Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Present Confusion Rainy Day Marathon

Capsule reviews of movies I’ve seen over the extended weekend:

Jailbreakers: What can you expect from the guy who directed Attack the Gas Station? Expect large, wild crowded fight scenes, slapstick comedy and sideplots aplenty. It’s totally hilarious and crazy, and exactly something that you’d expect from Korean Comedy. And although it may not be entirely serious, subtle social commentary is in the film for extra measure. How about that?

Public Enemy 2: staple good guy versus bad guy spiel with a “cerebral” twist to it (and I stress the quotation marks.) No stalking serial killers here like in the first film. Somewhat overlong, but still enjoyable to an extent. Despite the film’s flaws and disjointedness, you gotta enjoy Sol Kyung-gu, he’s still a great actor.

Marrying the Mafia 2: Aww, a gangster with a heart. MTM2 is even cheesier than I’d expected, and cheesier than the first film. There are some great comedic moments in this film, however. Just for those moments it’s worth watching at least once, on a rainy day.

Five Tough Guys: Shaw Brothers goodness! This guy wants to overthrow the emperor and he needs to go to Yunan province. So he hires five bodyguards to escort him. That’s it. There are some police and Japanese guys for villains FTW. Great chopsocky action.

Inu no Eiga (Dog Movie) : the title says it all – it’s a movie about dogs. It’s more or less a collection of short films, most centered on a boy (later a man) and his dog, with a few exceptions. Some are hilarious (the commercial segment and the dog in love sequence,) heartbreaking (the hospital sequence,) plain weird, (the second animated sequence and the dog talk thing) and some are just plain. But all the preceding segments are eclipsed by the brilliant last sequence starring the lovely Aoi Miyazaki, which is well worth the price of admission (or rental, or whatever.) For Dog Lovers everywhere.

Short Time: this was a movie that surprised me. It’s a Korean Comedy, and it’s funny. But the whole thing at the end made it a bit different from other Korean Comedy offerings out there. It has no big name stars but it’s quite a surprise, like last year’s “Where is the Tape?” It’s no art film masterpiece, but it’s entertaining fluff that entertained me through the rain.

One Nite in Mongkok: It’s HK gritty crime drama at its best. It’s near Christmas. Two gangs are fighting. One gang hires a killer to kill the leader of the other gang. Shit hits the fan, the killer is suddenly on the run from police, stuff happens. At first a land of opportunity, the streets of Mongkok soon become deadly. Although the last 10 or so seconds are unintentionally funny, the rest of the film is brilliantly shot and the plot is played through to the end. And also, the film has Cecilia Cheung. You can’t get enough of Cecilia Cheung.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Just One More Happy Little Tree

I sucked at Art Class.

It was one of the few subjects I was scared of failing. I was never keen on the whole arts and crafts thing. I colored outside the lines, I cut paper as if my pair of scissors were made of the dullest substance known to man. It wasn't Math or Science or even Filipino that bothered me, it was Art. I had projects made by someone else for a good while, just so that the rest of the world will never know my general suckiness at making something arty. The teachers berated me for it. They gave me bad grades in the subject, just enough to get something decent.

Now that doesn't mean I didn't love to draw. I loved drawing and making little comics from yellow pad paper. I liked drawing little nipa huts and I used up endless notebooks with my drawings of them and stick figures with lasers and spaceships. The thing is it just wasn't what the art teachers wanted. They wanted something else.

It had gotten so bad that I had to take summer classes in art. ART, for crying out loud. I wanted the simple course, but for some reason I was included in the advanced class, which mainly composed of painting things. Now this was clearly a case of being completely out of place - while I was there I was surrounded by people who had at least twice my skill in making arty things. I had no chance whatsoever against these guys.

At the same time, I watched an show on TV called the Joy of Painting. It was hosted by an afro-sporting, soft talking guy who had a knack of smacking his paintbrush against the thing that held up his canvas. His name was Bob Ross.

I watched the guy turn a perfectly blank white (and in one instance, black) canvas into something absolutely gorgeous. The man did nothing but landscapes - mountains and cabins and forest scenery and black vistas of imagination-fueled splendour - all in 30 minutes or less.

I wanted to do that, I thought. I wanted to create mountains with color and erase trees on a whim. I wanted to know the Joy of Painting.

My first painting in the advanced class was not that good. It was a grassy landscape, or maybe it was fruit. In any case, it was terrible, unless you considered it abstract art. I copied how the others painted and tried to get tips from them. It didn't work that well either.

For my last painting it was do or die, so I asked my teacher how to make all those pretty effects. He taught me how to do an ocean with a black sky. It really kicked ass, although he did a good part of the painting too. Eventually it was all shown at an exhibit in my school. I was a bit proud. For the first time I loved making something out of my own hands. It was joy.

I haven't done a lot of that since then, but drawing's become my outlet sometimes. I consider it my release, as my classmate once asked me. And I go back to that summer when I tried to make mountains out of paint every time I begin drawing. That guy taught me that art could be fun, more than any cynical art teacher ever managed to elicit from me.

Then, before I decided to write this, I found out that Bob Ross has been dead for eleven years. Apparently he died of Lymphoma in 1995, having entertained and taught millions of people everywhere the same thing I learned from him. Man, that was a shock to me. He was a cool guy. But I'm sure many other people have had the same experience as I did, and I'm sure those 30-minute quickies of his will last a very long time.

Here's to you, man.