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I'm vulnerable. I'm vulnerable (but) I am not a robot.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Disclaimer: I'm writing this in a less than well state. I'll probably see this movie again when I feel better. We'll see if anything changes then.

Slumdog Millionaire
Released: November 12, 2008 (US, Limited), RP: TBA
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

I expected a lot from this movie. I’ve heard such great reviews and it’s been hoarding awards left and right so I was sure that this would be the greatest movie ever. I wanted to see it but I never really knew what it was about until I finally saw it today.

This movie has got me so pleasantly surprised that I can’t even put my thoughts into words. The movie is a giant disguised as an elf. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, something wonderful happens. I feel like one of the extras from an elaborate Bollywood dance sequence. I’m left with nothing but stars in my eyes.

Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal Malik, an uneducated boy from India turned overnight celebrity as he lands a spot on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” He does exceptionally well and after 10 million rupees, the show breaks for the night and he is arrested for suspicion of fraud. After all, how could a poor boy from the slums know things that most educated people do not?

In an effort to prove his innocence, he tells the story of his childhood and how each moment in his life has somehow contributed to his answers on the show. In the end you get an increasingly layered tale of dreams, violence, sacrifice, love, forgiveness and life in the slums. Each character breathes life into the picture and much like in the game show, the audience is left with no choice but to sit and wait with bated breath for what will happen next.

Dev Patel is no stranger to most people. You may recognize him as Anwar Kharral in the British teen drama series Skins. In this movie, he is nothing like Kharral. He exudes a boyish charm that is just impossible to ignore. You get the feeling that you want him to succeed, no matter how impossible his challenges may be. As the movie explores more complicated plot lines, he is constantly the sane voice- one that audiences everywhere can relate to.

The children were wonderful, too. At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Freida Pinto thanked all the children in the movie. Ayush Mahesh Khedekar as young Jamal was absolutely adorable as were all the kids in the movie. They set up the characters in such a way that their adult counterparts didn’t have to act too hard to make the story believable.

I never really liked India. I’ve never really been there but based on the little stories and times I’ve seen it on TV, it doesn’t seem like such a nice place. After seeing this movie however, I’ve gotten to know the quirkier side of India. In Slumdog Millionaire, India is a character. It breathes, acts, and at times even sings to the rhythm of the story. This movie didn’t really feature India’s glamorous side. Instead, we see a more personal side, teeming with humanity. If only for that, I wouldn’t mind visiting this Asian country soon.

Over-all, it’s a beautiful movie. One I didn’t expect to enjoy but did nonetheless. At first glance, it just seems like another tale of rags to rajas but under the surface, there’s more. If you have ever believed in the power of dreams, this movie is for you.

no epiphanies this week

Ladies and gentlemen, a break from my usual weekly posts. No epiphanies this week. My brain is like a giant soup bowl. I pick at random images like they were little bits of mushrooms.

I’ve always seen myself as a strong person. Physically, I’m not as sickly as I once was. This has me believing that my body can take a lot of shit. Pushing my limits, I tested my body as I continued convincing myself that I needed to do 500 different things at the same time.

I was a very sickly kid. I remember I couldn’t really play with the kids from our neighborhood because I couldn’t keep up with them. By the time I reached puberty, I had already overcome asthma, dust allergies and a recurring case of tuberculosis.

I wonder if my Slumdog Millionaire review needs editing. With this stupid sickness, I’m not sure if I’m still making sense. I am writing this on my home computer. It’s 2:02 and I was supposed to be at work by now. Why am I here? I’m on sick leave. Boo.

I don’t get sick too often but when I do, I get so incapacitated it’s not even funny. My skin still smells like menthol and camphor. My nose is so blocked, my boogers have boogers. I can’t form straight sentences without coughing or deeply clearing my throat at least once. I hate it when I’m sick.

My biggest decision of the day: should I see a doctor or wait till I feel better?

My second biggest decision: should I run to the store for some pickles? I need pickles. With salt. Mmmm…

I find myself missing the strangest things. I didn’t even know I had a coffee addiction until I was told I couldn’t drink anymore. I miss coffee. I miss mundane conversations with friends. I miss tasting food instead of just swallowing it. I miss quiet times with my family. I miss work. I’m practically chained to my bed. Lukewarm water has become my only friend.

We must never push our limits. Sometimes, all we need is to stop and resume when everything’s better. Pushing our limits doesn’t really do anybody any good. You never know when you get a bad day and pushing your limits becomes one big pimple that suddenly pops. Don’t wait for something like that to happen. Rest if you must. Settle things before the molehill becomes a mountain.

