorsese surprised us this year. Known for his dark, violent, film-noiric past work, the director ventured out of his element and gave us something akin to a bedtime story. It was a risk that yielded incredible results and could very well earn the Oscar late-bloomer his second award.

Strong Contenders: Michel Hazanavicius transported us back to cinema’s glorious past, Alexander Payne tugged on our heartstrings, and Woody Allen reminded us of his heydayAny of those three directors would be worthy usurpers.

Long Shot: Terence Malick deserves brownie points for pushing the boundaries last year, but there’s possible backlash from Tree of Life haters should the Academy dare to give him the award.

BEST ACTOR 

For a performance that barely required him to speak, French actor Jean Dujardin was charming as faded silent film star George Valentin. I’m looking forward to him doing an impromptu tap dance onstage if he wins.

Close Contenders: Then again, don’t count George Clooney out just yet. His subtle but powerful portrayal of long-suffering patriarch Matt King in The Descendants earned him his fair share of praise and accolades. Ditto for Brad Pitt in Moneyball. And there’s also Gary Oldman, scoring his first (HIS FIRST!) Oscar nod for his chilling performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. What took you so long, Academy?

Long Shot: Demian Bichir came out of nowhere and overtook pre-Oscar favorites Michael Fassbender, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Gosling. Judging from the few clips I saw from A Better Life, his performance was impressive. But was he worth the gamble?

BEST ACTRESS 

It’s a tight race between two nominees this year, but I’m rooting for Viola Davis for her fiery portrayal of Aibileen Clark in The Help. In a role that could’ve easily been dismissed as stereotypical and cliche, Ms. Davis displayed incredible depth in her performance and brought a new perspective on the plight of African American maids during the 1960s. However, if Viola wins, it would be by a hair. Because…

Legitimate Threat: …she is up against the acting juggernaut who is Meryl Streep. Oddsmakers say her chameleon performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady might finally break her 29-year Oscar drought. It’s not exactly her best role in recent years, so whether or not it happens, depends on how generous the Academy is feeling.

Nominated at the Wrong Year: Kudos to Glenn Close and Michelle Williams (second nomination for 2 years in a row!) for their astounding performances in Albert Nobbs and My Week With Marilyn, respectively, but the race is just too tight this year. Same with Rooney Mara who was ethereally creepy in her breakthrough performance in The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.  So many talents, I don’t even know who to blame for bumping off  Tilda Swinton.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

My guess is that Christopher Plummer will make history this year as the oldest-ever winner in this category. His performance as a closeted gay father in Beginners had been an odds-on favorite since the start of the awards season. If he wins, he’d be the happiest octogenarian in the planet.

(Not so) Close contenders: Plummer’s most formidable challenger in this race (at least in my opinion) is Kenneth Brannagh as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn. Comedian Jonah Hill is a fresh, youthful addition to the roster for his serious turn in Moneyball, but still far from winning. Max von Sydow was one of the few redeeming factors in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. And he played a mute!

Long Shot:  I’m not sure if Nick Nolte (Warrior) was a worthy replacement for Albert Brooks‘ villainous turn in Drive.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Like Plummer, Octavia Spencer is the clear odds-on favorite to clinch this award as the feisty Minny Jackson in The HelpExpect yet another memorable, emotional speech if she wins. Oh, and chocolate pies for everybody! (To those who’ve seen the movie: I’m kidding, I’m kidding)

Distant runners-up: Giving Spencer a run for her money, if that’s even possible at this point, are her co-star Jessica Chastain as the delightful Celia Foote, Berenice Bejowho was a modern-day Cyd Charisse in The Artist, Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids (props to the Academy for recognizing a gross-out performance), and Janet McTeer AKA Albert Nobbs’ other gender bender.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

If Woody Allen doesn’t win Best Director, he sure has a clear shot at bringing home one of the screenwriting awards. Midnight in Paris is trademark Woody and I think it’s even in the same calibre as some of his finest work. The odds are on him – even if he doesn’t attend the ceremony.

Close Contenders: Only less than 10 words were uttered throughout The Artist, but the film is poetry in motion. Bridesmaids could be a potential surprise. A Separation is a lock for Best Foreign Language Film, but a long shot here, and so is Margin Call, sporting its only nomination.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The winning collaboration of Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash vividly brought to life the spirit of Kaui Hart Hemming’s novel and took us all to an emotional journey with The Descendants. The film faces tough competition in all other categories, but it’s a near-lock here.

Close Competitors: Let’s not forget though that Aaron Sorkin (last year’s winner for The Social Network) is nominated again this year for Moneyball, and the momentum is also strong for Hugo.

Long Shots: It’s an uphill battle in this category for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Ides of March (unfortunately the film’s sole nomination).

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE 

You can feel the dearth in this category this year. The only Pixar movie that would have been eligible was Cars 2 and it was a critical dud. I still can’t fathom why they left out The Adventures of Tintin , when it’s nominated for Best Original Score. My money’s on Rango in this one.

