Friday, November 28, 2008

Aleksandr Petrov's The Old Man and the Sea


Here’s a gem from Aleksandr Petrov -- a film that is both short and sweet, and also a very good way of blending artistry with technology. And no disrespect to Disney and company, but I consider this masterpiece to be one of the most beautiful animations I've ever seen.

Yes, the Russian animator/director famous for being a proponent of Romantic Realism in his works made this short 20-minute animated film based on Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Mr. Petrov’s technique may look old-school to some, but it's not. It is in reality solid, unique and beautiful. By just looking at the pictures, it surely evokes varied thoughts and emotions, surely painting a thousand words. Of course, it would help if one reads the book, since it would be far easier to understand this winner of the 1999 Academy Awards for Animated Short Film.



I will let Wikipedia provide the detailed explanation regarding the painstaking work and process that the artist/director, with the help of technology, did to breathe life into Papa’s classic man versus fish tale--

...the first large-format animated film ever made. Technically impressive, the film is made entirely in pastel oil paintings on glass, a technique mastered by only a handful of animators in the world. By using his fingertips instead of a paintbrush on different glass sheets positioned on multiple levels, each covered with slow-drying oil paints, he was able to add depth to his paintings. After photographing each frame painted on the glass sheets, which was four times larger than the usual A4-sized canvas, he had to slightly modify the painting for the next frame and so on. It took Aleksandr Petrov over two years, from March 1997 through April 1999, to paint each of the 29,000+ frames. For the shooting of the frames a special adapted motion-control camera system was built, probably the most precise computerized animation stand ever made. On this an IMAX camera was mounted, and a video-assist camera was then attached to the IMAX camera.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No Doubt



‘ saw the Tony Award- winning play at the Walter Kerr on Broadway in ‘05 with Cherry Jones as Sister Aloysius and Brian F. O‘Byrne as Father Flynn. It was no doubt one of the best plays I’ve seen.

So, make no mistake, I will definitely watch the film adaptation; with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the cast as well as Pulitzer Prize- winning playwright John Patrick Shanley directing; can’t get any better than that.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Palindrome

I don't usually watch Saturday Night Live because most often than not they fail to tickle my funny bones. But last night's edition was the exception to the rule.

Here's Republican Vice- Presidential Candidate and Governor Sarah Palin with Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head


"May you get to Heaven an hour before the Devil knows you're dead."

--John Rooney
Road to Perdition






Paul Newman (1925- 2008)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

CinderelLEA

A video montage of Broadway Asia Entertainment's Cinderella starring Lea Salonga currently running until August 24th at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila.



video




Tickets: www.ticketworld.com.ph
Block / group sales call +639296600764

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brain Magic?



Keith Barry, the celebrated Irish Magician, Illusionist, and Mentalist or whatever name you want to call him is one hell of a showman in his own funny way. In fact, he calls himself as The Druid Master! How's that for a moniker huh?

In the videos below, Keith Barry performs some of his trademark tricks on Hollywood celebrities, Elijah Wood, Rachel Hunter and that Fil- Am pussycat Nicole Scherzinger.

So, is he for real?

That’s for you to find out.



video




video


Monday, May 12, 2008

1,000 Hands




Impressed? Check out the next video




Can't get enough?

Read The Pride of Bodhisattva and be amazed further.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Leonardo Da Vinci: The Man Without A Face?


When we talk about Leonardo da Vinci, the first thing that comes to our mind is the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, two of his most famous works. Add the iconic Vitruvian Man and you can’t help but marvel at his genius.



He was a painter, scientist, engineer, mathematician, writer, inventor, sculptor and painter among many others. He was the embodiment of what a Renaissance Man should be yet we know very little about the man and whatever things that we know on record about him is in reality based mostly on unsupported facts.

Even his face or what he really look like is the subject of debates among scientists and historians alike for centuries now. Even the few portraits/ self- portraits that were attributed to him are challenged by so- called experts and self- styled Leonardophiles.

Recently, an artist who specializes in faces by the name of Siegfred Woldhek came out of what he believes as the true image of the great Leonardo da Vinci after using what he termed as a sophisticated image- analysis technique.

And watching the video, I couldn’t agree more regarding his hypothesis as we can now safely say that he finally settled the age- old question with regards to the man without a face.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ursula Martinez' Striptease Olé!



A couple of months ago I came across this video entitled Hanky Panky by Anglo- Spanish artist, Ursula Martinez while surfing the web. I did not give much thought of it until today when I got a copy of the video in my mailbox this morning sent by a friend who in turn got it from another friend.

