Category Archives: movies

Halloween Movie Guide writes:

Horror cinema is a monster. Mistreated, misunderstood and subjected to vicious critical attacks, somehow it keeps lumbering forward, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. For some, horror films are little better than pornography, focused purely on evoking a reaction – be it terror, disquiet or disgust – with little thought for ‘higher’ aspirations. For others, they’re just a bit of fun: a chance to shriek and snigger at someone’s second-hand nightmare.

But look again, and the story of horror is also the story of innovation and non-conformity in cinema, a place where dangerous ideas can be expressed, radical techniques can be explored, and filmmakers outside the mainstream can still make a big cultural splash. If cinema itself has an unconscious, a dark little corner from which new ideas emerge, blinking and malformed, it must be horror.

Here are my fave horror films.  Most of them should make the cut for ‘the all-time best movies’ list, regardless of genre:

  • Rosemary’s Baby (1968).  Memorable for Mia Farrow’s pixie cut and the most frightening bunch of old people to appear on film.
  • Alien (1979)Also the best blurb:  “In space, no one can hear you scream.”
  • Birds (1963).  The film that heightened my fear of winged creatures and monkey bars.  I love Hitchcock’s precise camera work here; the absence of logic, resolution, and lengthy dialogues.  Great locale, too.  Bodega Bay in Northern California must be a nice place to visit.
  • Psycho (1960).  The film that’s been dissected and extoled for just about everything (direction, casting, photography, the shower scene, music, design, the mother-son love story, etc.).   For me, it’s groundbreaking for its pioneering use of drag as a scary prop.
  • Carrie (1976).  The movie is structured like an opera.  And it ends on a shrill note.
  • The Shining (1980).  There’s hardly any gore.  The terror is all in your head.  Shelley Duvall is brilliantly ugly when she screams.  The clickety-clack of Jack Nicholson’s typewriter is so terrifying that you’d thank Silicon Valley for inventing the soft keyboard.
  • The Exorcist (1973).  In high school, the Salesian priests forbade us from watching this movie.  It took two decades before I had the guts to see it.  I must have lost 250 calories after watching it.
  • An American Werewolf in London (1981). Scary, funny, scary, funny.  Very unsettling.
  • Shake Rattle & Roll 2 “Aswang” (1990).  I never imagined myself rooting for Manilyn Reynes.  When the townsfolk started their ritual for the virgin sacrifice, it felt so real.  Proves that all the computer wizardry can’t replace a great narrative and directorial technique.
  • Drag Me to Hell  (2009).  Ganesh has the scariest make-up since Regan of The Exorcist.  The basement parking fight scene is the best since Bruce Lee and John Saxon.  This is the horror film to watch if you’re not comfortable with real scarefests featuring ghouls and demons.  It’s fun actually. 

Tokyo Story

Guess what film was voted as the best of all time in a recent British Film Institute poll amongst directors that included Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Quentin Tarantino?  Tokyo Story, a 1953 Japanese film directed by Yasujiro Ozu, came out on top.  I had not heard about it so I got a copy to see what all the fuss was about.   I found out I had no reason to argue with Marty and Woody.

The story is simple.  An old couple travels from the province to Tokyo to visit their two married children and grandchildren.  The reception they get is disappointing.  Their children and in-laws are too busy to attend to them. The most they can do is send them to the baths.   Realizing that their journey has been entirely useless, the parents head back home.  Tragedy strikes. Regret sets in, everything becomes unamendable.

The film has had a profound effect on me for several reasons.  First, it’s Ozu’s visual style.  In the age of dizzying camera work and fancy editing, Ozu’s way is refreshing.  His camera hardly moves.  It’s always set at a low angle and it allows us to see everything – the emotions, reactions of the characters and how everything adds up the theme of generational conflict.  Regretful silences play out in full.  Dialogues are not interrupted for the feeling and storytelling to be real, uncontrived.

It’s also a lesson on things Japanese, and I’m a such a big Nipppon-phile. Every frame is composed as delicately and eloquently as an ikebana or zen garden.  There are hints of Tokyo transforming into the bustling jungle that is now.  But this is still postwar Japan where much of Japanese traditional culture remains as seen in the art direction – from the teapots, the kimono, sleepwear, tatami mats to how the Japanese artfully pack their luggage.  Of course, there’s the Japanese brand of politeness that belies the tension that’s tearing up the family.

And, Tokyo Story’s been on my mind lately because it reminds me of my folks.  They still live in the province, and they seem always eager to have me for company.  They’re old and still have so much love to give.  All those big questions on family, work, time and death deservingly make this film one of the greatest. 


Photo by: Jay Morales / Malacañang Photo Bureau

First, congratulations are in order for Vilma Santos, the two-term Governor of Batangas.  She’s just be given the The Lingkod Bayan Award by President Aquino.  It’s the Nobel for local public servants.   Who would’ve thought that a showbiz figure who was a child actress in 60’s tearjerkers, a teen idol in the 70s, a dramatic actress known for her feverish and frenetic acting style for the last 40 years, and even a dancing queen on primetime TV, would evolve into a respected public official?  She’s got Angela Lansbury’s staying power.  She’s reinvented herself as frequently as Madonna.  Yet, in the scheme of things, she’s bigger than similar icons because her work has had impact on the arts, public interest and national patrimony.  Yes, national patrimony!  Madonna didn’t get the chance to lead the people of Michigan.

Ate Vi, as she’s fondly called, is the only showbiz person with whom I get starstruck.  And I’ve met a lot of artists in my line of work.    Maybe it’s most other artists’ overexposure that keep me from fawning on them.  Some for their diva posturing, or self-consciousness to be more special than the people around them.  Or how plainly and regularly they come to the set.  Ate Vi’s face is not all over EDSA.  She lights up a room when she walks in.   She lights her cigarette as elegantly as Dietrich.  She smiles genuinely.  She’s got a firm handshake.  She remembers your name.   She’s a pro.  Everything about her is lovely.  She’s even cute when she makes grammatical errors.

I have lots of stories to tell from the three occasions I got to work with her.  Some I can’t share because I’m bound by the sacred talent-advertiser privilege.  But I’m sure she wouldn’t mind my sharing a couple.

One time at Sugi Restaurant in Makati, I brought a thick contract for her to sign.  I thought she’d have a manager who’d go through the tedious details.  She read through it, patiently, for a couple of minutes.  She said, Ako lang dapat ang magbasa nito.  Kailangan sigurado ako sa papapasukan ko.  Maraming beses na ‘kong naloko.  Alam mo naman, naubos dati ang pera ko sa BIR.  (I’d have to do this myself.  I have to be sure what I’m getting myself into.  I’ve been gypped several times before.  I’m sure you know that I spent a fortune paying off my debts to the Internal Revenue.)

Real-life drama at its most heart-wrenching.

Then, there’s Ate Vi’s lighter side.  She was narrating what had just happened in her campaign sortie in Batangas.  She was on a slow-moving truck, waving at and shaking hands with fans.  One man riding another vehicle grabbed her hand and wouldn’t let go.  That alarmed her security detail.  They thought she’d fall and get dragged by the overzealous Batangueno.  Ate Vi was quick on her feet and jumped out of the truck before things got messy.  She proudly declared to us, Ako si Darna, ‘di ba? 

How could you not love her?