Skip Reading. Are you guilty of the crime?

I am currently guilty of a crime that most bookworms would never forgive. Its been a recent habit that’s been brewing over the past couple of months. I know it kind of defeats the purpose of curling up with a good book in the first place but since I started, I just couldn’t stop.

I’ve been cheating. I’ve been sneaking peeks at the last page (except for suspense/whodunit novels cos that would be stupid)… but for everything else, I do. And it sort of sucks because I don’t get as surprised as I want to of the outcome of the story that I’ve invested hours in reading.

On one hand, when I know I will get my way with the ending, it drives me to read the book faster, but when I find the ending kind of blah, I sort of let my momentum go.

This leads me to my second crime. Reading many books at once, starting another before I could finish the first one when I feel boredom setting in. The problem is, I now have a bunch of books that I haven’t quite finished and don’t have the heart to go back to. I know, being a writer myself, I am being unfair to the authors by not giving them the chance to get back their groove, so to speak. Perhaps, by doing what I do, I miss the best parts of the book that was coming if I had just buckled down and stayed with it. So generally, in these cases, it’s my loss. I bought the book, and I didn’t get as much out of it as I should have. Sad.

I’m currently trying to correct this habit by sticking with this book I’m reading by my favorite author. Its especially difficult for me to accept that I’ll not be getting my way about the outcome which she announced way before the book hit the stores. So, straying from it is a challenge that I need to steel myself against.

No matter, its still well written and funny and I find myself warming up to the heroine more and more as I go along. I’m currently 180 pages into the novel and I have high hopes about the outcome.

I swear that once I conquer this habit, I will try to finish the other ones that I have abandoned as well. It’s kind of difficult once the momentum is lost but perhaps, it will come back. Fingers crossed.

True Beauty

True Beauty is a reality show/social experiment wherein 10 “beautiful” people are asked to stay in the same house and participate in different challenges throughout the season in order to determine who will become America’s Most Beautiful. However, the catch is that they are not only being judged based on their outer beauty but rather their inner beauty as well. Unbeknownst to the contestants, they are being monitored 24/7 by the judges on their interaction with fellow contestants and are being tested in various trap exercises which determine their personality and how they react to difficult situations.

True Beauty is truly entertaining mainly because of the obvious vanity of the contestants. Ego clashes against ego and the ensuing conflicts appeal to the funny bones of us regular people who think that most arguments in the house are lame and shallow. It is more funny in the sense that we all know that they are failing big time in the secret tests and yet they are still clueless as to why they are being eliminated. The viewers will also feel a bit sorry for some of the contenders for being totally out of touch with the virtue of humility and the concept of being nice to others who they perceive to be not as “beautiful” as they are, those who try to be cool all the time and are insensitive to the feelings of others, and those who truly believe that they can coast through life simply because of their looks.

During the final episode of the first season, where Julie, Billy and Joel were shown clips of their secret tests, I could just imagine the humiliation they felt in viewing their reactions to different scenarios, especially in those that do not show them in a positive light. But still, there was a lesson learned at the end. The experiment seemed to be a wake up call to the contestants in their dealings with others, and perhaps that dose of humiliation might have been the best medicine to open their eyes to reality and what is considered true beauty.

The experiment might have been easy to mount in the first season but I doubt if they can get the same results for the next one, since more people will be aware of the show, a bit like the Joe Schmo experiment :-) Generally, True Beauty is a good show. A lot better than most of the reality crap airing on television right now (with the exception of some).

Baddie Awards for TV: Polls are open

Now that the evil lords of cinema and literature have been crowned, welcome to the next round of Baddie Awards to be given to those who have been evil beyond and above the call of duty in the small screen. In this poll, we honor TV villains spanning the globe from the United States, to Asia and lastly several categories devoted to Filipino teledramas. So vote for your favorites now. Voting ends on Friday.

POLL CLOSED

Baddie Awards: And the winners are….

credits to my bro Tyrone for designing the kickass trophy

The masses have spoken. Voting is officially over in the week-long poll for cinema and literature’s biggest villains. IT was a tight race for most categories but thanks to polldaddy, tabulating the scores was a breeze.

And now without further ado, I present to you the winners of the first Cinerama Etcetera’s Baddie Awards, whose fame will soon surpass that of major award giving bodies in the United States and Europe.
First up, we have Scariest in Asian Horror.

Our nominees are Lotus Feet (Feng Shui, Philippines), Sadako (The Ring, Japan), Natre (Shutter, Thailand) and Kayako and Toshio (The Grudge, Korea).

And the winner is….. Drum roll please…..