I wish my brain and my fingers were at an agreement. My thoughts have become fevered. I think it’s high time I went back to bed.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Review: Changeling

Changeling
Released: May 20, 2008 (Cannes), October 24, 2008 (US), January 14, 2009 (RP)
Rating: ♥♥♥

I finally got to see Changeling last night. I wasn’t planning on seeing it but after watching the trailer, I got a little curious. It tells the story of Christine Collins, a single mother in the early 20’s. She is (believe it or not) a supervisor at a PT&T call center. One day, she is left with no choice but to leave her son at home to go to work. She says goodbye to Walter, not knowing that that would be the last time she would ever see him. After hours of overtime, she returns to an empty home and then the story truly begins. She contacts the police and after several months, they tell her that her son has been found in some city in Illinois. This new boy is shorter and looks nothing like Walter. She is adamant that there has been some kind of mistake.

Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins was bittersweet. You cannot deny that she is a beautiful actress but after seeing this movie, I started to wonder if she was worth all the hype. We all know and love her for her strong characters: Gia, Jane Smith, Lisa Rowe, Lara Croft and Original Sin’s Julia Russell. This movie, along with A Mighty Heart and Beyond Borders has me doubting her acting chops. Perhaps it’s just a case of stereotyping but for a woman with a gazillion children, she lacks the tenderness needed to play a distraught mother. When she finds her edge in the movie’s final moments, you sorta understand why they cast her here but I think it would’ve been a better film if they chose a more subdued actress. I would rather see Julianne Moore or Nicole Kidman find their edge at the film’s ending than to see Jolie’s watered down performance.

Jason Butler Harner as Gordon Northcott gave me chills. I think I speak for most people in the cinema that night that he is one creepy man. During his incarceration, an elderly man applauded from two rows behind me. “He deserves to die”, the man added and behind snickers, I agreed that Harner was aptly convincing in this role. I don’t think I’ve seen such a creepy execution since Björk in Lars Von Trier’s Dancer In The Dark. The Northcott angle was an interesting take on forgiveness and redemption and showed both Jolie and Harner in top form.

The movie itself was pretty interesting. As usual, Clint Eastwood has a way of making everything look a little gloomy but the story shines through. Online, I read about the stories that influenced the movie: the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, corruption in the LAPD, the disappearance of Walter Collins and the appearance of Alfred Hutchins, Jr., the boy pretending to be Walter. It was interesting how all these things were tied together. J. Michael Straczynski, the film’s writer spent a lot of time and effort researching and documenting these events to form the film’s screenplay. It is said that the script used in shooting the film was taken from Straczynski’s first draft of the film. At times, the lines seemed forced (saying “fuck you and the horse you rode in on.” does not spell empowerment) but for most of the important scenes, lines were hard-hitting and spot on.

Despite the fact that the movie has no real ending, over-all, it’s a good story. It’s a chilling, albeit outdated precautionary tale for single mothers and the dangers of overtime. Kidding aside, while its exploration of such complicated themes as police abuse and women’s rights could use some help, you could see that the thought was there. In the end, you learn that the story isn’t about motherhood but is instead a unique story of hope. The Collins story is one of the strangest and most poignant examples of hope and redemption and the cast and crew have done a great job putting this on the screen.

Photo Credit: Collins/Northcott from npr.org.

Friday, January 23, 2009

why i hate facebook

Love love love Christine from HappySlip. It's been ages since I've been to her site and so this was such a pleasant surprise.

She is so spot on about the many things that irritate me about Facebook. Especially love the part with the megaphone. If you wanna know why I don't have a Facebook account, watch this.

lesson learned

A friend of mine has one motto in life: you learn something new everyday. For the longest time, I didn’t agree. There are times when I question my growth. I feel like I’m not learning anything new. I sit antsy at my chair. My right leg taps an irregular beat and I find myself wondering just how green the other pastures are.

Scene: Nondescript café, waiting for a friend. I was listening to Aimee Mann, absorbing the sights of speeding cars and people busily killing time. Between songs, I could overhear two women in the opposite booth.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me that I can’t see.” said the first girl.

Or maybe you just let your walls down too quickly. Walls are there for a reason, you know.” Ooh. Harsh.

I shouldn’t have done half the things I did for that loser. And after everything I did, I still ended up exactly where I began: bitter and alone.” I felt bad for listening in but I couldn’t help it. There was a faint scent of smoke and broken hearts in the air.

One day, you’ll find that one person who will shake you to your core.” Oh great. A dreamer. “’Till then, try to focus on a love that’s constant.