And last time I checked, ABS- CBNNews has now jumped into the bandwagon.

Give it to the Filipinos; whenever there are gossips, scandals and what have you in the world, we are always right there on top with the rest.

You see, I have watched Naked News before and I found it funny in a way and can’t understand the fuzz it generated when it first started several years ago--the hype as well as brouhaha coming from some sectors.

Anyway, the novelty of doing a striptease while reading the news on TV is gone and with only a few exceptions, people still prefer watching the traditional way of delivering the news on TV (that is with clothes on) rather than watching attractive anchors stripping down to their birthday suit while awkwardly reading news of bombings in some far away country. And so the Naked News did not take off quite as expected by its proponents.

Who is Ursula Martinez and what is this Hanky Panky thing that I‘m talking about?

She's not only an award- winning artist/performer but an author as well who is not afraid to show off her 40- year old body as part of her show and thereby created in the process "a new theatrical genre" according to some of her admirers.

Some people will find the show offensive while others will laud it for its creativity. Some will despise her onstage exhibitionism while others will just laugh at her antics and at the same time marvel at her well- toned body.

But stripping onstage in the name of art is nothing new, remember that the avante- garde revue Oh Calcutta which started Off Broadway and then eventually found its way to the Great White Way years later had a very successful run and at one time, became the longest running play in Broadway history.



Some people will ask where is the boundary between art and nudity, of being tasteful and obscene or the difference between downright trash and a gem?

Surely, a lot of people will have different answers and opinions. It will be a never- ending debate between people with different views, beliefs and convictions.

But to me, it all boils down to the individual and the distinction of what we see as beautiful and ugly will always come from the eye of the beholder.

Here’s what I got from Ursula Martinez’ website---

She sets fire to her tits, interrogates her parents, re-defines class, blurs fiction with reality, cures homosexuals, gives birth to penises, tells autobiographical stories, deconstructs performance and sings South London suburban flamenco - from high brow to low brow, from spectacle to confessional, from live art to light entertainment, Ursula Martinez produces solo and collaborative performance for theatre, site-specific, installation, cabaret, night club, film, television…… birthdays, weddings and Bar mitzvahs!


And here’s a brief synopsis of the Hanky -Panky “Striptease” from her website--

Hanky Panky is a five minute choreographed magic strip-tease. The act uses a simple disappearing handkerchief conjuring trick at its core.


Martinez enters stage fully clothed. She performs the trick and the hanky disappears. It reappears from her jacket pocket. The jacket is removed. The hanky disappears again and reappears from her skirt. The skirt is removed. During the course of the act, Martinez continues to make the handkerchief disappear and re-appear from her various items of clothing, which she then removes.

Finally Martinez is completely naked. Once again she performs the trick and the handkerchief disappears. With a grand finale flourish, Martinez retrieves the handkerchief from a truly magical place?


So, Watch the Video at your own risk!

video

Monday, February 18, 2008

Piercing


This novel by Ryu Murakami which explores the dark side of the human mind takes us to the edge of what a person is capable of doing just to exercise his demons.

In the book, Kawashima Masayuki, a yuppie in urban Japan, is struggling to fight for the longest time the urge to stab his young daughter with an ice pick. Wrestling with his inner self, he finally decides to embark on a journey to fight the demons that have been tormenting him due to a previous experience wherein as a teenager he stabbed a stripper who turned out to be...

“Only voices and images from external world could neutralize those from the inside”

Kawashima Masayuki finally devises an obscene plan to kill a prostitute to liberate him and protect his wife Yoko and daughter Rie from his demonic obsession.

But Chiaki, a prostitute he hired who specialized in S & M plays while holed up in a hotel room to carry out his plans, turned out to be a disturbed soul herself.

Together they went deep into the realms of their psyches as they relived their past experiences and tried to find answers to their questions in the process.

Murakami’s cold- blooded story- telling wherein sometimes was a bit overboard owing to his very fertile imagination will be a shock to the faint-hearted, but to the initiated in this genre, there’s really nothing new to offer that we haven’t read nor seen in the past.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Corduroy Killer



I was probably 9 years old and was rummaging into some old magazines back home in the Philippines when I happened to chance upon an article entitled The Corduroy Killer.

It was an article about a prodigious American Grandmaster who wears and favors Corduroy pants while making his mark as a teenage sensation in the Chess World and dishing out his wood pushing brilliance against much older opponents. The said article influenced me during that time to play chess.

