Putukan at poetic shit: A review of Lorna.

There was this wonderful trick in the first sequence of Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s Lorna: It essentially summarized the story we were about it watch, but one will only realize it once the movie finishes. It also introduced the recurring metaphor for love used in the film. Bullets fired from guns were the modern-day Love arrows, and they left a bloody mess where they struck.

Lorna (2014) poster

Lorna was the story of one woman’s quest for love and the many men in her life: the ex-husband who left her, a foreign boyfriend, a returning old flame, and a charmer who pops up every so often. She was occasionally accompanied by two long-time friends, her son from her ex-husband, and a very randy housecat. The film had an impressive cast of actors, with Shamaine Buencamino as a very effective lead actress. Maria Isabel Lopez and Raquel Villavicencio were her two best friends; Ms. Lopez totally deserved her Best Supporting Actress win for playing the hilarious Elvie. Felix Roco was adorable as Lorna’s emocore son. Juan Rodrigo was refreshing as the guy with embarrassingly corny pick-up lines. Angel Aquino had a short, but scene-stealing appearance. And, of course, there was Lav Diaz.

Tangina, I love Lav Diaz.

Sigrid Bernardo is one of the probably few feminist filmmakers working right now, and Lorna had strong feminist themes. The beauty of it is how one won’t notice it at first; the feminism does not get in the way of entertainment. Lorna, just like her previous work, looked into the many facets of women’s lives, making them fully fleshed-out characters with histories and motivation. The roles women took for themselves were discussed, and the ideas of motherhood and womanhood examined through witty banter (typical of Sigrid’s screenplays) that combines heavy musings with humor. One of the few directors to consistently do so, Sigrid candidly presented women’s sexuality as a natural part of their being, not merely as a subject for jokes or titillation.

Sigrid is also a queer filmmaker. Unlike her previous film, however, Lorna was not about a gay character. There is a very minor queer subplot, although it might be one of the weaker aspects of the story. It felt underwritten and was explained as how a person might “change” which seems to send a message that sexual attraction is a choice. One of my main criticisms for the film were the inclusion of these intriguing plot points (another one was the backstory of Raquel Villavicencio’s character) which were not addressed in depth, making them feel like missed opportunities.

Another thing I can’t quite swallow is believing that Shamaine Buencamino (who is 49 years old) et al are a bunch of sixty-year old folks. This was perhaps lampshaded in the movie when Angel Aquino admitted within the story that she is supposedly fifty (fifty!) years old, but was told that she does not look fifty at all.

The movie had a delicious ending sequence where the character of Lorna, steaming while reading a romance novel in her favorite restaurant table, was surrounded by several couples making out. One of those couples were a pair of men (“Ano ba yan, puro mga bading,” exclaimed a man sitting behind us), the first to be shown. The whole sequence was played for comedy, but the inclusion of a gay couple in that shot was a subtle but strong statement on how love does not care for a person’s age nor gender.

Of monsters and men: A review of Godzilla.

Call it monster porn.

Like porn, there were plenty of slow, lingering scenes where you wonder where everything was headed. And several stacked prologues which slowly built the Godzilla universe, while wasting the screen time of Ken Watanabe.

The main fault of this Godzilla movie for me is how it’s filled with so many human characters which weren’t fully fleshed out, I couldn’t really sympathize with them.

Or maybe that was the movie’s statement. In the grand scheme of things, we are just annoying distractions in between giant fighting monsters.

But the movie was a visual treat: Tracking shots that emphasized how tiny we humans are. A motif of children’s faces seeing the impeding disaster. Wide angled shots of the path of destruction. Many of these scenes lacked sound, giving a detached and sometimes despairing air to what could be seen.

There was very little sexual fanservice. No shirtless men, despite the cute human protagonist who was not Ken Watanabe. Why did the movie allow Ken Watanabe to be a total wimp? That’s just wrong.

GODZILLA

Then, there were the monsters. The antagonists were reminiscent of one of the Angels in Evangelion: angular with two many legs. Godzilla itself was less dinosaur and more like its classic Japanese design. Where the movie lacked in human fanservice, it made up for it with monster fanservice, including giant monsters making out.

Like I said, monster porn.

The monster fight took a long time to happen, but when it did, this fanboy was squeeing with delight in the theater. And there was a moment when I nearly clapped.

Some people might complain about the movie narrative trying to cram too many plots and simply abandoning them while not contributing to any kind of resolution. And I agree. But I watched “Godzilla” for Godzilla. I was not disappointed.

A cockfight where everyone loses.

John, dissatisfied with his boyfriend, called it quits then hooked up with a girl. He decided he still loved his boyfriend, went back to him, while not exactly leaving his girlfriend, either.

This messed-up tangle between three people was the premise of “Cock”, currently staging at the Whitespace.

Love triangles are a staple of fiction. Even queer love triangles are not so uncommon, such as the recent social media-trending local soap, “My Husband’s Lover”. On paper, Cock seemed like it wasn’t showing anything new.

And in many ways, it didn’t — at least from the perspective of this gay man who has had several relationships and is barely over his last one. I had seen this before, I had lived this before, everything looked somewhat familiar.

But what Cock did show was often sadder, more painful, and more emotionally unforgiving than typical love triangle stories. Love hurts and lovers often hurt each other deeply. And this was a comedy.

Cast of Cock
The cast of ‘Cock’: Jenny Jamora, Topper Fabregas, Niccolo Manahan, and Audie Gemora.

John (Topper Fabregas), the adorably awkward man-child, recently discovered he might be bisexual. He loved his boyfriend but, after several years into the relationship, felt emotionally abused. he thought he found solace and satisfaction with a woman he recently met and started dating. He didn’t know who he was or what he liked, and he was trapped in between two lovers who wanted him for themselves.

