Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Tomorrow I fly off to Bohol for my yearly visit to our beautiful province. Last time I was there I had limited access to an internet cafe. But a lot can happen in one year. I hope there will be an internet cafe in our town by this time.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Greeting

Although it’s been said many times, many ways—
Merry Christmas to one and all!

Christmas is really the time to be with the ones you love. That’s why for the first time I’m spending Christmas here in Baguio with the McVie family! Right now I’m in some internet café down Session Road; the rest are in SM Baguio, doing their thing. We’ll be meeting at Gerry’s Grill later for dinner.

The weather is super-cool, but I seem to have adjusted to it well. The house where we’re staying is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jim Paredes (yes, he of the APO Hiking fame). It has a fireplace, so we’ve been warming ourselves by a roaring fire every night.

We’re going down on the 26th, then some of us are going to Bohol on the 28th. Again for three years in a row now I’ll be spending New Year away from the noise, smoke and black boogers in Manila. Wheee!

So pardon me if The McVie Show will have regular interruptions from now until Jan. 08, 2006.

Merry Christmas and have a blast in the coming New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Supersize Me

I finally saw King Kong last night. The bad thing about me is that when something’s been hyped up to the heavens and is praised by pundits, my knee-jerk reaction is to go the other way. So when I entered the movie house, I had this “Ok Peter, impress me” attitude.

The movie is the cinematic equivalent of a supersized Big Mac meal using quarter pounder patties. It’s great but too much can make you sick. Sure, “Kong” is a non-stop fun romp that masks its three-plus hours fairly well. Yes, it works both as just a straight-forward action-adventure-inter-species-love-story and as a witty (if a bit obscure for the regular viewer) allegory for the movie business. And yes, Peter Jackson is now the new Steven Spielberg since the latter has irrevocably grown up and seems incapable of charmingly innocent escapist movies anymore.

But did he really need all those hours to tell the tale? It took him an hour before showing even a glimpse of Kong. The island adventure was a blast with its non-stop escalation of action, suspense and jaw-dropping effects. He even topped Spielberg in terms of dinosaurs and insects—three t-rexes instead of just two (versus “Jurassic Park 2”), and bigger, nastier insects (versus the Indiana Jones movies). After watching the island sequences you’re left out of breath. Then there’s still the concrete jungle, New York.

The reason why I didn’t mind sitting through about four hours each (!) of Peter Jackson’s extended versions of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “Two Towers” and “The Return of the King” on DVD is because Jackson needed the time to fully flesh out and make real for us the world of Middle Earth. I didn’t mind the length because I was so lost in the story and the world of Frodo and company.

For me the problem with “Kong” is that despite the fact that I believed in the big ape (congrats to Andy Serkis and the CGI team behind Kong), there were still moments in the film that made me go, “Hmmm.” Naomi Watts, unlucky in love? Hmmm. Three t-rexes in the same area, when they’re highly territorial creatures? Hmmm. Jaime Bell killing off the insects swarming all over Adrien Brody with a machine gun, when he’s never held a gun before? Hmmm. Kong ice skating with Naomi in a frozen pond? Sweet, but still hmmm. Maybe I am being unfair to Jackson and company; that’s what happens when I’m turned off by the movie’s mega-hype. In contrast I had an easier time suspending my disbelief while watching “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” a movie that had only a poster to promote it.

Sorry Mr. Jackson, I should give your very looong movie another chance. It will be nice to see two of my favorite actors again, Jamie Bell and Kyle Chandler. I fell in love with Bell in “Billy Elliot” (yes I know he was so young then, but he’s grown up now) while I always watched “The Early Edition” just to see Chandler’s droopy yet dreamy eyes.

* * * * *

Gosh, The McVie Show is slowly morphing into a review corner. Argh. I’m not sure why this is so. It’s not that I don’t have a life. Maybe I just think it’s boring or ordinary. I still have a lot of sex, but I’ve decided not to talk about it too much here unless it’s really something new or out of the ordinary or really hilarious.

Perhaps it is time to change seasons. Hmmm.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Cris Pablo Comments

I was taken aback to find out that Cris Pablo left a comment in The McVie Show regarding my critique of his movie Bilog:

hi i was browsing thru the net to search for comments on the movie bilog and i found your blog! thanks for the critique, i loved your critique (ironic no?)... well, regarding the technical (visual and sound quality) i was just as surprised when i saw how our movie was projected on screen and how it sounded on dolby... digital movies like in my case where we only use digital lcd projectors to project our movies, depend so much on the lumens or brightness and contrast of the equipment... we could only afford a 3,000 lumens because it costs P15,000 per day to use a 5,000 lumens projector (this should be the minimum for good quality picture). plus we complained that the light bulb used for the projector seemed quite old and so very dark and when its bright, the image is lost na... pero sa source naman the image quality is good... we had to rent a more expensive projector with 4,000 lumens on the friday screening which costed P6,000 per day (imagine how many tickets we have to sell on a day just to meet that amount. since we are shouldering the rental of projector and robinsons has no responsibility over it, plus the fact that out of P110 ticket we only get around P25 of that... means we have to sell at least 240 tickets!!! hahaha) Anyway, so that's how it went with the video image projection, its really highly dependent on the quality and capability of the digital video projector... to approximate film projectors, they will need a 10,000 lumens projector with dlp sana and not lcd according mismo sa nirentahan namin ng projector. Hope cinemas will buy projectors na ganun kalakas ang lumens. The sound naman, i was disappointed too because several voiceovers that i already deleted resurfaced in what was shown in cinemas... Kasi actually, the reason for this could be: well, palaging nabuburahan ng files, very important video files, sa computer kaya ako what i did was to copy our edited versions to a mini-dv tape para whatever happens to the pc, we will at least have what we call as hardcopy. kaso, hindi napansin ng mastering editor na ang nakuha niyang audio eh yung dating audio where i tried to use a lot of voice overs... regarding the actors, it really was a graduation thesis eh, a recital... something like the design exhibits ng fine arts students... where they hold their exhibits sa malls... ganun din kami, while we were about to be done with our workshop, we discussed with the students and decided na gawing seryosong digital movie at wag magmadali sa paggawa nito... Actually, honestly, laging take 30 ang performance nila pero nang wala na kaming perang pangpakain sa kanila kapag natatagalan ang shooting dahil sa kakailang takes, eh sumuko na din kami at dinaan sa editing...

Parang ang dami kong rason ano? Sorry ha... Hindi ako offended sa comments mo, actually mas gusto ko nga siya kesa sa ibang comments na basta na lang, hindi man lang nag-qualify kung ano yung hindi nila nagustuhan, kaya imbes nakatulong ay tila nakaapak pa sila... Ang critique mo ay maganda dahil inilalahad mo nang maayos ang points mo... Sa akin naman kasi pagdating diyan sa puntong yan ay nasa beholder na yan... Di ko naman masasabing stupid yung mga taong nagustuhan nila ang movie (atin-atin lang ha, actually tinatanong ko sila kung may kaibigan sila sa staff o sa artista para may hint ako kung nagustuhan lang nila kasi kasama ang friend nila hehe).

I hope you will not be mad at me for the kind of movies I made... Wala pa naman kasi akong intensyong gawin silang excellent or art movies or anything other than, may kuwento ako gagawin kong movie tapos susubukan ko ang mga artistang hindi pa umaarte... Ganun ako lagi tumingin sa gawa ko. Ang problem ko lang, sabi ko nga sa friends ko sa Pagdadalaga ni Maximo at sa Masahista, buti pa sila mostly film professionals ang grupo nila composed of at least 5, moneyed, film professionals... Ako madalas dalawa lang kaming talagang professionals kaya madalas ang plano sa preproduction, hindi na-achieve sa actual shoot. Then (I hope you wont say sobra na akong defensive here) pag umabot sa point na wala na kaming magawa kasi, medyo sobra pag kinapos kami during shoots, sa funds (like for food or transpo) hindi na kami makakilos kungdi make do with what we have or what we shot. May mga artista din kaming nakukuhang papayag sa shooting schedule at hindi darating pag naroon na kayo lahat (madalas ito) kaya nakakabaliw!

I will try to make a matinong movie this year, pag nakaipon na ako ng panggawa ng matinong movie hahaha...

If you want, I can lend you copies of my previous movies which were the ones that critiques really liked (slowmotion, etc.) Para hindi mo naman ako isumpa hahaha sa pinaggagagawa ko.

Thanks. merry christmas!

Cris pablo

* * * * *

McVie’s response:

Cris, I am glad that you're quite open-minded regarding critiques about your movies. From your behind-the-scenes explanation, I understand better why the final product I saw on the Galleria screen is what I described. Believe me, I understand; I work in a network and am familiar with production woes. Clearly a deeper purse can help solve many of the technical difficulties and inadequacies encountered, including the movie projector used. (I read in the papers that SM Cinemas are acquiring new digital projectors. I’m not sure though if their PG policy will accept the kinds of movies you make.)

But what I found more interesting is what you stated: Wala pa naman kasi akong intensyong gawin silang excellent or art movies or anything other than, may kuwento ako gagawin kong movie tapos susubukan ko ang mga artistang hindi pa umaarte... Ganun ako lagi tumingin sa gawa ko.

First, I applaud your desire to give opportunities to fresh new talents. I do believe that encouraging more of them will be better in the long-run for the industry. Second, I take my hat off to you for having the courage and the determination to just grab a camera and put onscreen a story you want to tell. We need more determined storytellers, especially about the lives of Filipino gay men and women. That’s the reason why I’ve seen all three of your movies that had a commercial run. It’s my way of supporting Pinoy pink cinema.

What puzzled me is this: Wala pa naman kasi akong intensyong gawin silang excellent or art movies or anything other. Maybe you just want to downplay your efforts or perhaps you don’t want to sound like some haughty auteur with a touchy ego. But if you view your digital films as just some casually-produced home movies, this particular viewer doesn’t see them as such—especially if your films go on a commercial theater run and people pay to watch them.

Why not set your sights higher? If you’re going out of your way to produce a movie (not the easiest, most casual task to do), why not make an excellent one? They don’t have to be “art” movies. They just have to be well-crafted ones. There are Hollywood movies that are examples of well-crafted productions—writing, acting, editing, etc. And it’s about doing things better, if not best; why not aim for something that’s Oscar-caliber?

What you need is a lot more funds before even shooting a single frame. You also need a producer and production manager who will relieve you of the coordination work so you can concentrate more on the creative aspects of filmmaking. The concept of Bilog had so much potential it pained me to see how so much of it was lost in its execution, due to circumstances both within and outside of your control.

In the end it is insisting on coming up with the best—script, cast, crew, materials, equipment—in every effort you make. Maybe you can ask your Maximo Olivero and Masahista colleagues how they were able to come up with the funds. Maybe you can look for a co-producer who can help come up with the money.

As I’ve said there are few Filipino film makers who tackle gay themes upfront and fearlessly. I support your efforts in coming out with your stories. I just hope they are better told next time.

Thanks for taking time out to respond to a closet cinema critic.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Good Good, Movie Movie

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While everyone else was going ape over King Kong I decided to go counter-popular and trooped to Glorietta to watch Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, the movie starring Robert Downey, Jr, Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan, written and directed by Shane Black, the creator of the “Lethal Weapon” series.

Both lead actors have had their share of fairly rough times in their careers. This movie has proven that they are two of the more engaging—if not quirky—actors around; heaven forbid the two would do a movie with Johnny Depp. The whip-smart repartee between the two is one of the best reasons to watch the movie.
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Robert Downey, Jr just before they fry his balls.

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Val Kilmer in a real gay role, unlike his role in Batman.

The other is Ms. Monaghan. She not only manages to hold her own against these two veterans, she manages to steal several scenes from under their noses. I’ve never seen her in her previous work, so her performance here was a pleasant surprise. She gave a funny and touching performance that never felt forced.
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Michelle steals another scene at gunpoint.

Downey plays a petty thief who stumbles into an audition and is hired as lead in a cop movie. Kilmer is the private detective hired to “train” Downey for his role. Monaghan is the childhood crush of Downey who finds herself in the middle of a murder case.

Mistaken identity, corpses left and right, a dismembered finger, electrocuted gonads and mouth-to-mouth action between Downey and Kilmer—the twists keep coming. Yet it is the sizzle and spark between the leads that fuel this movie. I’m sure that the three are no match for the king-sized gorilla stomping its way across almost all the cinemas in Metro Manila. But if you want an alternative from Peter Jackson’s hard-to-miss monster of a movie, then get moving or else kiss kiss this movie goodbye goodbye.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Sacred Feces!

Your EQ is

50 or less: Thanks for answering honestly. Now get yourself a shrink, quick!
51-70: When it comes to understanding human emotions, you'd have better luck understanding Chinese.
71-90: You've got more emotional intelligence than the average frat boy. Barely.
91-110: You're average. It's easy to predict how you'll react to things. But anyone could have guessed that.
111-130: You usually have it going on emotionally, but roadblocks tend to land you on your butt.
131-150: You are remarkable when it comes to relating with others. Only the biggest losers get under your skin.
150+: Two possibilities - you've either out "Dr. Phil-ed" Dr. Phil... or you're a dirty liar.

Well, I guess I’m a damn great liar, mwhek-hek-hek!

Seriously, there were questions wherein my answers were neither of the choices given. So I just chose the one which I knew would be the right answer, even if it’s something that’s not my third or fourth choice for a course of action. Oh well, it’s just an online quiz, anyway.

Justify My Lines, Part 2

I also realized that lines on the face are good if you’re an actor. Sometimes lines can add character where there is none. A squint can be elevated from a mere actorly gesture into an acting choice.

Take Clint Eastwood for example. In Million Dollar Baby he and Morgan Freeman just had to stand there, look impassively and say nothing to earn an Oscar nomination; meanwhile poor Hillary Swank had to spend months in strenuous training and preparation to earn accolades for her acting. They just relied on their lines; she had to memorize hers.

Sometimes a few lines on the face may convey more meaning than a dozen on page. So I should just stop right now and frown. Or smile. Or squint.

You may raise your eyebrows now.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Botox Talks

Last weekend I found out my friend had his face Botox-ed. His forehead now looks smooth and worry-free, and his eye-bags are now less puffy than before. I always had an impression that Botox will make you look younger. My friend doesn’t look like he discovered the fountain of youth; rather, he looks like he took half a year off to rest. I like how Leigh greeted him: “You look well-rested!”

He pointed out the lines just above my nose, in between my eyebrows. “They can make those disappear!” he gleefully told me. That was the second time he noted those lines between my eyebrows.

Looking at the mirror I’d scrunch my face, make different facial expressions, then relax. The lines across my forehead are already permanently etched; even when I’m relaxed, they’re visible. The lines below my eye-bags are deeper now; so are my laugh lines near my mouth. And when I smile or laugh, my crow’s feet are highly visible.

But even if I can afford Botox treatment, I don’t think I will take them. I like my lines; somehow they add more character to my face. If Botox will just make me look well-rested, then I might as well just take the time off to rest. If it is youthful looks I want, I’d rather just develop a youthful attitude towards life: a zest for discovery, a thirst for knowledge and the grace to not take anything—including myself—too seriously. Plus maintain a trendy hairstyle. And always be in touch with the youth.

Yeah, I rather like my age lines. But then again, I may be saying that simply because people still think I look younger than my actual age. Maybe one day if more and more guess my age right, I just might consider treatment. Maybe.

Age is in the mind, and so far I don’t mind my age.

Let’s Hear It For The Boys!

No wonder for the past few days whenever I try to access The Mischievious Boys website, all I get is a “Site Unavailable” sign (or something like that). They’ve pumped it up! The Mischievious Boys Version 2.0 now have a blog (wheee!) and they’ve added more information about each Boy. It’s oh-so-slum-bookish, with info on height, weight, occupation, and favorites (books, movies, food, actor, etc). I noticed all four have the same height (5’8”). “Age” was noticeable absent—how prudent. However, inquiring minds wanna know: how come everyone is shirtless in their solo pictures except for Edward? Hmmm?

They also now have a website hit counter. The top countries that visit their site are the US (not surprising), the UK, and Canada. The Philippines is somewhere within the top 10. I find that totally unacceptable. Pinoys, please visit http://mischieviousboys.com now, as in, NOW NA! Stop reading this silly episode of mine. You have enough time to go back to this later. After all, we became over-all champions in the recently-concluded Southeast Asia Games, dah-bah? Time to put the Philippines on top again!

(In case you’re wondering, this is not a paid advertisement. A-hihihi!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Near, Far, Wherever You Are

This morning as I passed by the 70’s Bistro along Anonas, I saw their banner announcing that from Dec. 24 to 26 the venue will be “CLOSE.” Suddenly I had this image of the bistro coming nearer to us on Christmas day.

Mischievious Male, er, Mail

I got an email from Edward re. my post about his lipsynching:

I just read your comment on your blog regarding my solo debut. Thanks for letting me know, and I will surely work on my lipsynching. (However, I am in a disadvantage since I got a small mouth. Hahaha). Thanks for all your support, we appreciate the publicity you have provided us. We are trying to reach out to our native countries.


Okay, okay, so there really was no “Love” in his email—I just couldn’t resist, hahaha! Meanwhile, I am doing my part in promoting the Boys. MLQ3 says they should be making porn. While I would love to see that, the thought of having sex with one another may be icky to the Boys. Then again, may be not. (Yeah right, wishful thinking.)

Strawberry Christmas

It’s confirmed. The McVies are spending Christmas in Baguio. This is the first time we will spend Christmas in the city of strawberries and pines. Kewl! I will get to hone my logs-on-the-fire-making skills further.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Pirates Of Creativity

Yesterday my sister-in-law was telling me how her kids (my nephew and niece) would embarrass their uncle (her brother) whenever they see him with pirated DVDs. “Tito, do you realize that’s a crime?” they would chide him. Their mom says they got that attitude from me; they never fail to mention that I only buy original DVDs. “You set such a very high standard for them,” she said.

Honestly that wasn’t my intention when I first started buying CDs and DVDs. I shunned the early pirated stuff because their quality was poor back then. Music and movies are my passion, and as a collector of CDs and DVDs, I obviously prefer to own an original copy versus a fake one. Eventually the quality of pirated materials improved dramatically, and now the line between real and fake has blurred even more. So why am I still not buying fake?

I’d like to quote Stephen King in his column “The Pop of King” in Entertainment Weekly (#853, Dec. 09), when he talks about songs he downloaded: “Most were downloaded… and through perfectly legitimate pay-then-play sources, I hasten to add. Copyright is my bread and butter, and I do not cockadoodie where I eat.”

Often the arguments of pro-piracy people concentrate on the benefits the consumers/listeners/viewers (a.k.a., them) get from having cheap access to movies and music. But what about the creators of those movies and music? Who’s looking out for their interests? For every unit of CD or DVD sold the artists get royalties while the producers (the record or movie companies) receive part of the earnings to pay for the production costs. If you buy pirated materials, none of what you pay goes to the producers and artists.

Some people, including columnist Jessica Zafra (I’m a fan of hers), have justified their pro-piracy stance by standing up for the consumer. Some pro-piracy people have argued that the consumer pays for so much when the actual costs for producing a CD is not that high; in other words, the record companies bloat the prices. Why should the consumer pay so much for so little?

They also add to their argument the accusation that the artists do not actually receive a fair share of the profits; supposedly the record companies pocket most of the money. By buying pirated CDs, the pro-pirates are saying, “Stick it up to the Man!”

Interesting points they raise. However, assuming for the moment that the issues were true then the problem lies in the current system of remuneration. Therefore the solution would be to fix the system. Piracy does not address the problem; in fact it compounds the problem. Sure, perhaps the artist only gets a measly 5% of the profits; with piracy the artist gets 0%.