At a time when I felt like there was nothing new left to learn, I got my first lesson that day. It’s funny because people always talk about how walls are bad and how it prohibits intimacy but we seldom hear about its positive effects. Yes, it keeps people out but sometimes, you meet people who need to stay out. I suppose I could’ve listened in some more on their conversation if I really wanted to know what horrible thing this guy did to her but the truth is I didn’t have to know to understand. We’ve all made mistakes like this in the past. All you can do when your walls start to crumble is build them back up. Hopefully, your new wall will be stronger and wider than the last and you’ll find yourself bigger, stronger and better.

My phone beeps and comes to life. Something’s come up and my friend’s going to be late. I was going to be late, too if I waited. Settling on a rain check, I picked up my stuff and left the two women still lost in conversation.

I arrived at work a little sweaty from walking. I needed some time by myself to think. I knew I was scheduled to take a test that day but every time I read the thirty page policy, my mind wandered elsewhere. I thought about movies I haven’t seen, people I’ve lost touch with, feelings and clothes that needed sorting. At work, I reminded myself repeatedly to study. In a space-out moment that felt like five seconds, I realized I was actually late for my test and I was still reading (nay staring) at the second page.

Think fast! There’s always a little PowerPoint presentation before the test. It’s really long but at least it would have everything I need to pass the test. I’ve passed all of the other policy certifications in the past. It’s been years since I last failed a test. What could go wrong?

I swear I watched that presentation like it was a premature baby in an incubator hanging on to sweet life but by the time the test started, it felt like the questions were in some alien language. I could only afford six mistakes if I wanted to pass. I finished the test two hours later with 13. To add to the humiliation, I was the first to fail in our department. I left the room in a hurry, stifling emotions that would not be silent.

I went back to the office, spoke to no one and tried to attract as little attention to myself as possible. I didn’t want to look sad. No one would ever know that I failed the darn test. Still, they read me like a book and I could see the sympathy in their eyes. I don’t want to talk about it. And so we didn’t.

I could take the easy road and blame my failure on fifty million things. I had too much on my plate. It’s been weeks since I last went to class. I’m still adjusting to the night shift. The questions were poorly written. This stupid policy had nothing to do with my job. The glare on my monitor was distracting. The other people were too noisy. I was really hungry. I didn’t get enough sleep. My coffee had too much cream. But if I were to be honest to myself, the blame was attributed to one simple fact: I did not study. And to think I said I had nothing new to learn. There I was with two lessons in one day. Life’s funny like that. Uneventful one day, surprising the next.

Although it’s so unlike me, I concede and agree that yes, we learn something new every day. Life’s full of little lessons and sometimes, we just have to fine-tune our antennas to pick up the raspy signal.

It’s 10AM. My body is calling for sleep. I sit idly, studying in the bright morning sunshine. Coffee in one hand, darn policy in the other, my left leg taps an irregular beat as I make sense of paragraphs, tables and flowcharts. For many people, the day has just begun. What lessons could life have in store for them today?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Possible Spoiler Alert: I know I’m probably the last person to see this movie but just in case you haven’t seen it, I suggest you come back after you do.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Released: December 25, 2008 (US), January 8, 2009 (RP)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

It is quite common to see a movie that tries to fit in a plethora of themes into two hours of film. It is not so common to see it done successfully. Every now and then though, a movie like this comes out. Though it seems we’re past the point where nothing that ever comes out seems new anymore, somebody somewhere manages to pull a refreshingly sweet story out of thin air.

I tried my best not to expect too much out of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Everyone knows when you expect too much out of a movie, you only set yourself up for failure. I pressed my palms to my ears and hummed whenever people talked about it and I hardly read any reviews for it. I wanted to appreciate the movie in the way that it was meant to be seen, untainted by any opinions that could influence mine. Still (with what little I could not filter out), I only heard praises for the movie. A bucket of White Cheese Popcorn in one hand and an open mind in the other, I watched the story of Benjamin Button come to life.

The movie is loosely based on a 1921 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Narrating is Caroline, a woman caring for her dying mother in the midst of Hurricane Katrina. Through postcards, pictures and an aging diary, she tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who lived his life backwards. Born an old man (with matching wrinkles and cataracts), he grows younger and younger as the movie progresses. Tied to his story is a dancer named Daisy Fuller. As logic has it, they will only be the same age at one point in their lives and they are forced to see their love through an ever changing age gap. They somehow manage to live through all the odds together, proving the existence of love to even the most jaded of the skeptics.

