Sunday, April 23, 2006

C and J at the movies: Pamahiin

Last Thursday my friend C and I went to see a movie, not knowing that the choices were mainly a) things we had either seen before, b) didn’t want to see or c) a film by/with Steven Seagal. We were stumped. Eventually we went to watch something in the b category, a recent Filipino horror film called Pamahiin (in fairness to good ol’ Steve, we considered watching his movie… for about five seconds.) Instead of the usual review here are some of the things we said during the course of the film (more me than him, but anyway…) Was it a fun experience? Yes, it probably was. Was it a good film? We’ll let you decide. Some of the stuff was spoken in Tagalog and may not be verbatim. Remember, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A HORROR MOVIE. A MOVIE THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE SCARY AS HELL.

(Five or so minutes into the movie)

J: Uy, puro pamahiin to ah… jinu-justify ata nila yung title eh. Kulang na lang me ladder sa tabi, tapos me black cat…

(A black cat darts into view)

J: …

* * *

(A character (Iya Villania, as Eileen) locks herself inside a room as someone chases her)

J: Why can’t (the pursuer) open the door? The keyhole is in (Iya’s character’s) side of the door (thus the lock has to be at the other side where the pursuer is)

C: Maybe it’s one of those locks where you push the middle of the doorknob to lock the door.

J: In the side with the Keyhole?

C: …

* * *

(A heart used for an evil ritual continues to beat)

J: I wonder how much that heart was in the market?

C: It looks clean nga eh.

J: (Evil character’s name) must have used a lot of Ringer’s solution…

* * *

(Iya’s character sees a ghost)

J: *imitates Iya Villania by opening his mouth really wide.*

C: …

J: Ginagaya ko lang, no… di kaya kinabag siya dito?

* * *

(Some jump scenes occur)

C: Some traumatic shit, paaare!

J: *laughing*

* * *

(a wall crawling scene occurs)

C: #&)!

J: Nice effects ah!

* * *

(A major SFX scene appears where the ghost is disappearing)

C: Hmmm…


* * *

(A character, Mang Sebring, goes apeshit crazy after learning a piece of news)

J: Best actor, pare.

C: Ha?

* * *

(The same character is killed by a pane of glass)

C: Hirap naming paniwalaan yun. Ang layo niya dun sa gilid…

J: Oo nga… pahalang pa yung glass… unless he was chopped in two or something.

C: Dapat flat (reminded me of a scene in Final Destination 2…)

J: Oo, para madaganan ng mabuti…

* * *

(At seeing Paolo Contis character commit suicide)

J: Si Paolo Contis ba yun?

C: Oo.

J: Iba itsura niya… Must be the eyeliner.

* * *

(Words written in blood appear in front of the character)

J: Ang ganda ng font ah! Parang sulat babae.

C: Oo nga eh.

J: Yung a, diba, iba yung pagkasulat.

* * *

(Iya cries and acts terrified during a scene)

J: (indifferent to the scene) Shiny hair! Kintab ng buhok niya ha…

C: Akin yan, pare.

J: Ang cute, ang sarap hawa… este yakapin. Pero bakit yung hair niya palaging natatakpan ang mukha niya?

C: Yung hairstyle niya.

J: Hehe, tawagin natin ang hairstylist niya.

* * *

(Iya breathes heavily during a scene, simulating terror)

J *imitates*

C: Ano ba yang ginagawa mo?

J: Parang me tonic-clonic seizure (I was thinking more of kussmaul respiration later on, but this was the first thing that came to my head)

J: Nano-notice mo ba gumagalaw ang hair niya habang humihinga siya. Gaan ng hair nya, no? Anong shampoo kaya ang ginamit niya?

* * *

(blood drips down onto Iya’s face)

J: Chocolate!

* * *

(A scene transition occurs and Iya is shown talking to the phone explaining exactly why they are there and what they are doing)

J: How convenient! Exposition!

C: Para ma-explain…

J: Para sa masa siguro to no? Bait naman ng director.

(the same expository device is used later on in the movie)

* * *

(A scene occurs where the two characters lock themselves inside the house)

J: Cliché naman… teka, sungka ba yon?

C: Hindi ha. Ano yung ilaw na yon? (referring to a light outside the house)

J: May ilaw sila sa labas ng bahay. Aksaya naman sa kuryente ng mga to…

* * *

(A character leaves the car)

J: Sige, magpa-carnap ka…

C: Nasa loob na yata sila ng bahay eh.