SADAKO

Who can forget this long haired Japanese ghost who haunts those who view a mysterious cursed viodeotape one week after watching. Sadako, since the release of the first Ring movie in Japan has gained infamy throughout the world as different adaptations of the highly successful horror film is made by many countries.

***

For the next category, Meanest Masked Menaces, we have several contenders, all wearing scary masks and all out for blood.

The top three in the poll were Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th), Michael Myers (Halloween), Pigface (Saw).

And the winner is….

JASON VORHEES

After 12 movies, a television series and face offs with another screen giant Freddy Kruger, Jason Vorhees, a supernatural serial killer who preys on those who trespass on Camp Crystal. Friday the 13th has been one of Hollywood’s most successful franchises to date due to the sustainable appeal of its lead, a hulking spectre who always dons a blood splattered hockey mask as his trademark look.

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Psycho families in film are a dime a dozen, but sometimes, there are those broods who are more menacing than the others and are capable of horror to such degree that they affect the audience psychologically.

Presenting the winner of the Baddie for the Worst Psycho Family on Film category…

LEATHERFACE AND FAMILY

What worse fate could beget a group of teenagers on a road trip than to meet with a weird town sheriff who happens to belong to a family who preys on travelers on a Texas highway. How else could one describe the terror of knowing that his friends are being skinned alive to make masks for a hulking deformed creature who wields a chainsaw like his own arm and the helplessness of being asked to sit on a table with his family, partaking of another friend for dinner. Well, there you have it… that is why Leatherface and his brood took this category without much contest.

***

For the next category, Darth Vader did his best, but no light saber could come close to the sheer intimidation that an Alien could command. Let alone the grossness of being impregnated by one. Regardless of gender. The predators might have defeated them in AVP but they still had the last laugh, slimy S.O.B.s.

Aliens: Biggest Badasses in Outer Space

***

When we were kids (well, I personally), we liked to watch cartoons. In this category, Disney was king in churning out animated classics based on children’s fairy tales. Sure, they trifled with the endings of the darkest fairy tales to make it more child friendly, but still, you have to give the company some credit for bringing to life the wickedest of villains who oppressed the fairest maidens in the land.

It was a tight battle between the Evil Queen (Snow White), and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother but in the end…

WICKED STEPMOTHER

Just one look at those evil evil eyes would make the bravest of heroines cringe, and even a queen who turns to black magic to accomplish her nefarious plans could not compete with sheer cunning and utter meanness. The schemes of an ambitious widowed gold digger and the determination to get her ugly daughters to wed the prince are truly great motivators to become wicked.

 

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LEX LUTHOR

It isn’t easy being on the other side of the world’s most famous superhero. But Lex Luthor is not just any villain. He has money, he has smarts, and he knows Superman like no other. After all, he used to be his best friend. This best buddy turned arch nemesis has been portrayed in many different ways by comic book illustrators and actors (on the big and small screen). One thing remains the same — that shiny shiny bald head, his signature look. Truly, Lex Luthor deserves the Baddie for being the Best Villain based on a Comic Book.

***

The fanboys have all come a calling for this next category and no one wanted to let their favorite villains down. We have a tie for the Best Villain based on a Book category and its no wonder for these two powerful antagonists have reigned supreme.

LORD VOLDEMORT


Hailed as the most powerful wizard in the wizarding world, He-Who- Must-Not-Be-Named disappeared into obscurity after attempting to kill Harry Potter, the most popular orphan in children’s literature in the past decade or so. However, a powerful and evil Muggle hater could not be dismissed so easily. He surfaces throughout the seven book series in various shapes and forms and brings back the new age of the Death Eaters, regains his strength and lays siege on the last stronghold of the wizarding world — Hogwarts — where a culminating battle of good vs evil take place.

 

SAURON

Evil is engulfing Middle Earth and a group of seven must journey to destroy the One Ring of Power which the dark lord Sauron needs to control all of the land. Throughout the books, Sauron was depicted as a entity who sees all and all efforts to oppose him. He uses his army of Orcs and his general Saruman to keep the hobbit Frodo and his pack from destroying the Ring. Not being physically present did not hinder readers and audiences from feeling intimidated by this powerful villain. Talk about power.

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THE JOKER

Clowns are supposed to make us feel light and happy, but this villain makes us feel everything but. Depicted in the comic books as a prankster and criminal set on thwarting Batman, Jack Nicholson and the late Heath Ledger portrayed this arch nemesis to be a neurotic criminal which a lot of issues. With a resounding 71.43 percent of the votes, Batman’s worst enemy cast into shadow all of his brothers in the trade who ever tried their hand in breaking the law.