Both my father and grandfather were avid chess players and they taught me the rudiments of the game at an early age. My dad even built a chess set cum table out of Mahogany, which was a very good choice because the hardwood has two shades of color (black and brown)that is perfect to make those unique, beautiful and distinct chess pieces.

I was a pretty good chess player when I was young but my Dad is much, much better. In fact, I never won a single game against him. Sad to say, my interest waned but the love for the game is still there although I must admit that I have not played a single game in years. But still, I follow the game whenever I can and I am quite familiar with the current crop of wood pushers where Super GMs are getting younger and younger each year.

That chess prodigy was the genius- turned recluse Bobby Fischer who visited the Philippines in the 70s and lived for sometime in Baguio City in his later years unbeknownst to many Filipinos and the world. He later sired a daughter to a Filipina wherein his long- time friend and confidante GM Eugene Torre confirmed in several interviews with some local papers.

Yes, Bobby Fischer is dead.

The best chess player the world had ever seen died yesterday in Reykjavik, Iceland, the place where he registered his greatest triumph at the height of the Cold War when he outwitted and defeated Russian GM and World Champion Boris Spassky in a proxy battle between the United States and the Soviet Union.

From being a World Champion, he spiraled deep into oblivion when he refused to defend the title against Anatoly Karpov. He became erratic and reclusive and eventually disappeared from the public over the years but his contribution to the world of chess can never be quantified and forgotten.

A lot of champions have come and gone but Bobby Fischer’s brilliance and charisma will never be equaled. His shadow and influence among the world’s chess players and lovers will remain forever.



In Memoriam: Robert James "Bobby" Fischer
March 9, 1943 – January 17, 2008)


Here's the link to
Bobby Fisher's 60 Memorable Games

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War

Watching the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, which was based on George Crile’s non- fiction bestseller Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History brought me back in time when as a 9- year old boy growing up in a rustic town in Albay, the Philippines, I first learned of the news of the Soviet Union’s Invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas Day in 1979 from the pages of The Bulletin Today and Daily Express that my Gran’ Pa used to read, an event that caught the world by surprise that was soon followed by the US-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics in protest of the invasion.

And while people in Manila can watch the news on several TV channels, we only got two channels working at the time on our side of the planet depending on where your typical aerial TV antenna was positioned/pointed at-- we have RPN from Iriga City on our west side and GMA from Legaspi City up north.

I tell you, it was a funny exercise one had to do just to get a fair TV reception during those days not to mention the struggle one had to endure while you were up there on the hot tin roof trying your best to position those aluminum antennas to perfection so that you can watch some shows on your black & white console TV starting at 6 o’clock in the evening if you were lucky enough to catch the unpredictable and unreliable schedule of the networks.

No news from the Radios for me either, since the Philippines was still under Martial Law at that time and most local commentators probably think that World News was not worth the airtime vis-à-vis the New Society’s mumbo-jumbos that they were asked to praise to high heavens on air by the lapdogs of the Dictator Marcos.

But I had an abundance of Time, Newsweek and Asiaweek magazines courtesy of a doctor who rented my aunt’s house next door as his residence cum clinic. Those magazines plus the usual newspaper fare were my ticket to the world, current- events wise.

Anyway, back to the movie, Charlie Wilson, played by Tom Hanks, is a Democratic Texas Congressman who loves booze, drugs and women and all the perks that his position can get to satisfy his insatiable appetite for hedonism.

He was your typical politically incorrect Congressman who can dish out lines like “You can teach a woman how to type but you can’t teach them to grow tits” when asked why he preferred beautiful and voluptuous women in his office and get away with it. He was your typical leech on Capitol Hill that sucked the blood out of the nation’s coffers. He was a loud, foul- mouthed, indifferent, and arrogant man until he saw CBSDan Rather on TV interviewing the Mujahideens that were fighting the Evil Empire while on a field assignment in war- torn Afghanistan.



His curiosity piqued, he began to inquire about the US role in the on-going conflict that led him to a disgruntled CIA Case Officer Gus Avrakotos (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) as well as to the bed and politics of the known anti- communist and Houston Socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) who arranged for him to meet Pakistani strongman Gen. Muhammad Zia-Ul- Haq as well as visit the Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar where he had an epiphany after seeing and hearing from the very mouths of the refugees the atrocities being committed by the Soviets to the Afghan people.

Thus, the beginning of the Soviet’s downfall in Afghanistan was sealed. And the Unholy Alliance among the players in the Reagan Administration’s not-so-secret proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan was born. And the Central Intelligence Agency’s dirty role in the war effort from across the border in Pakistan to return the favor to the Russians what they did to America by way of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam began.

