Friday, January 30, 2009

Glad Wrapped

According to a Newsarama article, GLAAD, or the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, recently announced its annual media awards nominees. Among those nominated in the comic book category are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Alcoholic, Secret Six, Young Avengers Presents, and Final Crisis: Revelations.

Interesting list. I’ve yet to read The Alcoholic. The other four titles depicted good or realistic portrayals of gay characters or relationships. Well, I want Buffy and Secret Six to win. I hope it’s a tie. In Buffy, the main star’s gone bi, and she has three openly lesbian allies. Secret Six is also gay-friendly; it has Scandal Savage and the occasional gay background character.

Catman and Deadshot aren’t gay, but some people think that there’s something “bromantic” going on. Hmm. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up wrapped in each other’s arms, though. They’ve been quite chummy lately. I think Deadshot’s more expressive of his thoughts than Catman. There’s mutual respect already, regardless. Attraction between them could be next, if it isn’t there already. Do it, Gail Simone.

Inspiring ‘Doubt’ and uncertainty

The verbal tussles will keep you guessing. Meryl Streep plays overly conservative Sister Aloysius, a principal tightly monitoring her students and fellow nuns. Amy Adams plays adorable, somewhat na├»ve Sister James, who suspects that a pupil might’ve been subjected to abuse by a trusted faculty member. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the radically modern Father Flynn, whose closeness to the boy arouses suspicion.

Sister Aloysius investigates and interrogates in her inimitable way, sparking a battle of wits and words between her and the priest. “Doubt” casts uncertainty on pieces of the truth, the characters’ staunch beliefs and their notions of righteousness. Those are seriously questioned throughout the story, originally an award-winning play by John Patrick Shanley. Its small, gifted cast brings the layered drama to cinematic life, creating the proper emotional connections through probing interactions.

From the priest’s unusual sermons to the nun’s descriptive declarations, the words are precise, and evoke the right emotions. Perhaps the inclusion of a scene or two would’ve added some visual depth and further elaboration to the story near the end, because the final scene partly becomes a case of telling and not showing. Still, the performers give believability and humanity to the flawed vessels of religious authority, inspiring genuine doubt on their unflinching convictions.

“Doubt” will be in cinemas starting February 4.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spectral Spectacle

Back when gay topics and characters weren’t as discussed or visible in mainstream comic books, there was the thought-provoking Spectre # 45.

“Acts of God,” a tale devoted to the often-controversial subject, had many of the hard arguments covered. The Spectre, God’s agent of justice, was shown as someone who isn’t exactly informed on the subject. His human host, Jim Corrigan, was revealed to be homophobic, someone who misinterpreted God as a being who “doesn’t like queers.”

The Spectre asked Archangel Michael, “Are there homosexuals in heaven?” Michael responded: “The question is irrelevant. Sexuality is a matter for the body and thus is confined to the mortal sphere. It has no place here.” The angel added, “It is not what Humanity considers good or evil. Humanity should not presume to judge for God. They invariably get it wrong.”

The issue also had Spectre fighting a magically powered, hate-mongering priest, a bigot who believed that crimes against gay people were justified. Jim Corrigan and the Spectre, by the story’s end, realize that they need to be more open-minded about gay people and their rights.

Spectre # 45, it’s always a good, riveting read.

That Toy’s Story

I’ve been listening to three songs repeatedly: Amanda Marshall’s “I’ll Be Okay,” The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You,” and the sad song from Toy Story 2, Sarah McLachlan’s “When She Loved Me.” Just wanted to share the words:

When She Loved Me
Sarah McLachlan

When somebody loved me
Everything is beautiful
Every hour we spent together
Lives within my heart
And when she was sad
I was there to dry her tears
And when she was happy so was I
When she loved me

Through the summer and the fall
We had each other that was all
Just she and I together like it was meant to be
And when she was lonely
I was there to comfort her
And I knew that she loved me

So the years went by I stayed the same
But she began to drift away
I was left alone
But still I waited for the day
When she’d say I will always love you

Lonely and forgotten
I never thought she’d look my way
When she smiled at me and held me just like she used to do
Like she loved me
When she loved me

When somebody loved me
Everything is beautiful
Every hour we spent together
Lives within my heart
When she loved me

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wild Weapon X-ers

That’s a cool pic of Wolverine with Deadpool, Gambit, Sabretooth and Silver Fox. The trailer looks good; it’s already shown other characters from the X-universe like Emma Frost and a young Ororo Munroe. I hope the movie’s good.

