Thursday, April 26, 2018

silence is survival

All works of movie-making demand attention, but John Krasinski’s horror film A Quiet Place takes that truism to a whole new level. It is almost void of dialogue one must pay attention to every detail unfolding in the screen. The characters do not speak for almost 90% of the movie. Yet, in the hands of Krasinski, who does not only direct the film but also co-writes it and stars in it with real-life spouse Emily Blunt, the tension is cranked several notches up with the simplest of things: stairs, corn kernels, nail, some objects you wouldn’t expect.

The story is set in a not-too-distant future wherein the entire population has dwindled to a couple few and the world is infested with blind homicidal creatures gifted with exceptional hearing. The slightest sound sets them off in a murderous rampage. It is never explained where these monsters come from, but what it known is that an incident with one of these has left the Abott family traumatized. Lee (Krasinski), Evelyn (Blunt), and their children have managed to survive, thanks to their familiarity with silence. The eldest child Regan is deaf (played astoundingly by Millicent Simmonds who is a deaf American actress), thus, the family communicates in sign language way before the dystopia began.

Even if the Abotts live a secluded life now heavily constrained by rules—never speak a word, do not use plates and utensils, only walk on sand paths to dampen any sound—some things are just bound to happen, like in most horror movies. But A Quiet Place is not just a horror movie. Although the premise could easily be in a Shyamalan film, the whole setup is saved from ludicrousness for being wise instead of simply being clever and for having wisdom instead of having gimmicks. There is more to tell but to divulge any further information might lessen the impact of that brilliant, flawless ending.

The movie’s near total absence of sound is oppressive like it is a character in itself that heightens all the other sensations. The dripping water goes in cadence with your racing heartbeat and the creaking floor weighs on you like a ton. Basically every scene just rattles your nerves. The accomplishment of combining spare dialogue with high suspense speaks to the genius of Krasinski’s solid vision and craft. It helps that he has a team of actors and film professionals who is up to the demands of this crazy idea.

It is not difficult to see A Quiet Place as a mirror to our current reality. Each day there’s the confusion that tries to rob our logical reasoning, the unspeakable horrors shrugged by many as ordinary. In fact, the creatures must be an embodiment of incessant noise that invades our waking moments—political conflicts, fake news, never ending acts of prejudice and hate. And if that is the case, obviously, a quiet place is what we all need

[ photo borrowed from this site ].

Monday, April 16, 2018

playing with pop culture

Anything that deals with the past can sometimes be a turnoff to some people, that the antiquated must only be revered in museums, journals, and sweet old memories. But Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Ready Player One, which is adapted from a 2011 novel of the same title by Ernest Cline, tries to flip the table on that mentality. In here, Spielberg proves that the old can actually be just as interesting as the new. Because when it comes to pop culture—which is basically the fabric of this movie—the old is what becomes of all that is treasured.

Aside from being a critique on modern day distractions and anxieties (corporate greed, privacy issues, social media catfishing!), Ready Player One is a wild, visual feast of nostalgia. It’s as if it serves as a geek’s guide to 80’s and 90’s music, movies, pulp fiction, video games, comic books, and other sundry items that are usually deemed too inconsequential for lofty-minded individuals.

The story is set in the year 2045 and introduces us to Wade Watts (played by an effective but easily forgettable Tye Sheridan), a young man who spends most of his time in the Oasis as Parzival, a virtual world created by James Halliday. This is where anything goes, depending on the limits of your imagination (and the digital coins you collect in this computerized reality). Upon the death of Halliday, his avatar (or his digital persona) reveals to all players that there are three challenges to three powerful keys that grant ownership and control of the entire game. Everything changes when Watts meets Art3mis (yes, that’s spelled correctly) who reveals to him that this is no longer a game, when the order of the world is at stake and the gap between classes of society gets even more pronounced—especially that the power-hungry technological company Innovative Online Industries is doing everything it can to take hold of these keys.

Ready Player One has little of the subtlety and poeticism that shaped Spielberg’s other ambitious, fantastical works like A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Minority Report, but it certainly has the frenetic energy of The Adventures of Tintin and War of the Worlds. It just keeps going and going, with little pauses to process all the pop culture references bombarded at you before the next batch arrives.

Yes, it does wholeheartedly embrace the wonders of the past, which give the movie a tendency to tread on clichés and camp and the requisite shots at admiration of the familiar, but all this does not rob it of the fact that it is so satisfying to walk down memory lane. Each scene is like this homage to something exuberant, something vital to our understanding of reality, no matter what time it is derived from. Whether we as viewers are in it for the nostalgia trip or not, this movie sure knows how to play its game

[ photo borrowed from this site ].

Friday, April 13, 2018

new poem published in ecopoetry anthology

A few days ago, I finally received my (paid) copies of Sustaining the Archipelago: An Anthology of Philippine Ecopoetry, which is edited by Rina Garcia Chua, who includes my work "Poetry as a Lesson in Botany" in the collection.

I believe this is the first of its kind in the country; an anthology that attempts to meditate on our nation's concerns and priorities under the lens of ecological understanding. The result is nothing short of fantastic. I just wished the book's contributors though won't have to buy their own copies. Not all writers are, you know, blessed with disposable income. Writing the poem is already hard enough for us. Heh heh.