Kingsmen: a review

Kingsmen: The Secret Service is one of those films whose sole reason for being is to entertain. Of course a cultural critic seated in the corner will argue that much of the movie will go to waste if it’s left uninvestigated and its cultural significance unread. But sitting there on a Saturday night among the tired middle class only wanting to escape and forget for a couple of hours the dreariness of the weekday, a 9-5 worker cannot be asked more than to laugh, be amazed, and marvel at the actions materializing on screen.

It is a fun movie to watch. It asks nothing from the members of the audience but to make themselves comfortable in their smelly cinema seats while they hold a cup of extra-large Coke with their left hand and their other hands drowned mercilessly in a bucket of buttered popcorn and then to sit agape at the fast-paced plot and the almost likable characters outwitting and outmaneuvering each other.

This post, however, is not a review of the movie. Neither is this a cultural reading of the entire exercise of cinema-viewing-on-a-weekend-by-the-tired-middle-to-lower-middle-class.

This is a non-post masquerading as a legit post about a movie that is fun but empty. In a sense.

This is an empty post written to fill a space that would have been better left empty but is filled anyway because of the writer’s hubris and disdain for empty space and silence.

Because in the age when everyone is expected to talk, endlessly at times, not say anything is being treacherous to one’s kind.

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On watching Her

her

It’s one of the saddest movies we’ve watched together. We were constantly looking at each other the whole time, giving the other a funny smirk, because of the absurdity of the scenes and the lines. They were absurd not because they’re improbable but because they’re all too possible. We vowed not to live long enough to see that day coming. I am meant for the run-of-the-mill kind of romance.

But Her seems oh too real. It’s set in the future, but it’s a future that’s not very far away from now. With the collapse of the more visceral type relationships, it’s not not easy to imagine myself one day falling in love with that OS-controlled sonorous voice emanating from an earpiece who learns from my every input.

It’s chilling. Yes. But it’s at the same time dripping with melancholia.

Kalahating taon (half of a year)

After more than a half-year, I am still as madly (if not more madly) in love (enamored perhaps) with babe as the first time I saw that fluttering soul in black at a hotel in Ortigas more than six months ago. It occurred to me that calling it ‘6th monthsary (cringing while typing this)’ relegates our union into something of little significance; this may lead you into thinking that I am appropriating too much weight on something as young and as unproven as ours by describing the length ‘kalahating taon‘ instead of the more neutral ‘six months’, probably I am. What makes being in love one of the greatest byproducts of human evolution, though, is the blindness it bestows upon smitten individuals, a beautiful kind of blindness that allows them to see the hidden that is more breath-taking than the corporeal, and the dementia that skews their perception of time and temporality.

The half-year feels like we’ve only spent less than a week together; the fleetingness of the bedtime conversations, dinners, or the precious silence between us while we look at each other’s face makes us look forward to the next time we’ll be seeing each other again.

And the world becomes merely incidental.

Framed: the Fox News Journalism

The early years of the 21st century is marked with a sense of insecurity both by the individual and the state. No one feels safe because of the threat of terrorism that is perpetrated by groups who fight for reasons of ideology, religion, or for plain criminal intent. The state, however, also made use of terrorism to maintain its own interest which it cloaks surreptitiously using legitimate justification such as the utilization of war to preserve national security and protection of its citizens but by putting in peril lives of people in places where it conducts operations to fight the supposed terrorists.

A discussion on terrorism and how it influences the consciousness of the people who live in this period in history is incomplete without the inclusion of the media in the formula. Terrorism should then be discussed on a broader discourse platform. This can only be done if the role of media in depicting real-time news scenes and the constant replaying of these scenes before billions of media consumers all over the world is thoroughly considered and rigorously peered into.

In the Philippines, the people’s conception and opinion of terrorism is shaped mostly by the far-reaching and intensely democratized television. It is interesting to note that Filipinos, at least in general, empathize with the United States and are supportive of the actions made by the US against Iraq, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups in the Middle East. These international terrorist groups turned out to have strong connection with other terrorist organizations in the country, specifically the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah.  Despite the unpopularity of American intervention in Iraq among Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines remains a loyal ally of the US in this fight. Opinion polls conducted during the height of the war against terror declared by the Bush administration also indicates that most Filipinos are supportive of the deployment of American troop in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This popular opinion during the time came about, although direct causality is difficult to establish, when local media started using film clips syndicated from their media partners in the United States, specifically Fox News Channel, which provided local TV networks with videos that were taken directly from the war zone. In fact, the country’s biggest network, ABS-CBN, got most of its video from the Channel.