I wonder if they’ll disfigure Deadpool’s face in it. I hope he’s just as quippy as his comic book version. Ryan Reynolds is a good choice; I still associate him with the guy he played in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place sometimes, but his more muscle-y Hannibal King in the last Blade movie did show that he can do an action role credibly.

‘Australia’: Inside out, upside down Down Under

Australia’ is an unduly long but moving epic about the unlikely romance between a landowner (Nicole Kidman) and her tough driver-ranch hand (Hugh Jackman), as well as their changing relationship with a mixed-race child (Brandon Walters). The Baz Luhrmann film initially focuses on personal conflicts; a grieving widow must acclimate to living in a land strange to her, and must console a boy recovering from losing someone dear to him. She also helps him elude law enforcers forcibly taking Aborigine children from their parents. The drama escalates when the strife of World War II comes to Australia’s doorstep.

The visuals are sometimes painterly and showy, but there are unnecessarily lengthy scenes that, while pretty to look at, don’t really add much to the story. The film also doesn’t want to end, even when it has many opportunities to do so. Still, the besieged family drama and beleaguered romance angle make the displaced trio characters that you’ll gradually care about. There really aren’t great surprises, but the payoff, when it finally comes, does make one choke up a little. It’s not Luhrmann’s typical eye-popping, ear-pleasing feast, for sure. There is still beauty in its simplicity and accessibility, however. Kidman and Jackman add magic and elegance to their archetypal soulmates from opposite worlds.

Australia’ will be in Metro Manila cinemas on January 28.

‘Underworld: Rise of the Lycans’: Vampire hearts Werewolf

The series expands with a prequel that doesn’t look cheap, and one that’s actually quite cool, giving some dimension to the monster war of the two previous fantasy-action flicks. The beginning of that ages-old conflict is told rather decently, even if the tale itself is simple and not exactly anything new. While the movie isn’t about Kate Beckinsale’s ass-kicking character, it expounds on its other nocturnal creatures, and introduces (and re-introduces) important ones. The forbidden love of vampire council member Sonja (Rhona Mitra) and wolfman slave Lucian (Michael Sheen) won’t be a secret for long, and it threatens to undermine and humiliate the leadership of Viktor (Bill Nighy), her stern father. It also threatens the old, vampire-established order, but the eruption of beastly chaos is inevitable.

Battles are fought, and an eternal enmity is spawned. The battle scenes have appealing choreography; “The Matrix” is mimicked in the sense that there are some nicely angled action poses where swords and crossbows are stylishly, menacingly brandished. Some scenes look inspired by the “Lord of the Rings” and the “Narnia” movies; the battlefield-scale effects, depicting savage fights between werewolf and armored vampire armies, are quite impressive. “Rise of the Lycans” is barely an hour and 20 minutes long, but it quits while it’s ahead and ends competently enough.

The movie is currently showing at Metro Manila theaters.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Cuddly Avengers Vs. Flex-Force

These days, anyone can be an Avenger. There are A-teams running around now with different reasons for existing. I’ve got my own dream lineups, teams that I think should one day exist. The Cuddly Avengers is one of those newer, less serious ideas that came to me just over a week ago. They’re cute, smart animal characters that live and fight in the Marvel Universe. Spider-Ham resides in another Marvel reality, but I just wanted to draw him in this group shot with Howard the Duck, Rocket Raccoon and Tippy Toe.

The other team is Flex-Force, inspired by groups with similarly powered members like X-Force or Thor Corps. The flexible, shapeshifting members are Warlock, Impossible Man, Slapstick and Morph. That’d be one crazy and fun team. I imagine that the interactions and dialogue would be just as crazy, since they’re mostly like sugar-high kids with well-meaning but recklessly executed ideas. The DC equivalent of the team would probably include Plastic Man, Offspring, Bat-Mite and maybe Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt.