J: (embarrassed) Ows?

* * *

(A character tells Dennis Trillo or whoever he is that Iya’s character is in the shower.)


C: … gago.

There. In my honest opinion this movie comes out as an awkwardly plotted, awkwardly paced, awkwardly edited, awkwardly acted B-movie grade film. The effects range from artificial-looking to good (at one point my friend couldn’t tell that a CG effect was in fact not real.) We don’t need continuous emphasis that this film is about Pamahiin (folk beliefs) in the first third only to abandon that and go into some weird ghost story that has something to do with witchcraft. Iya was cute, though, and whoever maintains her hair deserves praise.

But my friend seemed genuinely surprised by some of the jump scares. They don’t have the same power over me as they once had, seeing that I’ve seen the best of em. I guess there were a few good moments that could have scared me. Maybe. In a million years.

Otherwise, unless you’re willing to MST this movie to death, don’t see it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The First Step

Boxing… it’s a strange thing. I find myself strangely attracted to this science, this art, that basically entails beating someone to a bloody pulp. There’s something about the glory, the rush it gives when you are giving all you have to someone else, one on one, in the field of battle.

What does it mean to be strong? This is the question that is the center of the anime series Hajime no Ippo, a.k.a. Fighting Spirit, a.k.a. Knock Out. It is a boxing anime to the core, and there aren’t that many (Ashita no Joe comes to mind, and that was a good one) But still I rank this show as one of my all time favorites.

Ippo Makunouchi starts the series as a timid highschooler who can’t help but get tormented with the local bullies. One day, after a particularly bad beating, Mamoru Takamura, a pro boxer, helps him out. Little do they both know that Ippo will begin the long and arduous road towards becoming a pro boxer himself. Soon the training begins, and the wise and experienced Coach Kamogawa sets Ippo up for his first matches. The road to becoming a Champion has begun.

My most favorite thing regarding this series was the fact that the fights were not seven-episode affairs that streeeeetched out a fight so long you don’t care about it anymore. Most of the fights take an episode or two – three tops. It improves the pace of the anime greatly and it makes it damn exciting, even when I’m watching matches I’ve already seen. In one case I already knew the outcome of one match, but when I saw Ippo go into his K.O. pattern, I got into it like a rabid dog. It’s that exciting.

The fast pulsing soundtrack helps as well as the voice acting. The opening and ending themes are quite good are quite catchy (who can forget ‘I want to feel lost mind?’) most notably the third ending theme, Saber Tiger’s “Eternal Loop,” which sounds like a 90’s rock band (And I geeeeeeeeeeeeeeet up, with my wounded baaaaahdeeey!) The characterization of most of the characters were spot on, and each person is given time to be fleshed out, even Ippo’s opponents. Ippo himself grows; as the series progresses, we see how he deals with the notion of how to become strong. The art style may put many off, but it’s understandable as the manga started out in 1989.

Sports anime have always piqued my interest, and Hajime no Ippo is one of the best, along with Slam Dunk. Give it a try and try not to get put off by the art style – it’s worth it.

The Blinding Passion

Some time ago, an anthropologist named Edvard Westermarck studied the phenomenon of people falling in love with people closely related to them. I guess there’s some credence in the old folks saying you will fall in love with a person who either looks like you or like someone related to you.

In one particular study, it was found that groups of children who were raised close together – in the close environment that siblings are raised, albeit without parents - grew up with little interest of members of the opposite sex. This type of reverse sexual imprinting – the Westermarck effect, it was called – was theorized to prevent closely related people, like siblings, from something called genetic sexual attraction, which would make them attracted to one another. (Remember when Luke Skywalker saw the holoimage of Princess Leia and said, ‘she’s beautiful!’? Something like that but more extreme.)

Whether you believe in that or the Freudian alternative, the anime series Koi Kaze (literally, ‘love wind’) is to me the example of a Westermarckian social experiment. Koshiro, a 27-year old man, is troubled by his listless life and the relationships he gets involved in aren’t ones that are fiery with desire – it almost seems like he isn’t attached to the people who forms relationships with him. His ex even asks him if he has ever truly fallen in love with someone (or something to that effect.) One day his younger sister Nanoka, 15 years his junior, enters his life. The two have not met ever since Nanoka was a baby, and here comes the dilemma: Koshiro, in addition to his natural fraternal feelings towards Nanoka, begins to feel something more, something deeper that at first he tries to deny. On the other hand, Nanoka is delighted at the prospect of living with a brother, since she’s wanted to have one all her life. Soon she becomes drawn in deeper in her thoughts of Koshiro, and something’s sure to happen.