Because media outfits in the Philippines syndicated film clips gathered by the American news channel, these clips which replayed infinitely quenched the thirst of the people for information about the place where their loved ones are employed as contract workers. But this did not come without a price—the Filipino nation became an avid supporter of the Bush administration’s rabid war against terror. The nation accepted without question the prevailing idea at the time: “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorist.” No one question the assumption and the possibility of the existence of other perspectives.  And the people, at least the public in general, swallowed the agenda that the rightist Fox Channel advocated—that is, the perpetuation of the war waged in Iraq.

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, a documentary film by the director Robert Greenwald, criticizes the type of journalism espoused by the Fox News Channel headed by the media mogul who owns the network, Rupert Murdoch. The documentary asserts that Fox is biased toward extreme right lines in Washington that strongly support the war waged in Iraq. This predisposed leaning of the network conspicuously runs in opposition to the channel’s claim of fairness and balance.

The one-hour-and-a-half film, which was unfortunately not released in cinemas, examines the expansion of Murdoch clout in the American and global media industry, and how this strong presence eventually led to a concentration of media ownership in his hands thereby leading to the infringement of press freedom and curtailment of objectivity—values people in the industry hold with utmost value.

It will be helpful to use a framework in understanding the role of Fox News Channel in creating the shared consciousness of the audience and how the use of these clips that were syndicated by different media outfits all over the world, the Philippines including, also affected the prevailing popular opinion about the war in those countries.

The idea of ‘news frames’ refers to the interpretive structures that journalist use to set particular events within their broader context (Norris et al 10). The essence of framing is selection that will give priority to some facts, images, or development over others, thereby promoting one particular interpretation of events (11).

Through frames, apparently scattered and diverse events are understood within regular patterns. Without knowing much, if anything, about the particular people, groups, issues, or even places involved, the terrorist and anti-terrorist frame allows us to quickly sort out, interpret, categorize, and evaluate these conflicts. In international affairs, framing serves several functions by highlighting certain events as international problems that affect American interests, identifying and explaining the source of any security threat, and offering recommendations for particular policy solutions designed to overcome these problems.

The use of terrorism frame serves several functions by linking together disparate, almost unrelated facts, events and leaders and also by naming perpetrators, identifying victims, and attributing blame. On the other hand, it can also function to forward an agenda that serve the interest of the people who control the media organization.

Outfoxed fully captured, although in a rather prejudiced fashion, this blatant use of framing by the Fox News Channel through Greenwald’s careful utilization of the different ‘news frames’ that have been a result of careful documentation resulting in a film that is as telling as it is harrowing and that would pin the channel firmly to the ground for its lack of independence and obvious bias.

However, the film also erred in one, major aspect. It failed to get the side of the Channel as well as that of Murdoch. It would have been more effective had it attempted to erase any feel of propaganda that enmeshed it all throughout. It is a victim of the very problematique it aimed to critique. This lack of balance in reporting diminishes it into a card-stacking propaganda material aimed at discrediting the already discreditable Fox News Channel.

__________

Framing Terrorism the News Media, the Government and the Public. Pipa Norris, Montague Kern, and Marion Just, eds. New York: Routledge 2003. 10-11

Hammond, Philip. Media, War, and Postmodernity. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2007. 46

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Robert Greenwald director. Film documentary. Brave New Films.

‘Dabadaba: Dumangas 2010’

A friend of a friend and winner of several Palanca, Peter Solis Nery, is now beginning to venture into short film making. Click here to watch his 6-minute picture shot in his hometown, Dumangas, Iloilo.

Captured scene taken from http://www.gigsilonggo.com

La Teta Asustada (The Milk of Sorrow)

Sometimes, the beauty in something strange lies on the fact that it defies comprehension, shameful as it is on my part as a moviegoer to accept, but I failed to fully understand the film despite its stark simplicity. The paradox is, the closer an idea or a thought approaches simplicity, the more profound it becomes, the more it evades understanding.

A week after watching the movie, I still could not understand it, still could not encapsulate the theme inside a convenient, boldly-outlined thought bubble. And that’s after a careful reflection! The aesthetics of the film La Teta Asustada (English title is The Milk of Sorrow, but literally “The Frightened Teat”) is an ‘allegorical’ one as it was referred to in the brochure released by Instituto Cervantes in Manila during its 9th Pelicola (Spanish Film Festival).

And to compound matters, I only have Wikipedia to help me situate the film in its context. This Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture nominated film in 2009 by the Peruvian director Claudia Llosa, which has a period feel in it, probably caused by the sepia filter or the general mood and its nuanced sadness, begins with a melodious song sung by an old woman. Eventually, the audience is confronted with a disturbing lyrics and bitterness of a dying woman’s heart who has been raped in front of her husband and was forced by her rapists to eat her dead husband’s penis.