Ten years ago, I would’ve waited for this move to come out on video so I could watch all the good parts again, rewind it and write down all my favorite lines. Today, all you have to do is trust good old IMDB. Before I start with my review, here are a few of my favorite lines from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

“Your life is defined by its opportunities... even the ones you miss.”

“We're meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?”

“(To Caroline) For what it's worth, it's never too late, or in my case too early - to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit; stop whenever you want. You can change, or stay the same - there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

“Along the way you bump into people who make a dent on your life. Some people get struck by lightning. Some are born to sit by a river. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim the English Channel. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people can dance.”

This movie touches on so many different things and it amazed me how effortlessly these themes were woven together. War, youth, beauty, fatherhood, life, death and love all seem to work hand in hand like old friends meeting for lunch.

I last saw Brad Pitt in the Coen Brothers “comedy” Burn After Reading. He played an annoyingly dumb gym trainer caught in an ambitious ploy to blackmail an ex-CIA agent. Nothing about that movie was funny and the only thing I wanted to burn after was the crummy DVD I bought. Needless to say, I was really disappointed and I wondered if he had finally lost his edge.

In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, we see him in top form. It actually reminds me of the Brad Pitt of yore in movies like Legends of the Fall (also with Julia Ormond) and Interview with the Vampire except that now, he has a more mature and ripe air to him. Although the prosthetics in the movie were close to perfect, makeup can only do so much. It is his acting prowess that adds credibility to the story and makes the character come to life.

Another wonderful treat is Tilda Swinton who was also in Burn After Reading but is best remembered as the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia. In this movie, she is anything but cold in a brief but integral role as Elizabeth Abbott. When she finally reaches for her dream at age 67, I felt the dreamer in me come to life. It’s never too late to start living your life. (On a less serious note I must say, is it just me or does she look like an older, paler Cate Blanchett?)

Cate Blanchett is always a sight to behold. After seeing Notes on a Scandal, it became one of my favorite movies and she, one of my favorite actresses. In this movie, she totally breaks the mold. While there is no doubt she is a wonderful actress, you could say casting her might have gone against the stereotype. There are many wonderful actresses who could’ve been in this movie but it’s very clear why she is Benjamin’s Daisy. All at once she is strong and fragile, an innocent and a temptress, an enchanting paradox. She delivers lines and expressions with such breathtaking ease that for a minute you forget she is Cate and not Daisy- something not a lot of actresses can pull off.

The movie is close to three hours long but it still feels very short. It’s a beautiful story and by the time the end credits started rolling, I noticed there wasn’t a dry eye in the whole theater. It’s a movie I’d like to see again soon and I can only hope that this would be a nice preview to the kinds of movies this year has in store.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

shadowboxer

When I was about nine or ten, our school had a little play called “The Mixed-Up Chameleon.” It’s about a chameleon who was unhappy with himself and wanted to be like the other animals. He meets with many different animals and tries on their greatest attributes. After some time, he realizes that he’s lost his identity and that he no longer knew who he was. In the end, he learns that everyone’s unique and that he doesn’t have to be like the other animals to fit in.

Even then, I was a little ambitious and I wanted the title role. We were too young to have any form of acting edge over each other so our English and Chinese teachers decided on who would play who. The richest kid in school got to play the chameleon and I played his shadow. I had it coming, though. Everyone else was at least three shades whiter than me.

I convinced myself that playing Shadow was way better. Throughout the play, I would serve as the voice of reason and I would help that ignorant little lizard find his way home. Pretty soon, everybody wanted to play Shadow. Dressed in an all black jumpsuit and black face paint, I felt oh so cool.

As I got older, I told myself I should always be like the Shadow, unfazed by circumstances alien to me. I would be responsible, logical and true to myself. There was room for diversity in the jungle and I should always be aware that I don’t need to change for people to like me. Lately though, I see that the foundations of my childish philosophy have been slowly crumbling.

Over coffee, a friend of mine briefly commented on her latest impression of me. She meant well but she basically said I had the tendency of becoming like the people I hung out with. It was tantamount to me lacking a personality of my own and so I had to borrow from people around me. I was no longer Shadow. I had become the mixed-up chameleon.

I’ve got a lot of goals in my life. I suppose I didn’t realize that where ambition rises, a person can fall. It wasn’t an active effort- that much I can say. Looking at myself in the mirror, I’m not the same person I was when I first got here. Did I change to get ahead? Maybe. Did I change for the better? Your guess is as good as mine.

Lately, I find myself surrounded by people who I feel I can be myself with and the thought that I no longer know who I am terrifies me. It’s good to have ambitions. It’s lovely to have great friends. It’s wonderful to be at peace. Sometimes though, there’s just that lingering feeling that I didn’t do it in my own terms. There’s still plenty of time. If I start today, maybe I can start taking things into my own hands. My own personality. My own career path. My own me.

