Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ten Years of Blogging

Wow. Hard to believe but it's been that long. I look back from time to time, and see stuff that I wrote when times and things were vastly different. There are some entries here that I'm proud of, some I'm embarrassed by, and others that I totally forgot about but are actually intriguing to me now. I wish I could write more personal stuff--I wrote a lot of those when I had more free time, when I was a freelancer--but I'll keep posting articles that I wrote for the newspaper, aside from some blog-exclusive stuff. What have I learned about blogging in 10 years? Well, you can keep sharing about yourself, without really giving the most private, personal things away. Ultimately, the entries are just a fraction of who you are--and that's not a bad thing. Blogging for me now, and I'm guessing, for a few others, hasn't been as urgent anymore, probably because time online has been eaten by social media, which is differently distracting . That said, I'll keep posting, as this blog has become a time capsule of sorts to me.

Thanks for reading.


KROSOBER. Or, Walang Katapusang Lihim na Krisis. Clockwise from top left: Tasyo, Makaryo, Kuting Magiting, Mr. Funesto, Kuka Manster, Kidlat Kid, Dark Future Trese, Alexandra Trese, Leading Man, Rodski, Ambrosio, Zsazsa Zaturnnah, Rianka, Bathala, Elias, Jake Gallo.

Recent Eighteenths

Country Road bar in Bangkok's Soi Cowboy district, Dec. 18. It doesn't look it, but I was giddy to have met and interviewed Christian Antidormi earlier. 

Nah, not pulling it off. Friend's cigarette. Jan. 18. #nonsmoker #coldnight #thaifood

Thingamajiggery, Two

"Don't call me Beast Boy!"
Changeling. Finally appreciating the character, and these figures, after reading the first two volumes of the Teen Titans Omnibus.

Third omnibus! National ATC.

Bookmarks from Japan that Allan P gave me a few months back. Awesome-looking!

Ang galing ni Manix dito. Silent comic book. Creepy and cool.

Multiversity Guidebook. Man, I hope this is good. Quickly checked it; it looks like it's patterned after the old Secret Files one-shots.

Cute tikoy! Thanks, Resorts PR team.

Kathy Griffin revs up 'Fashion Police'

(Jan. 30, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Comedian Kathy Griffin is quickly proving herself a worthy replacement for the late Joan Rivers in E!’s irreverent “Fashion Police” panel of commentators. This comes as no surprise, really; Griffin has talent, gumption and the penchant to speak her mind—no matter the consequences!

The dynamic has changed, of course, and while many may miss Rivers’ more succinct, sharper jabs—the icon made crude or scathing critiques of celebs and their fashion choices with just a few words and a punch line at a time—Griffin brings to the equation her more anecdotal but nonetheless brash and observational brand of humor.

Which isn’t to say that she overshadows her copanelists, Giuliana Rancic and Kelly Osbourne; far from it, and Griffin is generous enough to let them talk just as candidly. Rancic is showing a more pointed wit, and is more verbally vulgar, while Osbourne has been offering surprisingly more mature and wiser assessments of their chosen celebrities’ fashion snapshots.

Another new addition to the panel is fashion stylist Brad Goreski, who manages to give snappy and catty insights, as well. This revamped roster made its debut some weeks back, just in time for the Golden Globe Awards. It wasn’t immediately smooth, but the host-critics found themselves bonding soon enough.

By the second episode, the quartet had become somewhat tighter, and much easier to watch.

Griffin, who previously hosted her own talk show, manages to slam some celebs for what she sees as ill-conceived fashion statements. Some standout “critiques” are her digs at Amal Clooney’s gloves, which have been mentioned by the “D-List” stand-up comic in two episodes. Just for the heck of it, she playfully lambastes an actress she ran into, Patricia Arquette—not because of what she wore, but because she previously told Griffin not to include her in the worst-dressed segment!

No stranger to feuds and controversy, Griffin also jokingly dismisses pop star Rihanna’s dress, the comic admits, because she hopes to start “what you kids call a Twitter war!”

Rivers’ inimitable and distinct comedy is much-missed, but the show is differently funny with Griffin’s addition. And the show remains amusing; nobody is sacred. It’s still an odd platform for smart, sometimes-nonsensical dissections of celebrity couture—and culture.

Perplexing numbskullery

(Jan. 25, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“Mortdecai,” reminiscent of such sleuth comedies as the “Pink Panther” movies, is strange and unusual, in both good and iffy ways.

The film adaptation of a novel, “Mortdecai” stars Johnny Depp as English art trafficker Charlie Mortdecai. He is married to an English art connoisseur, Johanna, (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is constantly grossed out by his twirly new mustache.

That’s the tricky part. If you can’t suspend disbelief 20 minutes into the movie—sure, they’re two competent American actors pretending to be wealthy, genteel Brits, but really?—it would be difficult to swallow the rest of the film’s contrived, artificial elements.