I see the Cuddly Avengers and Flex-Force fighting and later, teaming up against a third cartoony-looking team consisting of Lockheed, HERBIE, Pym’s pet/ship Rover, and that bloodthirsty weirdo Doop.

I had fun, and time, obviously. Drew these on backing boards.

‘The Secret Life of Bees’: Beekeepers’ blues

The heavier than usual coming-of-age tale is poignant and discomfiting, primarily because it’s set in the midst of a crucial turning point in America’s history. A 14-year-old, Lucy (Dakota Fanning), witnesses racial tension and bigotry when her housekeeper Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) is openly mocked and attacked on their way to a civil rights meeting.

Lucy, burdened by the loss of a mother and feeling unloved by an indifferent father, runs away with the bruised and humiliated nanny. They soon find themselves seeking out a South Carolina town where they could start anew and hide from their tormentors.

“The Secret Life of Bees” quickly creates a depressing atmosphere, presenting the guilt-ridden Lucy’s pathos early on and proceeding with painful depictions of racism in the ‘60s. But soon enough, the ugliness is replaced by lightheartedness and optimism, when the existence of an unusually accepting place is revealed.

Queen Latifah credibly plays a rich, motherly figure who welcomes into her haven the weary pair of runaways. Lucy and Rosaleen are hired as beekeeper and cook, respectively, thankful that all their worries may be behind them at last.

It’s a weepy, eternally relevant story, and it makes you care even when you see some things coming. Fanning and Hudson perform well; the latter actually doesn’t do vocal gymnastics for this role, and is often a comforting, subtle presence. Paul Bettany is commanding as Lucy’s emotion-devoid and frightening father. Pop singer Alicia Keys does okay as one of the more vocal independent women of the honey-making household, although the role feels forced and becomes predictably silly from time to time.

The bee-human life metaphor isn’t really expounded on interestingly, and some revelations regarding Lucy’s past are just too convenient and coincidental. But familiar rotes and flaws aside, “The Secret Life of Bees” is an effective, affecting drama that reflects the universality of growing up, its inherent anguish and joys, and the tough search for acceptance and appreciation.

It opens January 21st. It’s a Greenbelt-Glorietta exclusive.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Slapped Silly

I drew this on a backing board. That’s Slapstick, a ‘90s Marvel character revived over a year ago in Avengers: The Initiative. The New Warrior turned Initiative recruit was among heroes plucked from obscurity and given important roles in that book. He’s unstable, in more ways than one, but he’s also nicely unpredictable and visually unique. Slapstick mauled Gauntlet after the drill sergeant repeatedly mocked the New Warriors.

“Who’s laughin’ now?!”

Heal the Hole That Ripped in Living

My old blog turned four early this month. Time flies. In 2005, I started blogging because I was selling something. In no time at all, I found that sharing my thoughts in my very own space was therapeutic, especially since some parts of my life had become occasionally stressful and/or needed some form of release. It became very helpful in that regard; the blog became a place where I can rant and rave freely about things that may not necessarily concern others. I knew my limits, though, and kept some things private. I can’t--and shouldn’t--divulge everything, obviously.

It seems that almost everyone’s connected now somehow, at least in this dimension. The linked communities seem so within reach these days, the shifting corners of cyberspace replete with thoughts and reports on almost every subject imaginable. Some blogs have become catalysts for change, or valuable tools to those seeking justice, or even revenge. Every person has a story, and these days, it’s hard to miss how those tales unfold via personal accounts or through people with their take on the day’s details.

How has blogging helped or changed me, apart from the reasons I stated? Hmm. It continues to give me opportunities to speak on issues that are important to me. It also documents how much I’m changing, learning or growing. I look at my 2005 and 2006 posts and realize that my life used to be simpler. I really had fewer concerns.

