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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for January, 2009

Raunchy/Thinky: Serbis opens in New York

January 31, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 6 Comments →

J. Hoberman in the Village Voice: For all its gross-outs, Serbis is an essentially modernist enterprise in which figure and ground, character-driven narrative and celluloid spectacle, are in continual flux. In another universe, perhaps Comedy Central, it could be a porn-based sitcom. But is that porn or meta porn? Serbis may be a raunch-fest, but it’s also a mind-trip—a raunch-fest with ideas.

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: In “Serbis” politics isn’t a matter of slogans but of real bodies, which perhaps accounts for why it paradoxically unwinds in a movie theater. The heavenly bodies that populate our films bring their own pleasures, of course, alighting on screen as if from a dream. The bodies in this movie — which received little love at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival — are not heaven sent, but neither are they puppets in a cinematically contrived nightmare. Rather, they lust, sweat, desire and struggle with ferocious truth.

If you go to the Comments on the NYT review, you’ll notice two Filipino (I presume) readers with dissenting views on the movie. One calls it Third World misery porn designed to titillate westerners; one says it presents truths Filipinos prefer not to face. The former is a common criticism of Filipino movies screened abroad. I think both opinions are valid, although Serbis cleverly uses the misery porn as a hook to make people watch a movie of ideas. One must be pragmatic.

Note: As far as I know Serbis has not been commercially exhibited in Manila outside of screenings at Cinemanila and at universities. It will likely (if it hasn’t already) get an X-rating. If the producers were as greedy as that commenter suggests, they should’ve pushed for a local theatrical run. Nothing like an X-rating from the censors to draw the crowds.

Tuhog, which like Serbis was written by Bing Lao, competed at the Venice Festival in 2001. The afternoon screening was attended by a group of Filipinas based in Italy. After the screening, they gathered at the entrance to wait for the director, Jeffrey Jeturian.

“Ano ba yang pelikulang yan,” one lady declared, “Puro kapangitan ang ipinakita.” (That movie was all squalor.)

“Ang laswa,” her companion added. “Ano na lang ang iisipin ng mga foreigner?” (It’s obscene. What will foreigners think?)

“Di man lang pinakita ang mga magagandang tourist spots sa atin,” another lady added. “Boracay. Mga mall. Sino ba’ng nag-direk ng Tuhog na yan?” (They didn’t even show the pretty sights back home. Like Boracay and the malls. Who directed that?)

“Ako po,” replied Jeffrey, who had just emerged from the theatre.

“Ayy!” the ladies cried. “Ang galing mo naman! Doon ka sa amin mag-dinner! Saang hotel ka? Tumira ka na lang sa bahay ko.” (What talent! Come to dinner at my house! Which hotel are you staying in? You can stay in my house.)

Rooting for the Undercat

January 31, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Tennis 4 Comments →

Taleb on How to survive in an unpredictable world

January 30, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Current Events, Money No Comments →

People laughed when Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb warned of the coming financial doom. Who’s laughing now? These are his 10 rules for surviving an unpredictable world with dignity.

4 Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

7 Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).

10 Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

Tycho Brahe: a Renaissance murder mystery

January 30, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Places, Science 1 Comment →

Was Tycho Brahe Murdered by a Contract Killer?

Over 400 years after the death of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, scientists in Prague are preparing to exhume his body. Was Europe’s most renowned scholar poisoned with mercury? A Danish scholar claims to have decoded the murderer’s diary. Read the article in Der Spiegel.

Tycho Brahe had measured the heavens and demonstrated that comets follow heliocentrid paths, but stuck with the geocentric system of planetary motion. The murder suspects include the Jesuit order, Brahe’s assistant and fan Johannes Kepler, King Christian IV of Denmark, Brahe himself, and his “affectionate” distant cousin, the Swedish count Erik Brahe.

Tycho was rich, arrogant, condescending, and did not lack for enemies. When he was still at school, a fellow student questioned his abilities in math, so he challenged him to a duel. In the swordfight, part of Tycho’s nose was sliced off. He had the missing part restored in gold and silver and attached to his face.

When my sister and I went to Prague (and nearly froze our noses off), we looked up Tycho Brahe’s grave at Tyn Church in Wenceslas Square. Unfortunately I can’t locate that photo, but I found this snapshot of a monument to Brahe and Kepler.

A view of Prague from the battlements of the Castle.

View from another tower.

If you’re planning to visit Prague (airfares are going down), be prepared to climb a lot of stairs.

Meet Phoebe

January 30, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats 2 Comments →

The latest ampon sa labas will be called Phoebe Esmeralda Castafiore Falconeri Ancic de Balzac. If she turns out to be a boy, Phoebus Castafiore Emerald etc.

Phoebe from The Catcher in the Rye, Esmeralda Castafiore from the Tintin book The Castafiore Emerald and For Esme, With Love And Squalor. Falconeri from The Leopard, Ancic as in Mario, and Balzac because he loved cats and coffee and I just saw a biopic with Gerard Depardieu that only had one cat. (Great cast though, with Jeanne Moreau as Balzac’s awful mother and Fanny Ardant as the Countess.)

The prize goes to the entry I liked best: “Briony Ottilia Goolagong” by humanum777. Please send me your Philippine address so I can mail you the book.

Tintin and The Price Differential

January 29, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 4 Comments →

Price of Tintin books (large softcover) at National Bookstore: P359
Price of Tintin books (same edition) at Powerbooks: P457
Price of Tintin books (same edition) at Fully Booked: P399
Hmm. Books generally cost more at Fully Booked, but I thought the prices at National and Powerbooks would be close.

Jamie Bell will reportedly play Tintin in the movie trilogy to be directed by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Excellent choice. Andy Serkis has been cast as Captain Haddock, which should be a breeze for the actor who’s already played Gollum, King Kong, and that punk musician in 24-Hour Party People. The role of Red Rackham goes to Daniel Craig, who got heavy-breathing reviews for his performance in Defiance: the critics weren’t crazy about the movie, but they said Craig was “like Moses, but with sex appeal.” Let’s remake. . .The Ten Commandments!

Which adventure classic begins with this line: “He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche! Read it at Project Gutenberg.