Since, out of sheer curiosity, one sticks around anyway to see how it plays out, well, you’ll find that it perturbs as much as it disappoints.

The situations are aptly over-the-top, so the acting often comes off as exaggerated, overemphasized. Not that there are no cute, light, charming parts—the flirting between Johanna and the smitten Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor), and the spousal banter between the Mortdecais are quite agreeable.

The stolen art angle—the characters, tracking a long-lost Goya painting, encounter interested thugs from across the globe—is actually intriguing, but rather disjointed.

Directed by David Koepp (screenwriter of “Carlito’s Way,” Spider-Man,” etc.), the film, aside from its gaggle of A-listers, has in its cast Jeff Goldblum (as a rich American eccentric), Paul Bettany (as the Mortdecais’ sexually active manservant), and Olivia Munn (as a hot nymphomaniac).

“Mortdecai’s” humor is a mix of slapstick, icky gags and adult language—unfortunately, this results in unfunny, perplexing numbskullery.

Depp dips with a seeming parody of his previous roles. Charlie is an out-of-touch misfit—which would have been a perfect match, but it’s almost like he’s just doing a mash-up of his Tim Burton characters, with a dash of Jack Sparrow.

That’s a tad unsettling. At some point, you’d give up; it’s a cartoon-y crime caper-heist flick that, while welcomely outlandish and different, baffles way more than it amuses.


Crayon sketches I did at Burgoo last December. Thanks for the food, Mark P.

‘Glee’ starts over for the last time

(Jan. 19, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

And now, the end is near.

Musical-comedy/drama series “Glee” kicks off its final season with just about everything you’ve come to expect from it. And that’s not a bad thing.

The show has long been known for jumping the shark—in TV lingo, that’s a scenario equivalent to desperate stunts executed to recapture erstwhile glory—but “Glee” does that on a semi-regular basis anyway, that it’s hard to keep track.

Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), is fresh off the demise of her short-lived TV show. She returns to her old high school, still being run by tyrannical coach-turned-principal Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch). Long story short, Rachel finds renewed purpose and spearheads a new glee club, with the school board superintendent’s blessing.

Also, Rachel’s pals, engaged gay couple Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) had broken up; the latter is now dating a former bully-turned-openly gay friend, Karofsky (Max Adler).

The over-the-top situations, tempered by somewhat realistic dramatic ones, are characteristically “Glee.” It’s gotten major story shake-ups on a regular basis that the nonmusic scenes have long been mere bookends to the songs—sprightly covers of current pop tunes and some classic numbers.

Not that it didn’t produce standout episodes last season; the tribute to Cory Monteith, who played Finn for four seasons, was among those well-written, standalone stories that meshed flawlessly with the music.
But much experimentation has been done, story-wise, that subsequent parts felt cluttered and forced. Looks like it’s attempting to rectify failures, at least, with a back-to-basics approach.

The songs and performances are typically inveigling, but there are fewer characters.

Michele’s emotional rendition of Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited” opens the sixth season dramatically; she does the mega-hit “Let It Go” just as powerfully at the end of the hour.

And the all-male group Warblers, now coached by Blaine, performs Ed Sheeran’s “Sing,” easily a musical highlight.

The show, still very much about the underdog’s struggles and eventual triumphs, nevertheless keeps emphasizing such themes, even when storylines tend to lack coherence and consistency. But the gay characters’ empowerment issues continue to be tackled impressively, and may remain that way in these remaining episodes.

The long-running “misfit” angle extends to other beloved outsider characters—handicapped, dyslexic, or biracial kids, etc.—that fans genuinely respond to. Many turn that rapport to music purchases; the end is near, yes, but if the consistently strong sales of songs from “Glee” episodes are any indication—the music will never die.

The show understands its place in the scheme of things, and will undoubtedly keep churning out resonant and significant material until its last day, shark-jumping scenarios notwithstanding.

(“Glee” airs Saturdays, 8 p.m. on ETC and Tuesdays, 9:40 p.m. on Jack TV.)

‘Hobbit’ movies end with poignant finality

(Jan. 19, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

The final part of the “Lord of the Rings” prequel series “The Hobbit,” directed by Peter Jackson, gives a fine ending to the fantasy saga, despite unavoidable comparisons with the more spectacular trilogy that preceded it.
“The Battle of the Five Armies” brings to a close this epic sojourn to Middle-earth, a realm threatened by various conflicts between races, as well as by monstrous forces seeking conquest. Surviving them is the hobbit burglar, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who has fought and fled from such dangers alongside staunch allies, in two previous films.

A year after the cliffhanger of “The Desolation of Smaug,” the fate of the heroic band of adventurers is finally revealed. The titular dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) gets to unleash chaos on the world, cutting a fiery swath across a town in a neighboring territory.

A land dispute is introduced, as the dragon’s treasure-filled mountain castle is reclaimed by the dwarves, led by the now-ensorcelled Thorin (Richard Armitage). The elves, led by Thranduil (Lee Pace), seek a relic belonging to his people, ready to storm Thorin’s stronghold if a peaceful solution is refused.

Bent on their destruction, however, is the bloodthirsty Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett), who is marshalling his monster forces—orcs, trolls, giant bats, etc.—and commands a multitude of minions that may just crush both formidable armies in one calculated attack.

“The Battle of the Five Armies” is truly epic in that regard; the special effects give glorious life to the fantastical; after Smaug’s convincing display of might, the various goings-on on the battlefield are just as awe-inspiringly real.

The prolonged one-on-one duels, however, can inspire impatience, despite being impressively choreographed and rendered. Still, they’re not a drawback, as there are lengthy battle scenes that often switch to other elaborate sequences.

And yes, as for the unavoidable “Return of the King” comparison, this part ends the “Hobbit” series in grand fashion, but it’s not as thrilling as the “Lord of the Rings” conclusion—and it doesn’t have to be.

If one was hoping for a scene similar to the “Eowyn moment”—she boldly defeated that mighty Witch-King in battle—there’s a brief declaration of Middle-earthen woman power by the nondescript females of this installment, apart from Galadriel’s (Cate Blanchett) short but explosive fight scene.

“Five Armies” has its share of decidedly pyrrhic victories, keeping it from being a thoroughly feel-good conclusion. Still, this is a defining chapter for many of the characters in the “Hobbit” series, giving this worthy prequel films its own memorable figures and clashes.

And “Five Armies” is accessible in that it offers interesting parallels to real-life struggles, from the “interracial” attraction between the elf archer Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and the dwarf Kili (Aiden Turner), to the territorial dispute initiated by Thorin.

Coming full circle, the series is bookended by a scene that connects to the first lauded “Rings” trilogy, reiterating the poignant finality of this much-appreciated saga.

Psigns Gone Hot, Circa 2007

Adult versions of the kid team Psigns, created by Benedict Bartolome. These are drawings I forgot about but I recently rediscovered them when I was looking at my old art blog.

Top of 2014: Relevant escapism

(Jan. 14, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Cable lures with smarter, flashier fare

“It was … the ‘silly, lightweight’ medium compared to film. Now … the real quality work in smaller features is on television and cable,” Kurtwood Smith, star of “Resurrection” told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in May. He was discussing the changes in the entertainment industry and blurring of media lines.

“There’s so much crossover; you can do a bunch of films, then a TV series, then go back to film,” said “Suits” star Gabriel Macht when he visited the country in March.

Recent years have been described as among the best for television, as US shows offered eclectic or original content. Chris Messina (“The Mindy Project,” “Damages”) told us in 2011: “It’s the golden age of television. There’s mostly better stuff … than [in] the movies.”

Many big film actors have come to share this sentiment. Programs also seem competitively designed—and they certainly don’t look like they’re run on a tight budget. While the old slew of view-worthy interactive reality tilts and, sadly, voyeuristic “unscripted” shows about dubious ditzes will always be popular, 2014 was an especially good year for cable TV viewers who wanted more escapist, better-written series. Here are those that stood out for us, in no particular order:

‘How to Get Away With Murder’
Viola Davis as a no-nonsense criminal law professor with marital problems, check! Overachieving, kinky protégés who try to outsmart one another, check! A nonlinear murder mystery that ties everything together, check!

“How to Get Away With Murder,” among the American Film Institute’s top TV shows last year, binds these disparate, intriguing elements into one killer of a show. “I feel like I’m a part of a world that hasn’t been seen on television. That’s the most rewarding part,” Davis told the Inquirer in October.

‘True Detective’
“True Detective” stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson play reluctant cop partners investigating the handiwork of an elusive killer. It’s grim, gritty, ruminative, and barely stops for a breather. McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is exceptionally portrayed.

His sometimes-drunken existential rants and musings stun and sting. “The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door,” goes one Cohle-ism.

We hope to see a differently powerful show next season. The all-new cast has big shoes to fill.

‘The Walking Dead’
After losing their prison sanctuary, survivors in the zombie apocalypse face new threats. Like “Game of Thrones,” the show lures with interesting characters that bite the dust in unexpected, horrid ways. But the season has been characteristically tight and unpredictable. Andrew Lincoln consistently does well as ex-cop Rick Grimes, leader of the weary but formidable survivors.

“They’re screwing with the wrong people,” said the character, tougher than ever, in one episode.

This dark and edgy prequel series examines the early days of Bruce Wayne, shortly after the demise of his parents. Characters from the “Batman” comic books are reimagined; future super-criminals are introduced—if this show lasts as long a
s “Smallville,” we may yet see the first appearance of the Caped Crusader.
For now, it’s a sleek cop drama—future commissioner James Gordon is the sole, true do-gooder in Gotham’s police force—and the early part of an archetypal hero’s saga.