So what is the root of the problem regarding piracy? Why do people buy pirated stuff when they know that they’re stolen goods? Is it human nature to want to do something illegal? My theory is simple: if they can, people will try to get more for less. It’s a similar concept behind bargaining; however, this isn’t an above-the-table negotiation. Instead this is the isahan mentality—getting one over the other.

A change of attitude is needed. MasterCard got it right: the best things in life are free (love, the beauty of nature, the warm sun on our backs, and the sight of the Mischievious Boys shirtless); for everything else, there’s a price. Creativity costs, you know; a movie or an album doesn’t materialize out of nowhere. It takes a lot of creativity, manpower, materials and electrical energy to come up with a “Boom, Boom, Boom (Let’s Go Back To My Room)”. Patronizing original material means that we support the creators. Because if we don’t, then one day these creators will stop making the music and movies we love because they cannot afford to make them anymore. (That’s why I found it ironic that a writer like Ms. Zafra would condone piracy. I wonder how she’d feel if someone were to shoplift her books, photocopy then sell them.)

What about those too poor to afford to buy original? Will we condemn them to a life of want? Well duh, we all have our crosses to bear. Just because I want to own a Jaguar doesn’t justify my stealing one, or knowingly buy a stolen Jaguar. Pro-piracy people are like kids with low emotional quotient (EQ) in the TV commercial. Remember the ones who ate the marshmallow because they couldn’t wait?

And what about those poor Muslims who depend on selling the pirated tapes? It is all about choice. If they choose to sell stolen goods then they should be ready to face raids, maybe even arrests and convictions. Or they can choose to sell knock-off Uma headbands instead. A life of crime may mean more money, but it also means greater dangers. Everything has a price.

Do I sound so high-and-mighty, holier-than-thou? To be honest I have bought two pirated DVDs already. They were Y Tu Mama Tambien and the Korean TV series Oh Pil Yeung. How come, you ask? Well, it is a sad fact that the pirates have access to many titles not available in our shores. (Because they need not worry about copyright laws and remittances, they can pretty much release any and every title that they feel will sell briskly.) So I resort to buying pirated if the official release is unlikely to be made available locally. But if I do get to find an official copy of Tambien I will buy it because my pirated copy doesn’t play all the features listed in the menu.

Next time you’re in front of pirated material, stop and think. Give our singers, composers, writers, directors, cinematographers, editors and others too numerous to mention the recognition and support they deserve. Stop thinking of yourself only.

More Mischieviousness

Edward Goes Solo!
Nah, the Boys didn’t break up to go on solo careers. Joseph and Tommy have done several solo videos, so I guess it’s now Edward’s turn. Unfortunately his solo effort further highlights his biggest weakness—of the four Boys he is the one whose lips synch the least. Joseph is the most consistent, followed by Tommy; David is more hit-and-miss. C’mon Edward dear, just work your mouth some more (I know of several who’d want to help you with that)!
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Joseph Discovers Chroma!
Notice Edward’s background? Nope, they didn’t shoot this outside during a full moon. That’s chroma for you, folks. Have you noticed in those making-of documentaries, especially with special effects-heavy movies (for example, The Matrix or Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith) wherein the actors are shot with a green (or blue) screen behind them? With chroma, you can “key out” (it’s like erasing) the green color during post production and “replace” it with whatever existing footage you have and make it the new background. The first time I noticed the Boys’ use of chroma was with Joseph’s “Love The One You’re With” solo video.

It looks like the Boys are becoming more and more elaborate with their video production. Check out the following below.

The Boys Go On Location!
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Okay so they’re indoors, but at least they’ve moved on from having just a plain background. Who knows one day they’ll have a video of them lipsynching in some exotic location like, oh, East Timor, Trinidad-and-Tobago or Riverbanks Mall, Marikina. Who knows, they might already be shooting there right now!

(Thanks to Green Space Singapore for the images. For some reason the Boys’ website is unavailable today. Hmmm… did the Backdorm Boys a.k.a. Two Chinese Boys sabotage their site?!)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Going In Circles

To the best of my knowledge, three of Crisaldo Pablo’s digital films have had their commercial run in Manila’s movie theaters (often at Robinson’s Movie World only), namely Duda, Bathhouse, and currently showing, Bilog. I have seen all three of his films during their regular run, and in all three times I’ve caught myself wondering, “Why do I subject myself to this?”

One answer I tell myself (with much consternation though) is that there are few Filipino film makers who tackle gay themes upfront and fearlessly. By supporting Pablo’s efforts I hope that this will encourage his tribe to increase—but with a certain caveat. We need fearless film makers, yes, but we need better ones too.

To be fair Pablo has become more daring in every film he’s made. Duda (“Doubt”) looks at the life of several men in the metro, their doubts about their sexuality and their partners’ fidelity. Bathhouse examines the meet-and-meat market of a gay bathhouse, touching on the lives of those who converge there. Bilog, while exploring more gay lives, is much more ambitious in form and content.

The first sign of Pablo’s ambition is in the clever title: bilog or “circle” refers to the Quezon Monument Circle, the setting where most of the action takes place. It also refers to how the characters are just aimlessly going around in circles with their lives (mind you, this movie is not just about the rent-boys roaming around the Circle; it is also populated with vendors, government workers and the other kind of “call-boy,” the call-center variety). It refers to how Chris, the central character, is clever at manipulating others (“pinapaikot lang sila”) and at making money (“nagpapaikot ng pera”). It refers to the saying “Bilog ang mundo” (“The world is round”); what comes up must come down, what seems good turns out bad, and change is inevitable. And bilog is also a word-play for libog or “lust”—often the very reason why worlds are turned upside down.

Structurally Pablo also makes the film go around in circles; he starts with one incident—a robbery involving Chris inside a jeepney—and repeatedly goes back to it throughout the movie. In between he explores the lives of each character. This Tarentino-esque, multi-story structure also worked for Go and Amelie. In fact, Pablo goes French on us by employing a third-person omnipresent narrator doing voice-overs throughout the movie. Another conceit is the way Pablo reveals, by repeating scenes all over again ala Amores Perros, how the stories of each character—at first seemingly detached from one another—actually intersect in surprising, not too obvious ways. He also plays with the medium itself; he fast-forwards the video or runs it in reverse.

Tarentino, Go, Amelie and Amores Perros—such heady company, right? Unfortunately aiming for the best isn’t the same as reaching it. While Pablo gets an “A” for “A”-ffort, his latest film shows that he still hasn’t learned his filmmaking lessons well. I think Bilog looked better on the page than onscreen.

First and most glaring are the technical deficiencies which this movie sadly shares with his two previous ones. Many evening scenes are too dark (and a lot of the action happens in shadows), and even daylight scenes are unevenly shot. The live sound, if not garbled or muffled, suffers from a cacophony of incidental sounds. It’s a chore to sit through the whole movie. How can a viewer get lost in the story when he’s at a loss as to what’s happening onscreen?

The characters are also poorly fleshed-out. With the exception of Chris, most of the other characters are flimsily written, one-note stereotypes. A multi-character movie often needs better-skilled actors to bring to life via action what the words in the script have no time to convey. Unfortunately Pablo employed newbies in this film, participants of an acting workshop whose culminating project was to act in this film. Most of them are earnest in their roles, but skill is needed more than just enthusiasm. I could also say the same for Pablo’s direction.

The use of a narrator is a tricky act to pull off properly. While Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s narration helped his film reach heights of poetry, Pablo’s voice-overs have the over-all effect of washing instructions being read. Am I too harsh? Well, his narrator asks a lot of existentialist questions and at times tells us the “lessons” gleaned from the scenes instead of allowing us viewers to figure things out for ourselves; I’m reminded of a bad Philosophy teacher.

Pablo’s attempts are as admirable as his failures are frustrating. Is it a lack of resources or of skill? I’ve seen other Filipino independent digital films and a lot of them achieved a level of technical competence. Maybe one day Pablo’s skills will match his enthusiasm; until then he’ll just be a filmmaker going around in circles.

And for now we can only sit quietly in the dark and endure a couple of hours in silent support of independent Pinoy pink cinema. If you’re going to watch Bilog, bring lots of patience.

More Mischieffy

All ye Mischievious Boys fans, genuflect and give thanks to Random Good Stuff for this interview with the Boys:


And all ye drooling for Edward, he’s single but, to directly quote him (from the abovementioned interview): “I am currently have someone in mind.” I oh so dearly hope it’s just a typo error.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Buddha Was A Shopaholic

A lot of things have been bugging my mind lately, so to relax I decided to do a tried-and-tested McVie stress release last night: going through grocery or supermarket aisles.

I don’t know why, but I just find it so relaxing to look at all the stuff being sold on-shelves. I don’t necessarily have to buy anything, though I often end up purchasing an item or two, however small, just to justify my staying in the supermarket for an hour or so. Maybe I just find it comforting to know that certain items exist (“Oh my, bottled dried oysters!” “Wow, there’s already an ampalaya-scented variant of that shampoo?!”) Or I delight in finding certain items that can be of use. Or maybe there’s that inner capitalist-consumer in me that sees the abundance of products on-shelf and thinks, “I covet therefore I acquire.” One day.

First stop, Tiendesitas along C-5. Okay, so that place doesn’t qualify as a grocery, but what the heck; it’s open until late. Besides, I was interested in checking out a particular Christmas light décor which my mom expressed interest in a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the shop which sold that particular item was already closed when I got there. (What a perfect excuse to go back again tonight!) So I decided to look around at the food section. I ended up buying two bottles of crushed toasted garlic and a half-roll of sugar-free braso de Mercedes. Too bad most of the other shops were already closed or about to close, so I left for my next destination.

Near the intersection of C-5 and Ortigas is the Cost-U-Less warehouse. For the longest time I’ve been intrigued by that place since it announced it was open 24 hours. Oh really, eh? But I suppose it made business sense, because Libis is now the unofficial call center capital of the Philippines. I guess all those call boys and call girls need to shop during ungodly hours. But last night was the first time I set foot on the place.

