Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for July, 2009

The Darkness That Makes You See

July 31, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 7 Comments →

Photo: Brillante Mendoza and his cast at the Q&A following the screening. Ah UP, don’t ever change. Where else can you go to a movie premiere where the host denounces the attempted curtailment of academic freedom, condemns media repression and reiterates calls for the resignation of the president?

I don’t know what the enraged critics saw. Kinatay is not as horrendously violent, gruesome, or sexually explicit as their reviews have led us to believe. What the hell were they watching? This cannot be the same movie. Are they so delicate that they can’t watch this, or are we so jaded that nothing shocks us anymore? Kinatay is rigorous, disciplined, and yes, subdued.

The censors didn’t even bother to X it: Brillante Mendoza’s movie received an R-18 rating (Granted, there was pressure from the film and academic communities). You can barely see what’s going on, you only hear it and your brain fills in the horror. The rape scene is not titillating, the murder is not thrilling, the butchery not exciting at all. This is not entertainment, nor is it supposed to be; this is a challenge to your complacency. There are long stretches in which nothing seems to be happening and you don’t know what’s going on—just like life!

Mendoza does not dramatize the atrocities, and this is how it should be. Traditional action movies are the real offenders. Brutality is NOT fun to watch. Killing is NOT cool. The fact that such ugliness takes place in real life makes the viewing more interesting but it is immaterial. The work speaks for itself.

You can read Kinatay as social commentary but it is mainly a personal horror movie: one man’s descent into hell. Kinatay is an Idea successfully executed as Cinema. Open your mind.

That’s So Funny I Forgot To Laugh

July 30, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Amok, Art, Movies, The Bizarre 14 Comments →

On my way to UP for the premiere of Kinatay I received a text joke.

‘Carlo Caparas named National Artist for Visual Arts and Film.’

Hahahahaha, I replied.

Then I remembered where I am.

I’m in the Philippines where the bizarre is ordinary and the ordinary is bizarre.

So I checked. It is not a joke. It is the Ultimate WhattheFuck.

All this week I’ve been blue for no particular reason. I thought I was depressed. This news snapped me right out of whatever funk I was in. My non-problems are nothing compared to this Cosmic Absurdity.

So thank you, Malacanang. You have banished my ennui and replaced it with full-blown Insanity.

Art is Shit. Shit is Art. Mediocrity is Excellence. To quote the bomba star Stella Strada’s suicide note, It’s a crazy planets!


Our friend Noel Orosa is returning to Manila Friday after a year in KL. Hey Noel, Carlo Caparas is a National Artist now. Welcome home, bitch.

Shrew out of water

July 30, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 4 Comments →


We’re designating a new category: the Low Expectations Movie of The Week. We know that in all likelihood it will be formulaic, exploitative, and bland, but we’re giving it a chance to entertain us.

The Low Expectations Movie Of The Week is The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Only reason we went to see it: Ryan Reynolds takes his shirt off.

It’s a worthy choice. All the best bits are in the trailer.

The movie is funny when they’re in the office and Sandra Bullock is a harpy who violates Ryan Reynold’s civil rights. Unfortunately they go to Alaska and Bullock’s character is revealed to be a nice person. The comedy turns into a melodrama and it goes downhill from there.

I don’t like it when the bitch turns out to be a softie. Why can’t a bitch just stay a bitch?

Also, the fish out of water plot is overdone. The editor-in-chief of a major publishing house would have the sense to wear flats and dress appropriately for a weekend in a small town in Alaska.

Most embarrassing bit: the Frankie Goes To Hollywood dance number, which is supposed to be hilarious but isn’t.

My favorite part of the movie is when the Louis Vuitton bag falls into the water and women shriek in the movie theatre. They didn’t shriek over the supposedly romantic bits, but they expressed real concern for the bag. That says something about this movie.

Emily Postal

July 29, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 2 Comments →

Bert sent me this snippet from a newspaper article quoting the filmmaker Jim Libiran.

‘“It’s possible that viewers became interested in ‘Astig’ because they want to see these popular actors. But a box-office hit is not necessarily the best movie in the competition,” said Jim Libiran, director of “Tribu,” 2007 Cinemalaya Best Picture. The top-selling movie in 2007 was Aureaus Solito’s “Pisay,” Libiran added.

‘Libiran, who also appears briefly in this year’s full-length entry “Engkwentro,” said what happened to “Astig” is an example of what he calls the “vanilla ice cream syndrome.” “We know how vanilla ice cream tastes like. We buy it to play safe. We don’t want to experiment on other flavors,” Libiran explained. “I hope the audience would be open to watching the other entries.”’

That ticked me off. The more I thought about it, the madder I got. It is unseemly for a filmmaker who’s been the recipient of so much generosity to be stingy and mingy towards other filmmakers. Look, we all have to live on this small planet, let’s not make it tougher than it already is. I’m with Hannibal Lecter on this one: You are what you are, but don’t be rude.

So I sent Jim a text message going Emily Post on his ass.

An hour later I got his reply. ‘I’m in Mt. Banahaw and I didn’t get to watch the films except for Engkwentro. The reporter insisted that I give a comment. That’s the only reason for my comment. What pissed you off?’

Before I could compose a reply he called me. He said he’d been receiving complaints about something he said and wasn’t sure what it was exactly. I read him the offending quote. He said that when asked for a comment he declined, not having seen the movies except the one he appears in. The reporter insisted that as a former winner (for Tribu) he say something. She asked him why he thought audiences liked Astig, and he replied that it must be because it stars popular actors. According to Jim he added that all the entries are already Best Picture.

“People have been very kind to me, I wouldn’t repay that with unkindness,” he said. We’re all trying to elevate Filipino cinema, we’re not going to do that by picking on each other.”

That’s the story I got, haven’t heard the other angles.

Kindle: scary name for an e-book reader

July 29, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Technology 3 Comments →


Nicholson Baker, author of Vox and The Fermata, test-reads the Kindle 2.

Wait wait wait, it’s just occurred to me that ‘Kindle’ means ‘to set on fire’, making it a scary name for a printed book substitute. Savonarola, Nazis, you know what I’m saying?

Savonarola from Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, Apple’s much-anticipated Tablet is said to launch in 2010.

Kinatay, kinakatay, kakatayin

July 28, 2009 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 8 Comments →

The premiere of Brillante Mendoza’s film Kinatay at the University of the Philippines Film Center on Thursday, July 30, might not push through as scheduled. According to lawyer Teddy Te, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) will issue a preventive suspension order against UP to prevent the screening.

There is an ongoing debate between UP and the MTRCB over whether the University (and the Cultural Center of the Philippines) is exempted from MTRCB review. During the term of MTRCB Chair Armida Siguion-Reyna, it was understood that UP and CCP can screen films without MTRCB permits.

Apparently the MTRCB had received complaints following the screening of the movie Sagwan at the UP Film Center (In other words, nasagwaan sa Sagwan). A cease and desist order was then sent to UP. The University has reportedly agreed that film screenings should only be for UP students and film critics. Questions were raised over the sale of tickets to the Kinatay premiere. The tickets were going for P150 each.

Malacañang has stepped into the discussion, calling for a dialogue between the MTRCB and UP. Recently President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave Brillante Mendoza a one-million peso prize for winning Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival.