Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One Savage Lady

The actress Ann Savage died in her sleep December 25. 

According to her manager, she had complications due to strokes. She was at a nursing home, and she was 87.

She debuted in 1943, and her career had been over in the mid-1950s. This year she had starred in Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg.

She has been known best for being the femme fatale in Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour (1945). She played a woman blackmailing the character played by Tom Neal. The movie reversed the traditional gender roles of its time. 

Detour has been enjoying a following, and I'm looking forward to seeing it myself. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

Please Give Her the Oscar

I have not seen any of the movies gunning for the next Academy Awards, but I'm aware of which ones have got the buzz.

My friends and I are hoping to see Leo in the running again, this time for Revolutionay Road.

Personally, I would like to see Kate Winslet bag an Oscar. She has two shots: one for the Road, and another for The Reader. She has better chances at the best supporting actress prize for The Reader. I have read the reviews, and it looks like one of those performances that's really a lead role, much like those of Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind, Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago and Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls.

She has been nominated previously for :

Sense and Sensibility, supporting actress, 1995

Titanic, lead actress, 1997

Iris, supporting actress, 2001

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, lead actress, 2004

Little Children, lead actress, 2006

Her credits also include Heavenly Creatures (1994), Quills (2000), and Finding Neverland (2004).

"I can't deny it would mean a huge deal. Whether that's going to happen ever in my life, of course, remains to be seen," said Winslet in an interview with David Germain.

"I'm a very good loser. I've actually got it down, I think. I have a formula I could sell. I'm 33 years old, for God's sake. I've been there five times before. It's been incredible every single time, and I'm nothing other than just genuinely amazed and truly, truly grateful to have had those moments in my life."

If she gets nominated for both roles and loses them, she will hold the record of most nominations without a win among actresses. (Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter each have six nods and no wins.) Which is okay, because they would be nominations six and seven for her, and that's a lot. But I would really like to see her win.


"Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting."

- Aldous Huxley

"I do think that the quality which makes a man want to write and be read is essentially a desire for self-exposure and is masochistic. Like one of those guys who has a compulsion to take his thing out and show it on the street."

- James Jones

"One of the least impressive liberties is the liberty to starve. This particular liberty is freely accorded to authors."

- Lord Goodman


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Just Another Fairy Tale

In 1993 Jane Campion became the first woman to win the best director prize at the Cannes International Film Festival. She received it for The Piano, her fourth feature.

In the early European colonization in the late 19th century, a Scottish woman named Ada McGrath was sent by her father to the wilds of New Zealand for an arranged marriage to Alisdair Stewart, a man she never met. She brings along with her her dear piano and her illegitimate daughter nine years of age.

Upon arrival, the piano is left on the beach because of expediency and economics.

Holly Hunter plays Ada in a controlled, sustained performance, and Anna Paquin plays her daughter. Paquin's performance is greatly aided by the editor Veronika Jenet. She makes her performance better and more shocking than it actually is. 

The movie itself has been called by a noted reviewer "a highly original fable."

How original is this, really? Let me count the ways.

Like all heroines of the fairy tale, Ada is an orphan. She does not have a mother anymore and her father is in a faraway land.

Like Rapunzel, she is a captive in a tower, locked up by the beast (Stewart). 

Who would rescue her, of course, but the knight in shining armor? Who comes in the form of George Baines (played by Harvey Keitel). We know he is Prince Charming because unlike Stewart, he does not buy any more land than he needs. Unlike the beast, he is one among the natives. 

When Stewart finds out Ada is having an affair, he severs her finger so she can no longer play the piano. Just like Ariel had to give up her voice to be with her man.   

The template for this story, then, is the fairy tale.

It is easy to see how The Piano can be considered a feminist allegory on female expression of the self. Ada chooses Baines not only because he is a strange man and therefore fascinating. She chooses him because he picked up the piano from the beach. He let her play it, and he would let her play any piece she wanted. He allowed her to earn it back.

"To be deaf. Awful, terrible."

"Actually, to tell you the whole truth, Mother says most people speak rubbish and it's not worth the listen."

"Well, that is a strong opinion."

"Aye. It's unholy."

It shows us that the piano had become her voice, and without it she cannot speak. Baines had given her voice back, and he listens to her, allows her to say whatever she'd like.

In a key scene, Stewart forces himself upon Ada and stops to find her speaking, even though her lips are not moving. It becomes clear, then, the many ways we have suppressed the woman's right to speak and be heard. We took their voice away, so they learned to speak in other languages. But if we only listened closely enough, they do have something to say, and it is well worth listening to. 

But when what we see is essentially a fairy tale we've seen many times before, how original does that make it, really?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Precccious

It's almost the end of the year and I have not yet watched The Lord of the Rings

It's been an annual tradition I've been keeping since 2004, and I don't want to start missing it this year.

What's keeping me are the crazy office schedules I, along with everybody else, have to follow.

My devotion cannot be stopped. There are four more days to 2008, and I will find time.

Maybe I ought to send a troll or a band of orcs to the manager.

Far Better

"There are far worse things awaiting man than death."

- Count Dracula

from Dracula (1931) 

Friday, December 26, 2008

On a Loop

Harlan Ellison, the fantasy writer, had won a suit claiming that a good part of The Terminator had been culled from The Outer Limits, a 1960s science fiction series.

Two of his acclaimed teleplays for the series seem to have given birth to the plot and the images  of the movie: "Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand."

Reports had it that the movie was too close to the episodes.

Coming up is another movie with a circular narrative: Christopher Nolan's Memento. It was ranked 100th in WGA's 101 Greatest Screenplays, just below The Wild Bunch and just above Notorious.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Not a Silent Day

The first celebration of Christmas was recorded in Rome in A.D. 336.

The song "Silent Night" was first performed on December 25, 1818 at the Church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria. It was written by Franz Guber and Father Joseph Mohr.

In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the eighth and last president of the Soviet Union.

Comedian WC Fields died in Pasadena, California on December 25, 1946. He was 66. 

Comedian Charles Chaplin died in Switzerland on December 25, 1977. He was 88. 

Singer James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul," died in Atlanta on December 25, 2006. He was 73.

This year,  actress Hanna Schygulla turns 65; Sissy Spacek, 59; and CCH Pounder, 56. Singer Jimmy Buffett is 62; Annie Lennox, 54; and Noel Hogan of The Cranberries, 37.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Big and Monstrous

Los Angeles in 2029 is depleted.

A cyborg is sent back through time to L.A. in 1984 to eliminate Sarah Connor, who will become the mother of the leader of the freedom fighters in the future.

This cyborg looks human, and he disposes everyone who gets in the way. Which is pretty much everyone. 

Kyle Reese, a human soldier, does the time travel as well to try and save her. He explains that where he came from, a nuclear war was waged by computers against the human race. It is his mission to ensure John Connor is born. He has no idea how big the role he is playing.

An action movie, science fiction and also a love story, this movie has terrific action and set pieces, smart and stylish. The Terminator remains one of the most formidable villains ever, one of the crowning accomplishments of Stan Winston. Many of the special effects now look dated, but they are still amazing: products of stop-motion animation and techniques before there was computer-generated imagery. Animatronics, models, miniatures and matte paintings.

Adam Greenberg's photography and Brad Fiedel's score help complete tech noir.

It is easy to underestimate James Cameron's achievement, especially because time has passed. 

At the time, Arnold had yet to earn his box office legs, and Cameron's own Piranha II: The Spawning did not hold promise for him.

The story itself courts turkey territory.

It was not a blockbuster when it was released in theaters, but it was a success in videotape and pay cable.

One of the conceits of the movie is how it used Arnold's features to great effect: the build, the accent, the facial expression all point to the anticipation of- uhm, robotic acting- but here, it is all perfectly fine. He spouts monosyllables and short phrases, no more than 15 lines, and he gets to convey malevolence.

Another is how Cameron has found a neat excuse for brief nudity: the time displacement machine.

Cameron has brought it all together. (Like the Terminator itself, Cameron is exacting and relentless. Legend has it that people who worked under him wore T-shirts that said: "You can't scare me. I work for James Cameron.")

And he likes putting them leading ladies through the wringer. He likes pitting them against big monsters: Here, a murderous machine that's virtually unstoppable. In Aliens, a mother predator, and in Titanic, a sinking ship with all its social conventions.

What does it say about him?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Better Than a Cat

"In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read.... It is not true that we only have one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish."

-  S.I. Hayakawa

"When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before."

- Clifton Fadiman

"I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves."