Outside it’s unremarkable; with very few cars in the spacious parking lot (this was already close to midnight) it seemed like I would be disappointed. But the moment I stepped in—whoa! This was a huge warehouse, and it was well-stocked. What they lack in variety they make up for in bulk—and I do mean bulk. Stacks and stacks of Garlic SPAM (my favorite variant!), boxes and boxes of Dial Soap, bottles of White Rain shampoo… you know they won’t run out of stocks even after a nuclear attack. A lot of imported brands are available (especially toothbrushes—there’s this French brand that’s the prominent brand on-shelf), which would guarantee that the Filipino colonial mentality won’t be cured for several more generations. That also explained why I saw several expats and rich Chinese families (from nearby exclusive villages) shopping there even at a very late hour.

Going from aisle to aisle, I delighted in just looking at all the merchandise. I started at the appliances aisle, moved on to the meat, poultry and fish sections (with those huge mega-industrial size freezers big enough to hold an igloo), then on to the wine and spirits, candies and chocolates, canned goods, kiddie and adult diapers, pasta and noodles, hair care, oral care, spices, etc. Whew! Even before I reached the last aisle I was already very calm, very much at peace, not a care in the world. I ended up with no purchases but that was okay.

I achieved shopping nirvana: a sense of peace without loss of money.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Meet The Boys

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Pramis! I can’t get enough of the Mischievious Boys. Yes, you read that right, it’s “mischievious” not “mischievous” and it’s pronounced as “mis-chee-vee-uhs” with four syllables. (Thank you, Lucid Intervals, for introducing me to them.)

Okay, so it’s sooo five minutes ago to lipsynch and post the video on the web. But if the video of two Chinese-Americans lipsynching to Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” can gain enough popularity (or notoriety, take your pick) to be featured in the local evening news (!), then why can’t four hot, hunky Asian Americans have their turn in the spotlight?
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David (Thai) is billed as “the bad boy,” Edward (Filipino) is “the heartthrob,” Joseph (Filipino) is “the dancer” and Tommy (Vietnamese) is “the funny one.” My favorite Mischievious Boy is Edward (I can’t take my eyes off of him!) followed by Tommy, who really lives up to his moniker—he is so makulit oncam.

The videos made by David, Edward, Joseph and Tommy are neither groundbreaking nor bar-raising, although they’re better produced than most “webcam” videos available on the net. They’re just waaay fun and gay. Why should straights have the monopoly of making fools of them on the internet? Besides there’s a wink, wink, nudge, nudge quality to their performance—they know they’re having fun with the whole thing. Anyone who takes these videos—whether from the Mischievious Boys or anyone else—too seriously is someone sadly lacking a sense of humor.

What if The McVie Show were to evolve into a video show? Hmmm… stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Most Cheesy Feature

If you’re a politician and you want your propaganda machinery to make sure that the people have you at their top-of-mind, what’s the first thing you’d have them do? Popularize your initials. You can call it your Initial Propaganda Salvo, or IPS.

I’ve seen done by Ferdinand Marcos during the 70s. All over the place were signs like “a project of FM” or “Vote FM”, and his initials regularly graced newspaper headlines. Because of Marcos’ success with his initials, other politicians followed suit. Quezon City’s Sonny Belmonte had signs all over the city promoting his “SB” initials. When Bayani Fernando was mayor of Marikina, there were signs all over saying, “BF works!” (He should work his ass off, he is mayor of course!) When his wife Marides succeeded as mayor of Marikina, she wasted no time in placing her initials all over the city. But instead of just having “MCF” signs, she decided to use her initials for different acronyms.

For example, on her first year as mayor she named the city-wide Christmas celebration as “Marikina Christmas Festival”. I thought it was a bit tacky, but compared to her next project, the festival name was sublime in its subtlety. For her follow-up project, she had horse-drawn carriages (called calesas) go around Marikina as part of the city tours offered to tourists. What did she call these horse-driven rides? Marikina Calesa Frolic.

Copywriters should have a field day offering name studies to her other projects. How about setting up an organization of Marikina’s pa-mhintas and call them Marikina’s Closet Faggots? Or create a special wing in the Shoe Museum featuring the tackiest shoes and call it Marikina Cheesy Footwear? Or her political foes from the last elections converge and form Marides’ Campaign Foes?

Have fun coming up with your own acronyms.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Emily Rose

Watch Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Olivero. It’s rare to have a movie that earns its audience’s reactions and sympathies the old-fashioned way—with an excellent script, earnest acting and sensitive direction. It is not a perfect movie, and technically it can stand a lot of improvement (especially on sound and cinematography). But the way the audience was reacting to the film was gratifying. It showed that the regular Pinoy audience is not an unthinking herd of viewers.
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Another movie I saw last Sunday was The Exorcism of Emily Rose. First of all, unlike Linda Blair’s green-puking classic, The Exorcist, this new movie is more a courtroom drama than a horror movie. There’s more spinning of facts than spinning of heads here, more shouting their mouths off than spewing green bile. Now this movie is actually quite predictable, even right down to the verdict. But what elevates this from the usual movie-of-the-week is the excellent acting of the three leads. Laura Linney is a fantastic actress; she’s good-looking enough to be cast as lead but not too stunning enough to land her in the front pages of magazines and tabloids. Her acting is also never flashy, so it’s not surprising why she’s often overlooked and underappreciated. Tom Wilkinson playing the priest is as competent as always, while Campbell Scott gives a well-measured performance as the prosecutor of the case.