Just like the chameleon, I slowly disrobe in front of a waiting audience. I do not need the polar bear’s hide or the elephant's trunk. I can draw from the strength that is within me. I do not need the fish’s scales or the fox's wit. I do not need to look a certain way for people to like me. I do not need the bird’s wings because there are many ways to fly. Lastly, I do not need my Shadow’s gaze. I can find my way back on my own just fine. All it takes is a little time, a little patience, and a lot of good friends.



Postscript: Years later, I learned that there was no Shadow in the original book and that the chameleon found his way back on his own. Oh well.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

home


the sweet scent of freshly cut grass
the sound of a slight drizzle dancing on the roof
the familiar taste of hand-picked duhat
watching you fall into silent slumber
all these things remind me of home

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Review: Lust, Caution

Lust, Caution
Released: September 28, 2007 (US, limited)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Preliminary thoughts on Lust, Caution: I asked a friend from work what he thought of the movie and he said it plays like a typical Ang Lee film. It starts off slowly but builds to a stunning climax. After seeing it, I saw the truth in his review. I fell asleep somewhere in the middle of the film but when I woke up, I had my eyes fixed on the screen.

Lust, Caution is based on a late 70s short story by Eileen Chang and it's a thrilling tale of love, lust, jealousy, anger, and other complications. In the center of it all is Chia Chi, a drama club member thwarted into a wildly ambitious resistance-inspired assassination ploy against Mr. Yee, a high-ranking official of the government and a known national traitor.

The brilliant plan: transform her into this socialite complete with hair and wardrobe overhaul in an attempt to infiltrate Yee's circle. I'm not sure how it happened (this was the part where I fell asleep) but Chia Chi somehow becomes Yee's mistress and they continued to complicate the situation more with themes of violence, domination and submission. All at once, the characters are loved and hated and I find myself questioning my concept of right and wrong.

Tang Wei, who plays Chia Chi in the film, was reportedly chosen out of about 10,000 actresses. She has very little experience but she still managed to shine in an already overcrowded constellation. I read that her appearance in this film has lead to movie roles being canceled and commercial endorsers dropping at the last minute. I suppose China isn't very happy with the concept of 'glorifying traitors.' Now that she's migrated to Hong Kong, I hope to see more of her in the near future.

This household has always held Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in high regard. I super loved him in Hero, Infernal Affairs, In The Mood For Love, Happy Together, Chungking Express, and even the ridiculously meh 2046. I've always seen him as the poster-boy protagonist. That's why I thought it was silly when they cast him as an evil traitor. But after seeing Lust, Caution (and Confession of Pain), I saw that he was definitely the right choice. He brings a sort of silent-suffering into the equation, something I did not see coming and I cannot imagine anybody else playing Mr. Yee.

It's not a movie you would want to see with your grandparents or your conservative friends. Yes, there are very graphic scenes of violence and all that NC-17 stuff normally seen in nondescript European flicks. All I can say is all these scenes are integral to the story. Sometimes, a half-smile or a minute expression adds a whole new layer to this already multi-layered story and I could not believe they managed to cram it all into a single film. It's not something that I would want to see again in the near future but it was a treat nonetheless. A beautiful ode to love and all its forms, it truly is a must see for all lovers of film.

Review: Wanted

Wanted
Released: June 27, 2008
Rating: ♥♥

Dear Wanted producers,

What the hell were you thinking?! I do not have enough words to express my complete and utter disappointment after seeing this film and so instead, I offer you the following points:
  1. I last saw Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List. He played an old man who had a couple of things on his to-do list before he's dunzo. Before that, he was God to a lackluster Steve Carell in Evan Almighty. I'm not a fan but I always had some respect for him both as an actor and as a person. All that changed when I saw your film. In the future, please refrain from making nice older men do the following activities: cursing, shooting, gun-slinging, plotting, and/or conniving. It is very unbecoming and I'm not sure how many times I have to see The Bucket List to convince myself that Morgan Freeman is not evil incarnate.
  2. James McAvoy is a cooler version of Shia LaBeouf. I'll give you some points for putting him in this movie. It's nice to see him kick some ass, especially since I first saw him as Mr. Tumnus, the faun. I just really wish you gave him cooler lines. There are times where, I swear, he sounds like a Rambo-wannabe in a grotesque action b-movie from the eighties. What's the point of updating everything else when his lines are at record-breaking cheesy levels?!
  3. I haven't been as excited to see Angelina Jolie since 2006's Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Two years and five million children later, she finally accepts a role in a big-budget film. Again, perfect casting for this role but I just wish you gave her more things to do. She's a big star. Milk it.
  4. I fully understand your inclusion in this year's list of Yahoo!'s Most Ridiculous Movie Moments. Many comic books have been made into movies. Yes, they can be ridiculous. I've never seen so many people willingly wear so much leather. But a magic loom?! What the hell?! It could've been positioned better. Given enough bull, the movie-goer will buy almost anything. But there was not set-up, no anything to make it seem like the loom was cool. A loom is a loom. Unless you're a fashion designer, I doubt if a magic loom would every excite anybody.
I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy at all. Yes, there are fun moments in the film and the fight scenes were actually quite thrilling. In the end though, there is a lingering feeling of regret. I just wasted time and/or money to see a group of misguided assassins who take instructions from a magical binary-code speaking loom. I read somewhere that a sequel is in the works. I believe I speak for everybody when I say "no, thank you."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