- E.M. Forster

Sharpening My Rapier

I know I have not been publishing movie reviews lately.

But it does not mean I have not been writing them. In fact, I have been writing five at the same time. They are long, and I'm still editing, so I hope you'd be able to read them soon.

You see, I'd be working 11.5-hour shifts again in the next two weeks. I know this is not normal, but call centers in the Philippines is not normal in the first place. I'm having two days off, and I'd spend them with my family and to catch up on my sleep.

I have also accumulated an indecent number of books I have yet to read. And last month I had already sworn off not buying books I don't think I can read with the little time I've got.

Here's three still sitting on my desk:

The Simpsons: One Step Beyond Forever (Seasons 13 & 14)

           edited by Jesse L. McCann; Harper, 2005

           I bought this in a bargain books shop in Sta. Mesa for 110 pesos. It's packed with jokes and colorful illustrations.

Reading Myself and Others by Philip Roth

          Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975 for P70.

          Essays by the author of Portnoy's Complaint. In the dedication page he wrote: 'To Saul Bellow, the "other" I have read from the beginning with the deepest pleasure and admiration.'

Notes on a Scandal screenplay based on the book by Zoe Heller

           Faber and Faber Limited, 2006 for P40

           with notes on the screenplay by the movie's screenwriter Patrick Marber (He also wrote Mike Nichols's Closer.)

The last two I also got in Sta. Mesa. Now if I could only find the time to read them.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Monday last week, The New Yorker published a 1905 essay by Mark Twain, the first time it sees print.

In "The Privilege of the Grave," Twain writes:

"We have charity for what the dead say. We may disapprove of what they say, but we do not insult them, we do not revile them, as knowing they cannot now defend themselves. If they should speak, what revelations there would be!"

A hundred and three years later, and it still stands true. (I'm not about to attack this nugget of wisdom from Twain, you know.)

I'd try to publish here in this blog my thoughts on many things, and I would appreciate it if you would post a comment here and there. You may disapprove, you may puke, and that will be okay. You can save the respect for later when I'm gone. Much later. I'm not going to give you pleasure by going out early. 

"Now there is hardly one of us but would dearly like to reveal these secrets of ours; we know we cannot do it in life, then why not do it from the grave, and have the satisfaction of it?"

I'm very much here, so why not engage me? For questions, clarifications, violent reactions or flattery, make them known here or to my e-mail address: pages_screens@ymail.com

My Commander

Today at the Misa de Gallo, the priest relayed the story of three mothers talking about their sons.

Mother Number One says her son has been practicing law for quite some time now. People have started calling him Your Honor.

Number Two has a son who has been made bishop, so he is now Your Eminence.

Three's son has turned so large, he is now a planet unto himself. When people see him,  they exclaim, "My God!"

Upon hearing this, my girlfriend turned to me and said, "At the office, they call me Bossing."

I didn't know I was dating Vic.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


"I should have given you to God the day you were born!"

- Margaret White

from Carrie (1976)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is He Lucky, or What?

Hugh Jackman, 40, has been tapped Friday to host the 81st Academy Awards.

This development comes as awards shows have been trying on new clothes. A few months ago, the Emmys had five reality-show hosts as masters-of-ceremonies. On the other hand, the Grammys added a live concert special to the announcement of the nominations. 

Results have been mixed. The Emmys received a beating because of the hosts, and this year's edition was one of the least-watched Emmys. The Grammys nomination special was fourth among prime-time shows.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has previously chosen new producers, a new director, a new music director, a new designer and it is even having a new accountant.

This is going to be an all-new Oscars this February 22. It is exciting and scary to see how things will turn out. The past few years we have seen Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres and Jon Stewart strut their stuff, and it is a wonder what Jackman will bring to the table. 

He had already been host to a few Tony Awards ceremonies. He even won an Emmy in 2005 for hosting the 58th annual Tony Awards. On the same night Tony, he got the best-actor prize for his role in the musical "The Boy from Oz."

He has done Broadway with distinction, so it is likely he will be doing songs and dances. Could he do stand-up monolgue? Will he?

Jackman has played Wolverine, he has worked with people such as Nolan and Kidman, and he had been nominated for a Golden Globe. This year People magazine named him "Sexiest Man Alive."  Now he can add Oscar host to his resume.

Somebody please stop him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Grind

"You don't have to suffer to be a poet.  Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone."