Director Mike Nichols showed us the wheeling and dealing that is the hallmark of the America’s brand of Democracy as well as the policies that go with it whether foreign or domestic.-- from the “favorable exchange” in Congress to an inside look at political fund-raising gatherings to sleeping with the enemy. You name ‘em and the film showed ‘em albeit in passing but just enough for the viewers to get a glimpse and understanding of the real deal, of how the system work behind those facades that the customary players (the US Government, the Media Conglomerates, Congress, etc) want the people to believe.

He showed us how Charlie Wilson as a member of the House Defense Appropriations Sub- Committee raised the ante by doubling the initial measly $5 million budget for the US support to the Mujahideens that eventually reached almost $1 billion with a lot of help from Arab Countries like Saudi Arabia and the rich Gulf States.

He showed us how the CIA procured arms to supply the Afghans with weapons that can level the playing field against the Russians. This is realpolitik in its truest sense of the word, when strange bedfellows like the Isrealis, Egyptians, Saudis and Pakistanis can set aside their religious differences with the aid of the Almighty Dollars from Uncle Sam worked together to fight a “God-less” enemy in Afghanistan.

True enough, with the help of the new sophisticated weapons in their hands, the Mujahideens turned the tides of war in their favor and the USSR, rather than get stuck in the quagmire, did the unthinkable and withdrew after years of trying to tame Afghanistan, their pride and reputation as a superpower be damned.

Of course, this was aided by the winds of change blowing wherein Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost and Perestroika gaining grounds in the Russian home front and other Warsaw Pact Nations that eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

The Film tried its best to convey as much as it can History- wise to the viewing public but found wanting. They resorted to footages as well as dialogues where names of prominent personalities were floated to make the film more authentic but did not impress--

What with an F-16 being shot down by a Stinger surface to air missile instead of the obvious Russian fighter jets like the Migs and Sukhois? Although they got the menacing Mi- 24 Hind Helicopter on some scenes, still they could have done away with that shot of the US F-16 being blown up in the sky.


Also they made it appear that the “Lion of Panjshir” Ahmad Shah Massoud as the recipient of the bulk of the CIA’s arms delivery but anybody who knows his Afghan War History knew that this was not the case since the arms were delivered by the Pakistanis to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Pashtun rebel leader with deep ties with Pakistan rather than to the forces of Gen. Massoud.

Although Massoud was a known ally of the West and a brilliant war tactician but being a Tajik did not endear him to the Pakistanis who serve as the conduit of arms getting into Afghanistan and so was denied the much needed arms supply.

Was this a ploy on the part of the right- wingers to mislead the American public that the CIA did support Gen. Massoud's forces rather than the ones that the Pakistanis nurtured until it metamorphosed into the dreaded Talibans and in the long run Al Qaeda?

The Pashtuns' and Tajiks' deep- rooted hatred for each other can be summed in the lines uttered in the movie that became a source of a little controversy, “When a Tajik man wants to make love to a woman, his first choice is a Pashtun man.”

By the way, Massoud was the same leader of the Northern Alliance who warned about Al- Qaeda’s plan to attack the West and was assassinated during a supposed media interview by the henchmen of Osama Bin Laden posing as reporters just two days before the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Charlie Wilson on advice from Gus Avrakotos who knows better that the war is not over even after the withdrawal of the Russians asked his friends in Congress to allocate funds for the construction of schools in Afghanistan and was rebuked instead by one of his colleagues by telling him that, “nobody gives a shit about a school in Pakistan”, that only show you how some members the US Congress were illiterate not only on matters of foreign policy but also on geography.


The emergence of Al Qaeda, Taliban, Jemaah Islamiya, Abu Sayaff and all the other terrorist groups that were responsible for the worst terrorists attacks that the world has seen began when the “Victors” became oblivious of the fact that while driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan is sweet victory in a sense, they did not see the consequences of their subsequent actions when they left the war-weary Afghans with their country in shambles to fend for themselves.

These lapses and miscalculations of the Powers That Be resulted in us reaping the rotten fruits of their indifference. And it can be said that the seeds of the modern form of terrorism were sown in the blood- splattered soil of Afghanistan.

The lessons of the Afghan War can be summed up in these lines that appeared at the end of the movie,


“These things happened . They were glorious and they changed the world…
…and then we fucked up the end game.”


Yes, indeed.


Note: This is Part One of what I call The Afghanistan Trilogy- The Kite Runner, Lions for Lambs and Charlie Wilson's War.

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