i wanna

I sit here on the eve of my first anniversary at ePerformax. Looking back, it’s funny how things turned out. I can’t help but recall all the silly things that have happened to me. Now, it almost seems like I was just a spectator- a dark figure lurking in the background, watching myself going through the motions of a life. Slowly, I step out of my skin and into the background of January 6, 2008.

I can see myself getting ready for my first day of training. I’ve been idle for so long I couldn’t remember the last time I felt as excited to go to work. My past self cannot see me in this vision. Perhaps it’s all in the limitations of my imagination. Still, there I am, ironing my striped F&H shirt, wondering if my new officemates will like me. Hoping for the best, yes but still bracing myself for the worst.

You see, joining this company wasn’t exactly my most thought out decision. All I knew was I couldn’t stand to be stuck in the same routine day after day, pacifying angry customers in a thankless, hopeless loop. Leaving was my way of breaking the cycle. My resignation was the poor (and arguably crazy) man’s version of a vacation. No, wait. That’s not exactly true. Let me tell you why.

This time last year, I barely had two cents to rub together. I struggled to survive on P150 a day- my meal and transportation allowance. My officemates and I, determined to see the glass half full, held noodle parties at the cafeteria. Now, I get a different idea with each cup of Nissin Seafood noodles I see.

It’s funny now that I think about it but back then, I hid my shame with every cup of noodles I devoured. My new friends reassured me that there was nothing to be ashamed of and that once we certify out of DIET, we would start receiving our real salaries. Somehow, our shared poverty made us feel better about ourselves. Suddenly, things didn’t seem so bad.

You probably know how the rest of the story goes. The account I was put in eventually closed and the company gave me an opportunity I would never ever forget. I stand in stark contrast to my life last year. I went from trainee to trainer. I went from devouring noodles at the fifth to drinking enough coffee to redeem three and a half planners. Even my priorities have changed. I’m starting to develop this weird sickness called “career goals.” I find myself afflicted with this other thing called “ambition.” It’s strange how my steps don’t feel so aimless anymore.

Don’t get me wrong though. I still know where I came from. I know that I was extremely lucky to be promoted in such a short period of time. I also know that in general, the faster you rise, the harder you (could) fall and so I’ve become a steady mix of careful and thankful. Whenever I hear a trainee complaining about their allowance, I find myself smiling because I see myself in them. I wish to tell them that things will get better and that this phase ends sooner that you can say “certification bonus.” I wanna sit down with them and recount how gracious the company has been to someone like me who wouldn’t know a great career if it hit me in the face. I wanna tell them not to waste the opportunities they are given and to treasure the moments they spend with their new friends. I met some of the best people when I was in training and now that we don’t get to spend as much time with each other, I miss them very much. There are millions of things I wanna say to them. Someday, maybe I will.

And so while the road that led me here was careless and borderline stupid, I’m grateful that it has brought me to where I am today. To quasi-quote the truly quotable Melanie Marquez, sometimes you really can never can tell. Despite appearances, I say this now with complete honesty- I am completely and utterly happy with my life.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Review: Desperadas 2

DISCLAIMER: I can’t believe I’m even doing this. I was hoping to deny watching this movie but my resolution of publishing more posts included utilizing Mutliply’s Reviews section. I’m sure this post will probably send strange people to this blog via lost Google searches. But anyway, a resolution’s a resolution so here it is:

Desperadas 2
Released: December 25, 2008 (RP)
Rating: ♥

An embarrassing truth: Desperadas 2 was the first movie I saw in 2009 (in a real theater, at least). I’m about to embarrass myself even more. Desperadas 1 was the first movie I saw in 2008. Okay, forgive me while I scowl in shame.

