Saturday, November 18, 2017


After reading many of the searing reviews of "Justice League" three days ago, I went to the cinema to watch the movie for myself, with the excitement of a trip to the dentist. You'd go anyway even if you know you'd end up getting hurt because you've been through it all. But, boy, was I surprised. I liked it from start to finish. "Justice League", directed by Zack Snyder, who I think from now on should be a cinematographer instead, has the director’s staple sins: the addiction to slow-motion, the painfully obvious male gaze (do we really have to see Diana’s behind when people are having a conversation?), the third act that always falls into the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) movie rote of unsubtle CGI spectacle. Yes, there are hurried jumps from one scene to another, typical of a Snyder attention span, but I don’t quite agree with the incoherence complaint. I think it’s a sentiment that’s overblown, attributed to the frustration to finally see a great DC movie (next to Wonder Woman and Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy)—especially a Justice League movie—only to end up not being rewarded with one’s expectations. In fact, the movie is the most coherent in all DCEU movies in that it has the most simplistic story to tell. It’s so simple you can it sum it up in one sentence: Bruce and Diana have to round up a team to prevent three magical boxes from merging and stop an invasion that would literally demolish the human world. Each of the team has enough character this time—not just grim and brooding. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman remains a wonder. She is a delight in every scene. Ezra Miller’s the Flash and Jason Momoa’s (ultra-scruffy) Aquaman got me looking forward to their solo outings. Cyborg and Batman though looked tired all the time, I feel sorry for them. As for Superman…(?) The dynamics here reminded me of the 90’s Bruce Timm Justice League animated series on Cartoon Network wherein its unsophistication makes it charming. It is quite refreshing, too, compared to the lofty mythologizing, heavy-handed philosophical musings of the previous Snyder-DC films (let’s forget about Ayer’s “Suicide Squad”). Even Danny Elfman’s score goes for the classics, closely honing on John Williams’ Superman theme and his very own Tim Burton-Batman theme. But, of course, he manages to slip in there Hans Zimmer’s now iconic piano tinkling for Superman and electric cello bursts for Wonder Woman, and I do not really mind. When I left the cinema, I totally forgot what the critics had said. I had an awesome ride. That ending got me excited, and that is something I rarely say for a DCEU movie. We need to see more. This franchise needs to be saved.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

call for manuscripts to the 57th silliman university national writers workshop

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 57th Silliman University National Writers Workshop to be held from May 7 to May 18, 2018 at the Silliman University Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village and the Silliman University campus.

This Writers Workshop is offering ten fellowships to promising writers in the Philippines who want to have a chance to hone their craft and refine their style. Fellows will be provided housing, a modest stipend, and a subsidy to partially defray costs of their transportation.

To be considered, applicants should submit manuscripts on or before January 5, 2018. (Extension to the deadline will not be made.) All manuscripts should comply with the instructions stated below. (Failure to do so will automatically eliminate their entries). Applicants for Fiction and Creative Nonfiction fellowships should submit three to four (3-4) entries.

Applicants for Poetry fellowships should submit a suite of seven to ten (7-10) poems. Applicants for Drama fellowships should submit at least one (1) One-Act Play. Each fiction, creative nonfiction, or drama manuscript should not be more than 20 pages, double spaced. We encourage you to stay well below the 20 pages. Aside from manuscripts in Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Drama that should be written in English, the Workshop this year will be accepting manuscripts for Balak (poetry in Binisaya). Applicants should submit a suite of seven to 10 (7-10) Balak entries with their English translations.

Manuscripts should be submitted in five (5) hard copies. They should be computerized in MS Word, double-spaced, on 8.5 x 11 inches bond paper, with approximately one-inch margin on all sides. Please indicate the category (FICTION, CREATIVE NONFICTION, POETRY, ONE-ACT DRAMA, or BALAK) immediately under the title. The page number must be typed consecutively (e.g., 1 of 30, 2 of 30, and so on) at the center of the bottom margin of each page. The font should be Book Antiqua or Palatino, and the font size should be 12.

The applicant’s real name and address must appear only in the official application form and the certification of originality of works, and must not appear on the manuscripts. Manuscripts should be accompanied by the (1) official application form, (2) a notarized certification of originality of works, and (3) the form letter of recommendation from a literature professor or an established writer. All requirements must be complete at the time of submission.

Send all applications or requests for information to the Department of English and Literature, attention Assistant Professor Lady Flor Partosa, Workshop Coordinator, 1/F Katipunan Hall, Silliman University, 6200 Dumaguete City. For inquiries, email us at or call 035-422-6002 loc. 350.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

bored boys

Kip Oebanda's "Bar Boys", the last Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino movie I've seen, is a fine example of a missed opportunity. It features three boys and their painfully obvious travails in law school. I know there are four boys in the marketing materials, but this spoiler is not the worst of it. It doesn't help that the movie seems to be manufactured out of a pile of checklist exercises. Boisterous barkada. Check! Daddy issues. Check! Gay professor. Check! Funny bisaya. Check! Terminal illness. Check! Important speech. Check check check! There are a lot of stories out there that handle multiple narrative threads, but in this film the various strands are obvious, and they are weighing down the whole point of the film—which should be about perseverance and friendship. And the acting is strangely wooden. The saving grace here are the supporting actors like Odette Khan and Mailes Kanapi. I hope these two would get to be leads in movies someday. Lastly, this film is riddled with stereotypes. It's a chore enduring every second of it. And just like the many archaic laws of our country that are never amended, "Bar Boys" feels outdated.

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Monday, November 06, 2017

please come in

Nothing prepared me for the boldness and elegance of Prime Cruz’s “Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B.” It has all the elements of a regular horror flick—a recognizable myth, a moody atmosphere, two attractive leads. What veers it away from standard Filipino work of this genre is how it entirely rewrites what we expect. There are long deliberate pauses here that would make an audience uncomfortable, especially those who have been conditioned by jump scares, screams, and cries. It is no easy task, but Ryza Cenon’s Jewel and Martin del Rosario’s Nico carry these silences into a heightened performance, such as an exquisite display of an arched back here or a slumped shoulder there. It is all about the body. For a movie with a mythological self-segmenting creature in its title, it should be about the body. And one can identify that this movie leans heavily on vampire retellings like Tomas Afredson’s “Let The Right One In”—primal, brooding, sensual. It is unapologetic on how it handles sexuality, particularly female sexuality, which is a welcome surprise in this country still steeped in machismo and misogyny. This is evident in Jewel’s transformation, how her sprouting of wings is like giving birth to a new life. Although it is difficult for her, considering her newfound attraction to Nico, her decision to still go after fresh meat is wholly her own. In the Age of Trump and Duterte, the urge to inject a political slant into entertainment has become more recurring than ever that it now resembles some form of moral duty. “Manananggal” is not spared from these intimations; it has chosen a hot timely crisis (of which I won’t divulge), and yet for all its good intentions, it has not fully enriched or broadened the discussion to greater effect. In fact, it has muddled “the important politicized idea” even further. But thinking about it now, it looks like that is the point of the movie. The whole world is now a mess, and for most people who do not know what to do, aside from ignoring or screaming at each other, the wise thing to do is to straighten up our act and pick up the pieces—such as the viscera of a manananggal’s latest victim.

[photo borrowed from this site]