- John Ciardi

"A serious reviewer should have an ax to grind. If you don't, your judgements will appear ephemeral, casual, even indifferent. But when you have an ax to grind, it is essential that you should not know what it is, and neither should anyone else."

- Anatole Broyard

"The one thing I have learned about editing over the years is that you have to edit and publish out of your own tastes, enthusiasms, and concerns, and not out of notions or guesswork about what other people might like to read."

- Norman Cousins

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What the Bleep?

On Thursday, John McCain was back at Letterman. Dave asked him what the change of pace has been like since the busy campaign period. 

McCain joked:

"I don't want to talk about the bleeping campaign. Understand? If you think I'm going to go back to that bleeping situation, then bleep you."

Please Don't Yell

Actor Joe Pantoliano was diagnosed as being clinically depressed. He was relieved that the problem was identified and he was able to do something about it. 

He said: "Mental disease is the only thing you can be diagnosed with and get yelled at for having. Why is that?"

Yeah, why is that?

If I Were You

Saito: "Do you know what will happen to me if the bridge is not built on time? ... I'll have to kill myself. What would you do if you were me?"

Col. Nicholson: "I suppose if I were you, I'd have to kill myself...."

- from The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Warped by Time

Work has been murder these past few days.

I had been working 11.5-hour shifts and I'm ripe for a nonstop 15-hour sleep. This is mandated by the company, so everybody's stress levels and states of discontent are reaching new heights.

We're not Cylons, you know.

I've had some time, though, to do some recreation.

For one, I've started watching the fourth season of Futurama. The first episode involves the gang going back in time to Roswell in the 1940s. Fry must guard his grandfather's life or else he will change the course of history and he would cease to exist. Fry exercises his mission with so much zeal that his grandfather is killed. He thinks, If I killed my grandpa, how can I still be here? So he thinks his grandfather's girlfriend can't be his grandma, and proceeds to sleep with her. Consequently, he becomes his own grandfather and grandson at the same time.

This reminds me of The Terminator....

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Prime Target

Jay Leno is moving to NBC's prime time. Here's what the comics had to say about it this week: 

"A lot of people were shocked. They didn't know NBC still had a prime time."

- Jay Leno

"Welcome to the 'Late Show.' Still at 11:35."

-David Letterman

"Jay's getting a little older now. So 10 p.m. is kinda 'late night' for Jay."

-Craig Ferguson

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Power Almighty

If God is all-powerful, and if God is love, then:

I believe in love, the power almighty, greater than heaven and earth.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wanted: Victor/Victoria

It has been reported that Angelina Jolie will be paid $15 million, with backend, for an action movie. The lead part was supposed to go to Tom Cruise.

What does it say about the Hollywood state of affairs when a  role can be cast in either gender? You would think that a person's sex will determine a character's motivations and actions, but here it gets thrown out the window. 

What does it show a screenwriter when an entire script can be reconstituted to accommodate a big star? Economics sure makes it easier to rethink business demands, especially casting decisions.

What does it mean when a woman is cast to play what is essentially a man's role? Given the perennial complaints about the roles the women are getting, including being victims or sex objects, does this part make her a demon? a predator? 

More important, what does it tell us when a role meant for Tom Cruise can be given to a woman?

Friday, December 5, 2008


My day job is in a call center that houses a newspaper which caters to a certain state in the USA. 

Back in training, we were told never to use 'expiration date.' Supposedly the phrase does not exist ("There's no such word")  and is not used by US Americans (hello, Ms South Carolina) , and that what we should use is 'expiry date' or 'expire date.'

Which was news to me, because I had worked for an international credit card company in my previous call center. For two and a half years, we were all using 'expiration date' and nothing else. I never got corrected by anyone.

Three months later, a co-worker receives a call. She uses 'expiry date' and the subscriber asks, "You're not from here, are you? Where are you located?" She answers, "This call is being handled in Manila, Philippines."

"That's what I figured. 'Cause you know, we don't use that word here. It's expiration date."

Then he hangs up.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pro or Anti?

Winston Churchill said: "Any man under thirty who is not a liberal has no heart, and any man over thirty who is not a conservative has no brains."

Does this apply to our country?

How about this one:

"Any man under thirty who is not against the government has no heart, and any man over thirty who is not for the government has no brains."