Long Shots: Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots were crowd-pleasers, but I don’t think the Academy is ready to crown yet another sequel or spin-off. No one has heard of nor seen A Cat in Paris and Chico and Rita, though they do look intriguing.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM 

A Separation from Iran is the clear favorite. After all, it’s also up for Best Original Screenplay. Other nominees that will try to thwart the odds are Bullhead (Belgium), Footnote (Israel), In Darkness (Poland) and Monsieur Lazhar (French-speaking Canada). To those who are wondering, the Philippine entry was Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank. While it’s a brilliant satirical portrait of the local indie film industry, the Academy probably wasn’t ready to recognize a title that reminded them of feces.

 Here are my choices for the rest of the categories:

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Ludovico Bource, The Artist

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Real in Rio” from Rio 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: The Tree of Life

BEST ART DIRECTION: Hugo

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: The Artist

BEST MAKE-UP: The Iron Lady 

BEST EDITING: The Artist

BEST SOUND EDITING: Hugo

BEST SOUND MIXING: Moneyball 

NOTE: I haven’t seen any of the nominees in the following categories, so my picks here are random guesses at best:

BEST DOCUMENTARY, LONG SUBJECT: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory 

BEST DOCUMENTARY, SHORT SUBJECT: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom 

BEST SHORT FILM, LIVE ACTION: Raju 

BEST SHORT FILM, ANIMATED:  The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

+++++++++++++++

All this Oscar blogging is making me nostalgic.

ETC Glitterati Party, 2008 

A Day of Whines and Roses

It goes without saying that being single is not the worst thing in the world. There are a lot of other means to fulfill yourself other than having a main squeeze. What is Valentine’s Day after all, but a capitalist attempt to part the blissfully partnered from their money and subject the rest of us to gridlocked traffic. Why limit the celebration of love to that orchestrated holiday when you can observe it all year round (Holy crap, that sounded bitter)?

But being the Happy Network that we are, we believe that everybody should be happy, every single day (A mindset that should not be exclusive to Juan Ponce Enrile, mind you). So last February 14, the New Media department scoured the Twitterverse for tweets from netizens kvetching about their single lives. And, boy, were they in for a surprise.

We instantly got in touch with them and spent practically the whole day tracking them down, travelling to their whereabouts and giving them roses – with a little help from some hired, fresh-faced models, no less.

Watch their reactions (and tweets) in this clip:

Belated obligatory Valentine’s greetings to everyone!

And as one of the happy singles put it in the video, celebrate love every day. 🙂

P.S. The opinions stated in the first paragraph don’t reflect that of the network’s. 😛 

7 Underrated Whitney Gems

We all know her hit ballads like I Will Always Love You,  Saving All My Love For You, and even the irresistibly sappy Greatest Love of All, but as we all know, Whitney’s repertoire has a lot more to offer. In commemoration of the great diva’s funeral today, here are 7 of her greatest albeit underrated singles:

“Hold Me” (Duet with Teddy Pendergrass)  – Whitney burst into the scene doing guest vocals for soul singer Teddy Pendergrass. This ballad was featured in Teddy’s album, “Love Language” in 1984 as well as Whitney’s eponymous first album making this, in effect, her debut single.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” – Whitney’s live Superbowl XXV rendition of the American National Anthem was so breathtaking, it became a megahit (understandably, only) in the U.S. Thus far, she is the only recording artist who broke the charts for putting her own spin on a national anthem.

Try doing that in the Philippines and you’ll get threatened with a lawsuit.

“Why Does it Hurt So Bad” – Heartbreak sucks. Especially when we all have to pretend we’ve moved on, when deep inside, we haven’t. Well. This song from the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack nailed it.

“Step by Step” – We’ve heard Whitney do better Dolly than Dolly. But did you know that she also did better Annie than Annie? This upbeat, more soulful take on an obscure Annie Lennox song was featured in “The Preacher’s Wife” soundtrack. Its music video gave birth to The Whitney Shoulder Bounce.

“My Love is Your Love”- The reggae-infused title track to Whitney’s 1999 album (her first after a decade of soundtrack work) featured the rap stylings of Wyclef Jean as well as an adorable vocal cameo by her then-6-year-old daughter Bobby Kristina. (“Sing, Mommy!”). And the “Amistad” reference? Brilliant. Just brilliant.

“Could I Have This Kiss Forever?” (Duet with Enrique Iglesias) –  Whitney forayed into Latin music with this steamy ballad from her Greatest Hits album. It was released as a single in 2000.

“Million Dollar Bill” – By the time “I Look To You” was released in 2009, most of us wondered: Can she still do it? Even when reports of her allegedly deteriorating voice kept plaguing the media. Somehow, this single gave us a glimmer of home that she’d be back in full swing. Alas, it was all downhill after that.

#KungMayMagnanakaw

Don’t you just wish that escaping sticky, perilous situations was as easy as shooting fireballs and transforming into superhuman beings?