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Sir Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Even the greatest psychos in film concede this victory to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins. He’s infinitely smart and resourceful, and he has the greatest appetite for human flesh. He wants to have you over for dinner… but with you as the main course. Dr. Lecter, ladies and gents… our Baddie Award winner for Best Villain in a Motion Picture.

***

It was a tight battle between two of the most infamous characters in the horror genre for the category Ruler of the Cult Classics. Both have had successful franchises to their name, limitless merchandising materials and remakes under their belts. It was no wonder the voters found it difficult to decide the outcome of this one.

Without further ado, here are your winners:

CHUCKY (CHILD’S PLAY)

How do you get rid of a Good Guy doll who is in reality possessed by the spirit of a serial murderer and wants to kill everyone in your family to inhabit your body? That was the dilemma that Andy and his mom were wrestling with at the beginning of the franchise in 1988, and the same dilemma that protagonists were dealing with four sequels later. Producers of this franchise explored every angle, even venturing on a bride and a son for our plastic psycho doll menace. But Hollywood hasn’t had enough of Chucky yet. They are planning a remake slated this year.

FREDDY KRUGER (Nightmare on Elm Street)

Like Chucky, who can forget this striped sweatshirt wearing, blade fingered, wisecracking maniac who kills teenagers in their dreams? After six movies, the first of which starred Johnny Depp in his early days, a sequel and a faceoff with Jason, Robert Englund’s Freddy Kruger remains to be the most menacing and most remarkable of all the horror classics in the list. While the reboot in 2010 was a bit weak compared to the originals, it still turned up well at the box office, proving that the public has a huge respect for the character and the franchise and will soak up anything that has Freddy’s name on it.

So that concludes the first Baddie Awards. Thank you for voting and stay tuned for more polls on your favorite topics soon.

The Mechanic: Kicking ass one job at a time

The Mechanic is yet another one of Jason Statham’s action packed films featuring fast cars, fast women and basically, a lot of dead bodies by the end of the movie. If you ask me how its any different from any one of Statham’s previous offerings, then, the answer is none. Because basically, Statham’s involvement in any movie after the The Transporter is a guarantee that he will show up and kick some ass.

The film has a very simple plot. Even an idiot with half a brain could figure out five minutes into the film that there was going to be a double cross, a conspiracy and revenge. Three key elements that is sure to get the audiences involved from the get go. Arthur Bishop (Statham) is a hitman (Mechanic — an expert in fixing things), a specialist in offing people based on what is required by the client — accidents, statements, and even jobs that are so clean that nobody even knows he was there. Bishop is commissioned by a powerful businessman to eliminate his mentor Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland) for betraying the organization. Bishop gets the job done but later finds himself mentoring McKenna’s hotheaded son Steve, who had daddy issues, just like the next guy. The duo finds out that it was not Harry who was the traitor but rather somebody else within the group, and they go after the guy guns ablazing.

I did a bit of reading about the film and found out that it was actually a remake of Charles Bronson’s classic in 1972, but the story was a bit modified in its 2011 version. I did not see the original so I don’t have any basis to compare. Charles Bronson was a great action star in his time, but this is the era of Statham, a cool, suave, methodical Englishman who takes no prisoners in his acting and in his movie choices.

Aside from the action scenes, I liked the witty script. Save the fuel, I’m coming to get you. Priceless. There were also a lot of one liners and zingers that sustained the badass momentum of the film. The one thing that was implausible throughout was that there were no cops or firemen in pursuit no matter how big the ruckus or how loud the explosions were, until the very end that is.

Another thing that I liked about it was the tension that was palpalable throughout the movie. Audiences could feel Bishop’s distress over whether or not to kill his best friend, and in the later part when Steve would figure out who killed his father. Even until the last minutes, audiences will still be at the edge of their seats wondering who would prevail. The movie came full circle. There was a beginning, middle and end. And it was an ending that was worth the wait. The Mechanic is highly recommended for action aficionados and audiences who want to be thoroughly entertained.

Good Will Planting

March 25, 2011: I woke up this morning all ready to buckle down to build a home. I recently signed up for a Gawad Kalinga outreach activity in Alapan, Imus Cavite (Philippines), for house construction and house painting. It has long been a dream of mine to participate in volunteer house construction. I’ve been asking my friends for years to include me in such projects should they get involved in the planning (some of my college buddies are active in social work). So finally, after joining the academe, I got the chance to fulfill my dream. I (along with the rest of DLSU-D employees) was invited to contribute my time to help build a community. And I accepted. And for the first time, I prepared the stuff that I needed the night before (which I usually put off until the last minute), and didn’t need an alarm clock to wake me up. I was excited, to say the least.