With that out of the way, allow me to give me two cents on this movie. I must admit, the first movie was quite entertaining. I didn’t expect much and I came out strangely entertained. Rufa Mae Quinto as Patricia is a goddess and she completely carried this Sex and the City rip-off (no pun intended) to its bankable status. I guess I was a little excited to see the sequel, if only to hear her quote famous people in strange parts of the movie.

I can’t say I wasn’t utterly disappointed. This time around, the whole movie was (for lack of a better word) fugly. You get a few cheap laughs but that’s about it. I’m so glad we Filipinos are so tolerant because the racist quips and matapobre humor would probably not sit well with more sensitive countries. Take Iza Calzado for example. Extremely lucrative, advertising wise and she’s proven her worth as a reputable actress but then this movie has her character (Stephanie) equating NFA rice with poor quality and shamelessly plugging Nestlé yogurt all in one breath. Yes, it’s a known fact that NFA rice isn’t exactly delicious but you can’t deny the fact that it feeds many Filipinos and was a constant conversation topic when we had that rice shortage just a few months back.

I used to think Ruffa Gutierrez spoke perfect English until I saw this movie. In one scene, policemen came to (her character) Isabela’s house because of some ludicrous beauty product scandal (I kid you not). The policeman said her name in a thick regional accent to which she replied “yes that’s me pero mali yung pronounce-iation.” In her defense, the root word is “pronounce” and so it only follows that its noun form should be said in the same way. Hmmm... no. That’s not right, is it?

I used to have some respect for Ogie Alcasid. Sure, he left his beauty queen wife and kids for that slut but at least he was still entertaining. In Desperadas, he is Lugaluda, half-sister (yes, you read it: sister) to the four principal characters. He comes from a strange African island where people (apparently) speak in tongues on a regular basis. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they had him dancing strange “African” dances (with translator Joy Viado) in so many scenes, I lost count. But what ultimately doomed him was his kissing scene with BeBench winner Carlo Guevarra. It was pretty dark in the cinema but I’m pretty sure people cringed and covered as though Sadako herself came out of the screen.

Speaking of cringing, I don’t know who taught Marian Rivera to speak English but it seems she took her s’s and z’s too seriously.

Courtney: “parang wala naman akong ginawang underwear na ganyang zize”.

Someone please tell her to lay of the z’s before she starts sounding like Jollibee. Come to think of it, that might not be such a bad idea. She’s only got fifty million commercials, right? Donning the big bee in red costume might prove to be (dare I say it) entertaining.

All in all, if you expect to use even a tenth of your brain capacity then you’re only setting yourself up for failure. It’s a mildly entertaining movie just as long as you’re willing to overlook the over-the-top acting, the hideous stereotypes and an ending so hurried, it’ll make your head spin.

Review: The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass
Released: December 7, 2007 (US)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Scene: my sister and I went to the local pirates. We were panic-buying, absolutely positive that the holidays would leave us with a lot of idle time. She picked up a copy of The Golden Compass and even though I wasn’t exactly at-the-edge-of-my seat excited to watch it, there I was on New Year’s Day watching it.

Over-all, I was pleasantly surprised with the movie. I wasn’t expecting much but it turned out to be very interesting. The movie is set in a world that runs parallel with our own. In our world, our souls are inside our body. In their world, souls take the shape of animals called dæmons. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this idea before but it was really amazing to see the people’s souls come to life in the form of tigers, cats, birds, monkeys and other animals.

The cast was equally interesting. Daniel Craig, in my opinion, is one the best James Bonds ever (possibly second only to Sean Connery) and since I’ve only seen him in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Sylvia (Plath biopic), I was eager to see more of his acting range. He didn’t disappoint me. His character, Lord Asriel, wasn’t the focus of the movie but he stole the scene each time he was in the frame.

Nicole Kidman and I have a strange relationship. Yes, Moulin Rouge and The Stepford Wives are some of my favorite movies. I felt she was absolutely stunning as an objective voice amidst programmed housewives and a dying courtesan but then again there are some movies where she wasn’t exactly stunning. There was that mess The Human Stain and that hapless attempt at remaking Bewitched but the best example would probably be recent box-office bomb Australia. I haven’t seen it but so far the reviews have not been pretty. I’m not completely sold on her performance in The Golden Compass but there are scenes that I really like. As Marisa Coulter, she’s got the I’m-so-pretty-I’m-deranged act down pat and her performance was adequately convincing, making her pretty easy to hate.