I don’t know for sure if my entries make a difference or inspire others to share their own thoughts. But I know that writing them, sharing articles and posting drawings and photos are helpful to me in varying degrees. This blog will continue to recount, celebrate, praise, rip apart, question, and wonder about things that interest me, for as long as I’m able.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Gay Superheroes Dancing

Superhuman. And dancer. (That’s sort of my riff on the Killers song.)

Things I drew yesterday to keep myself sane.

Hulkling and Wiccan

Lucy In The Sky and Xavin

Northstar and Living Lightning

‘Heroes: Villains’: Good times, bad times

Spoilers. Season 3’s “Villains” arc is over. Well, that was quick. It started with a few promising episodes, but the clutter caught up and messed things up. The writers tried to fixed some of those problems near the end, but only a few were addressed satisfyingly. Watching the show and keeping track of the convoluted storylines have become a chore.

“Villains” moved pretty quickly, its tone slightly darker than previous seasons’.

First, the good things:

1. The addition of Daphne. The thieving super-speedster is likeable, and a nice foil to Hiro and Matt.
2. Elle. Kristen Bell did great. Scenes depicting her powers going haywire, and her emotional confrontation with Sylar in a prison cell, were among the character’s best moments.
3. The introduction of people with other powers such as cryokinesis, telepathic puppetry, lie detection, and sound manipulation, among others.
4. Angela’s premonition.
5. The Petrelli ex-spouses’ obvious manipulation of Sylar.
6. Nikki’s absence. Her sanity issues were getting uninteresting.
7. Less Maya. Man, she was annoying.

The bad:

1. The duplication of powers. Psychic painting? Pyrokinesis? Ho-hum. Peter and Sylar’s copycat abilities have gotten confusing, too. And why aren’t they using all of their powers during major confrontations with their enemies?
2. Loose ends. Peter’s Irish girlfriend was abandoned in an alternate future last season and hasn’t been mentioned since.
3. The execution of Daphne’s powers. Does she have a Flash-like undertow that yanks people harmlessly into her speed trail while she’s running? She just holds hands with them and vanishes, like she’s teleporting.
4. Elle’s fate. What a squandered character. After forgiving Sylas and gaining control of her power again, she became a confusing mess (she’s manipulative, vulnerable, ambitious, etc.). Her character went nowhere, so maybe it’s good that she was killed off after exhibiting Nikki-like personality shifts.
5. The fortune cookie voiceover narration that belabors the obvious.
6. WTF. Noah had Sylar and Elle in his crosshairs when the pair went smoochy and groiny. Then he just waits for them to finish up before attacking them?!
7. Nathan’s out of character moments. So he’s a species traitor now? He forgets that he has powers and wants his fellow powered beings rounded up. Jeez.
8. Mohinder’s The Fly situation.
9. Arthur Petrelli. It feels like he was just shoehorned into the arc. The retcons showing his badass-ness aren’t convincing.
10. Hiro’s convoluted history.
11. Adam Monroe’s quick, forgettable death.
12. Angela’s power. What a letdown. Her apocalyptic visions are just dreams. What’s so special about that? Also, other visions of ominous futures have gotten pretty tiring.

Super Trooper

Benedict gave me a bunch of comics and an action figure last Christmas. George Lucas in Stormtrooper Disguise is so cool. The Star Wars creator is immortalized in plastic, looking much thinner and younger because this was based on how he looked back in the ‘70s. I’m not sure if there’s already a Baron Papanoida figure, based on the character Lucas briefly played in Revenge of the Sith. But it’s inevitable that it’ll be made eventually. That must be strange and cool at the same time, to be part of action figure sets of your own movies.

This reminds me, I saw Peter Jackson Hobbit action figure in a toy shop months back. That looked good, too. Hmm, I wonder if there are other filmmakers or storytellers with their faces on toys. I know Kevin Smith has his own figures, but that’s already based on his character Silent Bob. Maybe Joss Whedon should have one someday. Buffy and Angel action figures are already being made, so that’s possible. Maybe he can be a generic vampire with changeable heads. And maybe Tim Burton should have his own figure, too. He can effortlessly blend in with the people in the dimly lit worlds he helps shape.

Anyway, thanks for the nice new toy, Benedict. I love it.