The rest of the volunteers and I met bright and early in school. I wasn’t surprised to see that there were a lot. I didn’t know a lot of the people but when we got moving, but the excitement was infectious and affected all of us. Pretty soon we were chatting it up and cracking jokes, all of us wanting to fly to the site to start working. We were psyched. Scorching heat be darned!

So, we traveled for roughly 45 minutes to the site (it was far) and found ourselves in a small patchwork village with roughly 100 residents. I was a bit disappointed to find most of the houses already painted, leaving my team with nothing to do except join the other groups (teaching children or gardening). I was prepared to sweat it out so I chose to plant trees instead, even if I didn’t know the first thing about weeding or growing a garden.

One thing about planting — its tough work and I salute the people who break their backs to tend to gardens the whole day, to farmers who stay in the fields all day under the scorching sun. The biggest challenge I experienced involved distance to the water pump and the difficulty of lugging buckets of water to the planting site. Do I sound like I’m complaining? Sorry, but I’m not, really. I actually wanted to do it, and I really wanted to do it. I figured that helping plant seeds and saplings in the garden that would eventually bear fruits and vegetables for the residents is all worth it. I actually wanted to do more, but we were only scheduled to do our outreach for half a day. Bitin!

Part of the afternoon was spent for sharing and evaluating our experience at the GK Village. I felt fulfilled for having done a little to help build their community, and that was what I shared with my group. In truth, I wasn’t being completely honest. I felt like a fraud for saying that I felt accomplished, because really, what did I do? I planted a couple of trees, and then what? Did it make a difference? I don’t know. I knew that these people needed help, and all I could do was plant one friggin’ tree. Big deal.

I at first thought that the sharing part was a waste of time. Why are we spending this much time talking when we could very well use the time to work? But when it came time for the village leaders to speak, that was when it hit me, how off target I was, and talking really did have its merits.

One of the village leaders said, and this struck me: “Alam namin na pumunta kayo dito para maranasan ninyo kung pano maging mahirap. Pero nagpapasalamat kami sa inyo (We know that you came here to experience how it is like to be poor like us, but still, we thank you very much). I think that Aling Marie did not mean it negatively. Perhaps, she thought that the reason that we came — I came, was because I simply wanted to know how it was like on the other side of the fence — for kicks, for bragging rights, who knows what was going through her head? And yet, fighting back tears, she still thanked us profusely for sharing our time with them. There was no bitterness in her voice. Simply by listening, one could easily tell how genuinely touched she was of the hours we spent to develop their community, albeit in a limited way.

It spoke a lot of her character, if that was what she perceived, to have the magnanimity to accept scraps of time from people who were more well off than they are, if that was the case. It also spoke of the reality of their condition. Perhaps, in their old lives, they felt helpless to uplift their lives and depended on the kindness of others to survive. I can understand, being a person how difficult that felt.

At one point in our lives, we also experienced how it was like to be desperate. We also experienced how it felt like to be evicted from our home. We also knew how it was like to budget a kilo of chicken and stretch it to one week. My brother and I had to work part time, scrub the floor and clean up toilets to help augment our parents’ income. And it was a credit to our parents that they did not give up during those times, it was a credit to every member of our family that we stood together and came through that period stronger. And I wish one day that they too, could uplift their lives in the same way.

I am thankful that we did not experience the level of poverty that Aling Marie and the rest of the Gawad Kalinga residents experienced. But what she said stuck a nerve. I understand where she was coming from, to have to depend on others to rebuild one’s life. It made me respect her all the more, to have the strength of character to remain humble and accepting of her fate, having the openness in her heart to accept God’s blessings in the form of volunteers who want to make their lives better. And I respect them (all of them) all the more for trying to change their lives, conforming to the rules of the village to be able to remain there and stay in their homes. I salute them for their discipline and their dedication to the program, and their general kindness and perseverance. The experience also gave me a new respect for the people whom I have worked with. People who spend their desks behind desks on an 8-5 basis. I felt that in our bunch, all of us genuinely wanted to help and share our time with the folks at the GK Village, all of us would have stayed the whole day to work, had the option been open.

I expected to come home yesterday with my grungy clothes splattered in paint, dead tired. (March 25, this is a delayed blog) But what I got was muddy jeans, darker skin, a bit more wisdom and faith in the resilience of humankind and awe at the openheartedness of all of whom I spent the day with. I am so looking forward to other outreach activities like this one. Yesterday, when I gave Aling Marie a hug, I wanted to cry, and when she said I should come back, I didn’t need to think about my reply. I have resolved to come back one way or another even before she spoke. So, GK peeps, see you again in the summer :-) Thank you for an experience I will never forget.