Well, here’s a more decent alternative. PXC Commentator, Fight Analyst and MMA champ Erwin Tagle teaches us how to apply mixed martial arts techniques in practical self-defense in this 3-part instructional video series we produced to promote PXC 29. Watch and share!

 

 

REMINDER: As Mr. Tagle mentioned in the videos, martial arts techniques should only be your last resort. When push comes to shove, your best weapon is still presence of mind. Keep safe all the time! 

PXC 29 happens tonight (7pm) at the Ynares Sports Coliseum at Kapitolyo, Pasig with a live telecast (9pm) on AKTV. 

An iconic voice silenced

I’m having Michael Jackson flashbacks.

The circumstances were uncannily similar. I woke up, turned the TV on, flipped through the channels, stumbled upon CNN. Then I was jolted awake when I read the straightforward headline: “Whitney Houston Dead at 48”. My instant reaction was to double check if I was having one of those Inception moments and immediately searched online for additional news. And it’s true.

The world-famous pop singer was found lifeless in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel – tragically, on the eve of the 2012 Grammy Awards. Cause of death is still unknown.

It’s a known fact that Whitney had her share of inner demons. But say what you want about about her drug and alcohol addiction, her bizarre behavior, her drunken shenanigans, or her tumultuous marriage, that’s all irrelevant at this point.

Chances are, you were talking about Whitney only a few days ago or belting out (or butchering) one of her ballads in karaoke. She was more than a definitive diva. She’s a fixture in our collective consciousness.

It’s tragic to say goodbye to one of the world’s most powerful voices, especially on the eve of music’s biggest night. It’s like a timely reminder that true talent comes and goes, but its imprint lives on.

Farewell, Whitney Houston. The world thanks you.

Whitney Elizabeth Houston

August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012 

Bonus birthday wishes from a beauty queen

The closest thing I’ll have to a birthday surprise came during lunch today:

A completely spontaneous photo-op with Mafae Yunon-Belasco, who still looks every inch the stunning, foxy woman who represented our country in Miss World 2003 (She finished 5th).

She was seated next to our table in TGI Friday’s, Bonifacio High Street along with her hubby and two kids and it was my friend Barny who approached her and arranged this whole thing. 🙂

Here’s to more pleasant surprises today. Thanks, Barny! 😛

27

It’s my birthday. So please excuse this attempt at profundity.
When I was 12, I wanted to fast forward to 26. I don’t know why but for some reason back then, it seemed like a cool age to be. I thought I’d be more in control, living on my own. You know, independent. Now that I’m 27, I realized that I’m still no different from that wishful 12-year-old. I’m still overweight, still cartoonishly neurotic, and still trying to figure things out. (Stop me before I start to sound like the 4 Non-Blondes).
Not much has changed, really – save for my occasional pathetic attempt to grow a goatee.
Which is not to say that I didn’t have my share of learnings. In fact, here are 27 of them, some already previously incarnated as tweets and status messages. Either way, it won’t hurt to share them again and again:
  1. It’s not about the friends who’ve known you the longest. It’s about the friends who’ve always been there for you.
  2. You won’t always feel you’re the right fit. But whatever you do, don’t misrepresent yourself. Pretense is self-betrayal.
  3. There will always be people who don’t like you. But guess what? There are many more who do!
  4. You are entitled to your feelings. No one should make you feel otherwise.
  5. Pain is inevitable, but not permanent.
  6. Crying is an underrated and gravely misunderstood sign of strength.
  7. Make your passion your purpose.
  8. There are no difficulties in chasing your dreams. Only challenges.
  9. Go crazy once in a while. After all, the only people who use “crazy” in a derogatory manner are the plain and boring.
  10. Humor is golden.
  11. At times, so is solitude.
  12. Learn to see the beauty in the mundane.
  13. To live is to love and vice versa. Reciprocation notwithstanding, love is the foundation of our existence. It’s as involuntary and vital as breathing and heartbeat.
  14. Respect is the most basic form of honor that can be bestowed upon you. Earn it.
  15. Remember. An eye for an eye: Appreciate those who appreciate, value those who give value, and give relevance to those who make you feel relevant.
  16. Aspire to be a source of happiness, not just a source of convenience.
  17. Your academic standing won’t always determine how you’ll fare in life. It’s how you cultivate your talents and respond to opportunities that will make or break you.
  18. Be the life of the party.
  19. Don’t get hurt when people call you “spoiled” solely on the basis of what you have. “Spoiled” is a word often loosely used by the envious and resentful.
  20. Acknowledge your flaws but don’t let them hinder you.
  21. Embrace your idiosyncrasies. They make you stand out.
  22. Sometimes, the most spontaneous decisions turn out to be the most rewarding.
  23. Some mistakes are rectifiable, some are not. It takes courage to admit the former and self-forgiveness to move forward from the latter. Either way, always strive to redeem yourself.
  24. At the end of the day, it’s your family who will always support you.
  25. Never let go of your inner child.
  26. Pray.
  27. Chin up. Life doesn’t always suck.