M (Niccolo Manahan) was the sassy and sophisticated boyfriend. Articulate and condescending, he makes a show of how much he wanted John to go and leave him after discovering John’s affair, and yet he still meticulously prepared to fight for his man. His weapon was a cheesecake.

W (Jenny Jamora) was the gutsy girlfriend, and ballsier than any of the three men. She was assertive and caring, yet clingy to a man she had only known for a short time. It would be interesting to read someone review her character from a feminist perspective.

F (Audie Gemora) was M’s father, an unexpected visitor that further complicated an already tense dinner-slash-ultimate bitch fight between M and W. One of the minor things I didn’t like about the play was Mr Gemora’s Southern drawl that seemed to clash with the occasional reference to London, where the story was set.

The play had no props, no costume changes, and a very spartan set. Stripped of the usual theatrical spectacle, the audience was left with biting dialogue, interesting choreography, and an epic ham-on-ham battle. There was sex but no nudity; how that was played out was one of my favorite parts of the play.

There was one winner in this ultimate bitch fight. But in unraveling the tangle of dysfunctions, you know that in the end everyone lost something. A comedy with no happy ending.

With a play like Cock, you and the people you watch it with will pick which characters you related to best. Most of the friends I saw it with could identify with John.

I identified with M.

“Cock” will run until April 6 at Whitespace, 2314 Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati. Tickets are available through TicketWorld (8919999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph) or Red Turnip Theater (redturniptheater@gmail.com or facebook.com/RedTurnipTheater).

Haven’t we seen this before? Well, it doesn’t matter. (A review of ‘About Time’)

When it comes to it, ‘About Time’ is a typical coming-of-age misadventure story. With time travel.

A little older than a typical coming-of-age protagonist, Tim was a rather dorky young adult with an eccentric family. What he didn’t know is that his family also has a secret: all men can travel time. Each could go back to his past to alter some events. Time travel would only affect his immediate circumstances and would not make a huge dent on history.

What’s a boy with time-travel powers supposed to do? Why, get a girlfriend, of course.

About Time (2013)

Though formulaic and often predictable, ‘About Time’ is not without charm: A dorky-cute, sympathetic lead. Lots of lovely shots Cornwall. Quirky supporting characters. Hilarious repetitions of events. More lovely shots of Cornwall.

The rules of time travel were clearly established at the beginning of the story. The ability to rewind the past allowed for Tim to run awkwardly headlong into a situation and ‘correct’ it later if things go horribly wrong (which often does, poor guy).

Despite the movie initially making the audience think that Tim was merely another horny post-teen (well he was, actually), he was also shown as a very caring son and brother. His relationship with his father and sister was the most touching part of the movie, as if, halfway through the movie, the filmmakers eventually forgot about the very lovely Rachel McAdams.

You would expect soon enough that Tim would eventually use his ability for less self-centered reasons. Unfortunately, in Tim’s universe, good deeds very rarely go unpunished. Going back in time to correct something would eventually bring unexpected results.

But don’t worry, the movie poster spoiled it already: He will definitely get the girl.

The set-up and tone of ‘About Time’ reminded me of the anime movie ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ and the Italian movie ‘Marcello, Marcello’ (but without time travel) — generally cheerful, optimistic, and full of golden sunshine. It isn’t very original and is hardly ground-breaking; but it is a good movie to watch with a few close friends on a lazy afternoon.

In love with ‘her’.

Aside from Scarlett Johansson doing nothing but voice acting (for reasons I initially didn’t know about), I’ve heard some good buzz about ‘Her’ without actually explaining what the movie was about. I didn’t even immediately learn it was from Spike Jonze until after the credits. But there was enough talk about it that I asked my friend Ron that we watch it when he suggested a movie night.

Her (2013) poster

Some time in the future, programmers were about to develop the first artifical intelligence operating system. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who writes personal letters for other people but dealing with the dissolution of his marriage, installs the AI OS which called herself Samantha.

A grieving man living alone interacting with a personable AI with the voice of Scarlett Johansson will eventually evolve into a very interesting relationship.

When I described the premise to Spike, another friend, his reaction was “kind of like Chobits?” Yes, it’s kind of like Chobits without the Persocom body. The exploration of human relationships with artificial intelligence is explored beautifully in ‘Her’, showing the various complications that can arise in such a setup. In particular, the movie attempts to show what can happen if we enforce traditional ideas on how a relationship ‘should be’ to a totally novel setup.

Contrasting Theo and Samantha’s story are some subtle commentaries on how human interaction has degraded because of technology: In the future, people hire other people to write personal letters. People are often more involved with their personal gadgets to notice other people in the streets. Technology has altered how humans relate (or not) to each other, and yet humans still insist on certain old-fashioned expectations with their romantic partners.

Of course, ‘Her’ isn’t really showing how we humans could be in the future. It’s showing how we humans are like right now.

Stepping back from the story, Ron and I were impressed by the production design and retro appeal of the 1960s-inspired costumes. Daylight scenes, especially those outdoors, are typically bathed in golden light. It’s a shame how most people in the movie aren’t paying attention to how pretty the future is.

‘Her’ isn’t a date movie. It might not be good for someone who is reeling from an ended relationship (my curiosity bit me in the ass here). It is not for the naively romantic. ‘Her’ is a movie for someone who has experienced the bittersweet complexities of love and has realized how, oftentimes, the most meaningful love stories will have to end.

Don’t mind that last paragraph. Go watch it if you can.