To learn more about Gawad Kalinga , >>> click here

WTF! Movie endings that boggle the mind

While the results of the Biggest Baddies poll is still stewing in the backburners of this blog, let Cinerama Etcetera entertain you by listing down the best revelations in cinema in past 20 years or so. Again, these are based on movies that I have seen, so feel free to comment at the end of this blog if I missed anything.

Since M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, it would seem like filmmakers started to understand the untapped potentials of a great twist and how it impacts the overall outcome of the film. This is a salute to the films with the best twists that I’ve seen in this lifetime.

PRIMAL FEAR

This 1996 court drama stars Richard Gere as renowned defense lawyer Martin Vail who is defending Aaron, a stuttering altar boy (Edward Norton) who is accused of murdering an Archbishop. Vail discovers that his client is suffering from schizoprenia (dual personality disorder) and seeks to dismiss the case on the basis of insanity. The brilliant twist at the end will compel audiences to rewatch the film to search for clues they might have missed.

IDENTITY

Identity, on the other hand, is another film that deals with multiple personality disorder. In this movie, a jury decides to convict or release Malcolm Rivers, a murderer, based on the crime committed by one of his personalities. While proceedings are ongoing, an inner battle wages among his various alter egos as they try to kill off one another, unsure of who is the one who perpetrated the crime.

THE OTHERS

The Others is a film that deals with a mother, Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) who hires servants to care for her children who suffer from photosensitivity, a skin condition that results from overexposure to light. The film is generally dark and brooding and deals with the supernatural. However, while the audience is preoccupied by solving the mystery that surrounds the house that Grace and her family live in, the film’s brilliance is exposed by the final revelation at the end of the movie.

THE SIXTH SENSE

Newcomer Haley Joe Osment (Pass it Forward), stunned audiences with his performance in this film as a boy “who sees dead pople, walking around like normal people.” This Shyamalan masterpiece revolves around a child psychologist (Bruce Willis) who tries to make sense out of a boy’s special gifts only to find out in the end that he stands to benefit from it. Aside from the ending, the best part about the film is the chemistry between the two stars and the friendship which blossomed from trying to understand the unexplainable.

APRIL FOOLS DAY

This slasher film released in 1986 by Paramount Pictures had most elements of a typical teen horror –a bunch of kids spending Spring Break at an island mansion of their rich friend. However, in the middle of nowhere, people start dying and they have no way to escape. If you think that unmasking the culprit is the only thing that needs figuring out, you have another thing coming.

THE FIGHT CLUB

Yet another psychological thriller featuring Edward Norton as a nobody who befriends eccentric soap salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on the flight back from a business trip — a soap salesman with a temper problem who introduces him to The Fight Club, an underground fighting group with no holds barred rules. The plot gets complicated as Tyler further embroils Norton deeper into a conspiracy that nobody could really understand.

CLUE

As far as whodunits go, this takes the cake. Based on the popular board game Cluedo, the cast is headed by Tim Curry, who stars as the Butler of Mr. Body, the mysterious host of a dinner party in a remote mansion. The seemingly quiet night is interrupted when people start dropping like flies, guests become suspicious of one another as they try to figure out who is doing the killings. The amount of conspiracy and deceit in this 1985 classic, is as confusing in its own right as the three alternate endings it presented to the audience.

SKELETON KEY

A caregiver (Kate Hudson) is hired by a wealthy family in Louisiana to attend to its bedridden patriarch. But things get creepy when she learns about the origins of the plantation and finds herself the center of attention of a group of hoodoo practitioners.

LAW ABIDING CITIZEN

Fresh from his turn as King Leonidas in 300, Gerard Butler stars as Clyde Sheldon, an engineer who lost his wife and child to a group of intruders who terrorized his household. When his ambitious legal counsel makes a deal with the murderer to keep his winning streak, Sheldon vows to bring to justice those who have screwed with the law. How he accomplishes this feat from behind bars it is a work of art.


THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Petty criminals McManus, Fenster, Hockney, Keaton and Kint are rounded by cops on account of a hijacked truck. Months later, authorities lean in on gymp Verbal Kint, the only remaining survivor from the lineup for the explosion of a boat suspected to be carrying millions of dollars worth of cocaine to find out who masterminded the explosion and the subsequent body count. Verbal spills the beans on his cellmates and what happened after they were released from detention for a dubious charge.


SHUTTER

The only Asian horror that made this list, this story deals with a photographer dealing with the ghosts of his past involving a teenage indiscretion he and his friends committed — an indiscretion that has resulted in the death of most of his gang, and his own certain death looming like a cloud.

So, that concludes my list for today. If you haven’t seen any of these films, you’re missing out.