But the real star of the movie was child actress Dakota Blue Richards. She reminds me of her namesake Dakota Fanning or a female Haley Joel Osment circa Pay It Forward. As Lyra Belacqua, she goes through a lot in this movie and the whole time my heart just went out to her each time the story brought her challenge after challenge after challenge. I hope to see more of this kid soon.

A nice little treat was Eva Green as Serafina Pekkala, the queen of the witches. James Bond fans will remember her as beautiful yet ultimately doomed Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. As usual, her entire body acts with her. I first saw her in the Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. I swear, when she acts it seems like her eyes and her hair have their own silent dialogue. I’m forever amazed at this woman.

Over-all, it was an interesting story. It ends inconclusively and I’ll be sure to catch the next installment as soon as it comes out (and if they ever start making it).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

auld lang syne

It seems I’ve been getting epiphanies and realizations from introspecting on a weekly basis. It’s strange that at a time when people left and right seem to be introspecting, I could not do the same. I was thinking of what to put on this week’s post when I found myself drawing a blank. I couldn’t figure out what to write. I was bored and online and in the feeble hope of summarizing this year, I decided to read some of ’08 posts.

This year, I experienced miscellaneous highs and lows. It feels nice, typing that sentence knowing that I somehow made it through most, if not all the challenges this year. That being said, I couldn’t help but wonder: am I still the same person I was last year?

I found a picture in my old phone’s memory card. I was testing my (then new) camera and it was dated New Year’s Day ’08. I remember that day with such vivid clarity, despite the fact that the metropolis was enveloped in thick smoke. It was five days after I resigned from JPMorgan Chase. I was unemployed, uncertain of my future, and completely dependent on my family. I didn’t really say much then to anybody but deep inside I felt like I was missing some phantom limb or something.

My gambles paid off though. I jumped into ePerformax, not knowing what the future held for me. I was in a repetitive but relatively stress free account and I had plenty of new friends who made me feel like I was me again. I learned to smile again and actually mean it. Four months later, I was taken to the next level. I had the opportunity to mix my two worlds: my call center world and my education world. Although it hasn’t been easy, being a trainer has certainly changed my life. I felt like I had a purpose again, like I was needed again and it felt really good. That’s something I’m really grateful for this year: a great career.

There were times I missed my old friends but I started making new ones. These people have seen me at my best and at my worst but still continue to show nothing but love for me. I still see my old friends every now and then. It’s wonderful how we make time for each other when we can. My friends have pulled me out of the dark several times this year and so that’s another thing that I am grateful for: friendship.

This year, I also reacquainted myself with the blogging world. For the longest time, I was just an occasional poster. Now I post entries on a weekly basis. It feels nice to have an outlet again. My blog is home to all the thoughts in my head that no one really wants to hear. That’s another thing that I am grateful for: expression.

All in all, there are many things to be grateful for and it’s safe to say that I am incredibly blessed. Despite that, I know that there are some things I want to do in 2009. They’re not called New Year’s Resolutions for nothing.

I weighed myself today (after avoiding scales for months) and realized that I’m at my heaviest. It will be hard, especially knowing that North Park’s Lechon Macau is just a phone call away but I know I can do it. I won’t diet like I did in the past. It’s unhealthy and takes too much effort. This year, I’ll probably consider professional help.

During my year-end appraisal at work, I had to talk about all the stuff that I considered my weaknesses. My boss couldn’t think of anything (he hasn’t observed me and I didn’t want to say it) but I know that there are still many, many things that I do not know. I want to learn all that I can and I want to be the best that I can be.

On a spiritual level, I want to know God more. I have been a Christian ever since I can remember and I don’t want to be just a seat-filler in church. I want to feel Him and understand Him and have a personal relationship with Him. If it kills me, I will know Him more.

On a romantic level, I humbly accept that I’m not getting any younger and that I should probably open myself to more opportunities. Yes, there are things that stand in the way and issues that I need to work out but once all the proverbial wrinkles have been ironed out, I hope to find The One.

As a writer, I want to take this blog to the next level. I want to write about things that interest me, things that make me happy, things that make me cry. I want to be as honest as possible when I write and hopefully, I’ll get over that stupid block in my head that keeps me from writing. I see big things for my blog in 2009 so keep posted!

Over-all, I’m really excited for this year. There are so many things that I want to do and I’m still full of that all too familiar hope that life is what you make of it. Only time will tell if my resolutions will come true. In the meantime, all I can do is sit and wait and take tiny steps into the future.

I hope you all had wonderful celebrations in your respective dwellings and from the bottom of my heart, I wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


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