Now I guess at this point you have an idea of what’s coming. Yes, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Are you feeling creepy? Hehe. One’s appreciation of Koi Kaze will depend on your mileage. If you’re sensitive to these kinds of things, it’s best to stop now and go to my next entry. It’s probably as good as this one. Oh, and LOTS OF SPOILERS FOLLOW, so be warned.

LOTS OF SPOILERS FOLLOW! Just wanted to say it again...

Still here? Good. After seeing the entirety of the series, I cannot remove this anime series from my mind. I still feel ambivalent about the series, but I think it’s pretty good – one of the best I’ve seen this year. In essence, the plot of Koi Kaze is about two people who try to fall in love despite the circumstances that conspire against them – and we all know we have a lot of that. And yet there’s something sad about the whole thing that I couldn’t place. At times I can’t help but root for these two – the series was set up that way, even though Koshiro can be a jerk sometimes. And at the same time I find myself wanting their relationship to pass on gracefully, for everything to be like it should be (or, like what we would like it to be.)

The series is quite serious at times, although the lighter aspects of the series are quite cute. The simple art style is very nicely done, and it kind of accents the realism of the series somehow (and the realism is what sets the series apart from other romance series - it's really that good.) The soundtrack is really good, but nothing really exceptional or memorable in my opinion. It is interesting to see the interaction of the two main characters towards each other and each episode I couldn’t help but wonder: is it the time? Will they cross the logical and societal barrier that keeps them apart?

The last two episodes come, and they are the episodes that I am still personally wrestling with (of course, in a figurative manner.) Koshiro and Nanoka eventually cross the barrier, and enter the land of no return (really! Believe me, watch the last two episodes and judge for yourself.) Chidori (Koshiro’s coworker friend,) who seems to me a lone voice of reason, perhaps in this context embodying society itself, tries to stop them both.

But you see, as the title of this entry entails, love is a powerful blinding force. It’s a strange tunnel-vision like thing that makes you focus on that special person, and nothing else. In reality, one would see that this isn’t the most practical decision to make. But it is love, and I think the point of the whole series is that if love is there, anything has a possibility to last. And as you would expect from what I wrote, Chidori fails – and the two lovers cross the barrier, one that all lovers go through at some point in their relationship, but in this context unsettled me somewhat, and it’s natural, considering the way our society treats such relationships. It made me reflect on it, and that earns some praise from me. I hated what Koshiro did, honestly. It resounded against my very being. But then, I thought, how could I blame him? He's human just like the rest of us.

(As these two episodes went on I am reminded strangely of Kim Ki-duk’s Bad Guy (or any of his films, actually.) The feeling I got here was similar to the feeling I got when watching those films.)

I’m not as optimistic about love as the mangaka of Koi Kaze probably is. The anime ending kind of reflects that – it feels logical and grounded in reality. The last episode is full of symbolism. At one point, Nanoka even thinks about a lover’s suicide (something that is explained in detail in the manga, but this route has been done in Korean melodramas for ages now, so you probably know why.) They carve their names in a tree in the amusement park where they met, and yet we know that, since the park is shutting down, no one will probably see that. Koshiro even asks himself why they are doing this – they know this relationship may not last forever, it may only be temporary. They will have to make changes, try to hide what feelings they have from others. But for this short moment, they press on, because I believe that they are very sure of one thing – that RIGHT NOW, they are in love. I think the ending may imply that they've finally gotten out of it, that they can end and move on, or it may mean the opposite. It makes Koshiro’s final words – ‘I Love You’ – even more ambiguous. Is it a goodbye? Is it a heartfelt declaration of his feelings?

After seeing the anime ending, I went to see what the manga ending was. The manga ending is similar to the anime ending, yet I felt it was better in pacing the last few moments of the series. It isn’t as ambiguous as the last episode of the anime, however, and that last episode, like it or not, is one of its strong points.

In the end, aside from that, there is no real resolution aside from the fact that the two lovers have finally accepted their feelings. There is, and there isn’t change. Life goes on. I mean, you can’t erase that love that is already there. Tragic, yes. There could have been times where such a thing could have been avoided or stopped. Where do these two go from here? Hell if I know. Ultimately it's up to us to imagine. But as enjoyable and as distressing and as endearing and as unsettling as this series was, I wish both of them good luck.