This is a beautiful film that tackles the result of the atrocities of the 12-year war in Peru on the individual–especially women as well as their children who were caught between the warring government and the rebel Maoist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). The film at first seems distended, unrelated vignettes of Peruvian society but these parts eventually form into its cohesive one-ness that center on Fausta (Magaly Solier).

The storytelling devices used in the movie are odd, sometimes approaching to scandalous hilarity, but there is nothing laughable about the film. The potato Fausta inserts in her vagina because of her fear of sex, and consequently, the fear she has of men, and the difficulties she has to go through just to bury her mummified mother, all these are reflections of her solitude and unexpressed sadness caused by the fear ingrained in her by her mother through her breast milk (but more through her disquieting, angry songs) while she was growing up.

While Fausta silently confronts the shadows that lurk in her psyche, the setting, the Peruvian capital Lima and its outskirts seem to have moved on, fully recovered, and free from any signs of the a painful past. This contradiction, the contrast between the bleak landscape and the beautiful Fausta, the happy people and the deeply but quietly fearful Fausta all created a film that haunts, that leaves a bitter aftertaste, but that gives its audience a better understanding of unknown realities hard to understand, much less confront.

Llosa kept herself from going into the realm of hard-core psychologizing by giving the audience only the surface to rub, but by so doing penetrating the depth of Fausta’s fears and the mysterious terrains of her mind.

I may not have fully understood the film until now, which I shamefully admit, but that’s where I think the reason why I find this film beautiful and poetic.

Worse than a stupid film for stupid people

A film is judged based on multifarious, sometimes unclear, criteria, as, however we look at it and attempt to make the language of ‘reading’ sound elegant, any judgment that has to do with art will bound to be a judgment that has to do with taste, or at least the taste of people who control power or those with hegemonic interests, as my Soc Sci teacher at UP indulgently referred to these.

Despite agreed upon universals  such as believable narrative, motivated acting, clear direction, and seamless editing, most aspects of the criteria are genre-specific. Some people who are not schooled in film-making or film analysis, like this writer for instance, rely on more primitive, almost instinctual means, to judge whether a film is good or not. No, this is already too lofty. Say, whether a film is able to achieve its objects or failed unequivocally.

We working-class people, who work ourselves to death from Monday to Friday, only look forward to a Friday night of senseless entertainment, to feed our need to escape from our boring and tiring existence, much like the Russian in the 1800s who drown themselves in vats of vodkas after a day of plowing the fields of their landlords. People like us do not demand much from the films we watch. A good laugh here and there that would help us forget, for an hour and thirty minutes or so, how we are oppressed by the prevailing societal and economic systems, is but all we ask from a movie we paid 160 pesos (4 USD) to watch. But I guess, this oppression we sustain in workplace, forgive my very Marxist tone, is extended beyond its walls.

Mamarazzi is directed by Joel Lamangan and starred by the most bankable, to use the term of some media pundits, comedy actress of present, Eugene Domingo. It is a story of Violy, an owner of a funeral parlor who has a triplets born out of wedlock and the conflict that arises when the supposed father of her children resurfaces one day. To sum up, Mamarazzi is a film of loosely sewn parts, a comedy of the worst sort, a none sense parading to address social issues like death, parenthood, and homosexuality, which must have been the director’s suggestion, utilizing wry comedy in its unintellectual sense.

This film reflects Joel Lamangan’s decline as movie director. To say the least, he is overrated. And this film shows without doubt his ineptitude as a director. Lamangan ruined the film with his sloppy and pretentious direction. The camera shots are unvarying and ugly, the acting is uninteresting, and all the rest seems to be forced fed on movie goers. But what is most enraging is the fact that the film is not funny, at all.

We patiently sat in front of the screen waiting for something to laugh about. That was the most we tired members of the proletariat expected from our Friday-night movie.

It was, however, clear after fifteen minutes of watching Domingo and the rest of the cast trying their best hard to make the audience laugh that Mamarazzi has got virtually no story to tell. So we the pitiable audience dope ourselves in believing that a slapstick act or a punchline is on its way. A handful made it, but most didn’t.

Yes, I am certainly aware of the assumption. This is a stupid film for stupid people, but had this been the premise, then the director should have gone all the way down the slope of senselessness, without any half-baked commentaries on issues that he feels strongly about, he being an ‘activist director’. I want my movie, if it has to be stupid, to be plainly stupid. The condescension of the director to the intellect of the viewers enrages me.

After coming out from the cinema, I realized I was robbed with my hard-earned 160 pesos.