What was unnerving though was the detail about 3 a.m. being the witching hour. Apparently 3 a.m. is the antithesis of 3 p.m., the hour of Christ’s death. So it is believed that the devil—or other malevolent forces—often make their presence felt at that ungodly hour. Unfortunately I’m often still awake at 3 in the morning, so this morning I was unnerved when, looking up from the book I was reading (Umberto Eco’s “Name of the Rose” this time), I glanced at the clock and it was already 2:50 a.m. Ah-woooooooh! I resolutely went back to reading, and after a few minutes I glanced up and it was already 3:20 a.m. and still there was no smell of anything burning. Whew! I finished a chapter then went straight to sleep.

And The Show Goes On

Ah, it’s good to be back on The McVie Show.

Last Wednesday I wasn’t feeling well, so I decided to take the day off. The day before I had entered Orlando in the casa to have his aircon fixed. So I had the whole day to myself—trapped inside the house. Instead of watching TV or cable or the supplementary documentaries in the Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith DVD, I decided to reread “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. My one-day sick leave however turned into three days (the flu strains these days are becoming more and more virulent) so after finishing “Goblet” on Friday I plowed through “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” over the weekend.

It was good for me to reread the two (they’re the longest among the current six Potter books, if I’m not mistaken) because there were many details that surfaced again, details that I either glazed over the first time I read the books (yup, I was trying to finish the books as quickly as I could that at times my eyes would glaze over the words), or I have forgotten already.

For instance: who among you who’ve read the books would remember that Albus Dumbledor has a brother? Yup! Aberforth Dumbledor is also with the Order of the Phoenix. J.K. Rowling was very circumspect about the sibling; Moody described him as somewhat a strange fellow and that was it. I suspect he’ll figure prominently in the last book, but that’s just me.

Also, I’m even more convinced that Snape is really one of the good guys. His role in Dumbledor’s “death” (I shall put it in quotation marks first, because I’m not totally convinced that Dumbledor won’t return in one form or another) is, I believe, a staged one, designed to fool Voldemort and his Death Eaters.

Before I had this idea that maybe Harry and Voldemort would both die in the end. After reading “Phoenix” I think that J.K. won’t have the heart to kill Harry. Darn.

* * * * *

Friday I was able to get Orlando back, thanks to my brother who picked up my car from the casa. However, since I still wasn’t feeling very well I decided not to go to work. But after two days inside the house I was dying for a change of pace, so in the evening I went out to watch a play in Katipunan. The play is “Nasaan si Kaliwete?” which is a didactic piece of agit-prop theatre that doesn’t just pound its message on the viewers’ heads, it hammers it scene after scene after painful scene. It didn’t help that some of the students are of the “intense equals loud” school of acting, so they were shouting their lines the whole time. The whole play sounded like a rally instead of a theatrical piece, which I guess is exactly what the production is all about. But after hearing the third anti-rich line uttered (I mean, yelled) in the play, my ears decided to shut off.

Someone should really write a play about rich folks complaining about the poor, just for a change of pace. I bet it’ll be a lot quieter, the dialogue bitchier with double entendres, but just as cruelly biting.

* * * * *

When you’re stuck at home with no option of just grabbing your car keys and going off somewhere, it’s amazing how the small details that you often take for granted suddenly figure prominently in your consciousness.

For example: toothbrushes. For the longest time I’ve not changed my toothbrush at home. I think it’s already with me for more than a year, but I’m not sure now that I forget when I actually bought them. Well, since I now had the time to notice how old it was, I decided to buy a new one. I couldn’t believe the range of options for toothbrushes one has: soft, medium or hard, slanted, multi-level, multi-layered bristles, angled brush, easy-grip handle; etc. There were so many that I decided to buy two, Colgate and Oral-B. The former I’ll use at home, the other is for the office. It’s an amazing feeling using a brand-new brush for the first time—it felt like oral raspa. (Not that I know how raspa feels like, of course.) For the first time in months I felt like my teeth were actually being cleaned. Of course most of it is psychological, I’m sure.

I also realized just how important it is to actually rest, as in mental, emotional and—most importantly—physical rest. Before whenever I had vacation, I’d end up driving off to somewhere. Now, driving relaxes me mentally and emotionally. (I’ve learned to be patient and understanding to stupid drivers—it’s more than defensive driving, it’s zen driving!) But I often forget how physically tiring it is—until we reach our destination. Then the fatigue sets in.

But last week I was able to experience the utter bliss of being physically still. Well, not exactly very still but I was lying in bed most of the time reading a book, my only movement limited to shifting my weight often to keep the blood circulating. It was a very welcome break.

I really should get sick more often.

* * * * *

P.S. – More Baguio pictures—actually bigger and clearer, I should say—in The McView Point, my phlog. Visit http://www.phlog.net/user/joelmcvie