There’s a deliberate artificiality to it that works well. Jada Pinkett Smith dazzles as the sassy, sinister Fish Mooney, a gang leader whose machinations inadvertently help create some freakish fiends.

‘Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’
The Marvel movies’ TV spin-off, cocreated by Joss Whedon, started passably but gradually turned into a more focused—and action-packed!—show after events in last year’s second “Captain America” film. SHIELD, revealed to have been infiltrated by the terrorist organization Hydra, is essentially dissolved into a small set of heroic operatives led by the perpetually embattled Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg).

Characters from the espionage-themed comic books continue to appear in this TV version. Followers of Marvel’s cinematic universe should expect another show, “Agent Carter,” to provide extra layers to the mythology.

‘House of Cards’
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright enliven this political drama as an ambitious, manipulative and cold-hearted couple. The labyrinthine US political arena is given an extensive exploration by Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood, entertaining with commentary during the occasional breaking of the fourth wall.

One of our fave Frank quotes: “Power is a lot like real estate—it’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value.”

Spacey won, deservingly, a Golden Globe best actor in a drama series award this week.

Silicon Valley
A timely parody, “Silicon Valley” is populated by über-rich eccentrics, ultra-competitive geniuses and the suck-ups who make the formers’ lives somewhat easier. It’s smart, but isn’t above going lowbrow once in a while.

We watch with fascination as a brainiac who develops an algorithm, Richard Hendriks (Thomas Middleditch), chooses a venture capitalist’s offer of $200,000 and 5-percent ownership over a $10-million buyout of his new company. Trouble and hilarity ensue!

The show was included in the American Film Institute's top 10 shows of 2014.

‘The Legend of Korra’
The sequel series to “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” learning from its somewhat rushed first season, makes up for it with better-told subsequent seasons, superbly developing main heroine Korra along with fan-favorite supporting characters. It treads territory that its predecessor did not, integrating mature themes into the story lines from time to time.

The series has wrapped up, but online discussions continue on topics it explored, like political structures and gender identity.

Recently nominated for a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy series, Louis CK is no regular comedian, as evidenced by this unconventional show. Often addressing the drudgeries of life, “Louie” revels in its unique brand of irreverence, never failing to impart valuable insights with every episode.

Colleagues recognize that unique perspective and his pervasive talent. Guest appearances by Chris Rock, Parker Posey, Joan Rivers and Robin Williams, among others, made previous seasons even more special.

‘Game of Thrones’
Unruly dragons, petty royals and vengeful warriors make the fourth season of the fantasy series more chaotic than usual. As in previous seasons, characters we root and care for are horrifically destroyed—for instance, the tragic figure Oberyn Martell, played by Pedro Pascal.

Pascal told us in October that he enjoyed playing the bisexual prince: “This character refuses to limit himself [in] experience. To him, that is true logic … I’m behind him all the way.”

A few villains get their comeuppance at long last, good enough reasons for fans to stick around for another harrowing season!

Meet ‘Chozen,’ rowdy gay rapper

(Jan. 9, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

The titular misbehaving character in the animated comedy series “Chozen” used to be a law-abiding, aspiring hip-hop artist. His dream is hindered, however, by many years in the slammer; he served time for crimes he didn’t commit.

Making a comeback, hardened ex-con Phillip Cullen, aka Chozen (voiced by “Saturday Night Live’s” Bobby Moynihan), hopes to reclaim his rightful place in the artistic firmament, where his rapper foe Phantasm (voiced by Method Man), who sent him to prison, now reigns supreme.

The thuggish Chozen is determined to be a rap star, and he won’t let his being both white and gay stop him.

The riotous 10-episode series is developed by the creators of comedy shows “Eastbound & Down” and “Archer.” There is swaggering, countless adult situations and unpredictable shenanigans—but they are balanced out by accessible humor and heart.

Though slightly toned down for local cable, it retains its edge and charm. It’s hard to not enjoy the half-hour underdog misadventures of the big, burly “bear” (in gay lingo, this refers to a certain body type and/or hirsute quality), whose crazy dealings include relentless partying (often involving illegal activities).

The struggling, openly gay protagonist is flanked by other misfits, like his more focused sister Tracy (Kathryn Hahn) and childhood friends Crisco and Ricky (Hannibal Buress and Michael Peña), who now perform at kids’ parties.

The amusing, sometimes baffling, dysfunctional dynamic that Chozen has with them and new pals such as his frat boy-boy toy Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) and the straight nerdy kid Troy (Nick Swardson), keeps the series watchable. This, despite the main character being quite unlikeable because of his gruff demeanor or unbearable attitude malfunctions!

Nonetheless, “Chozen” consistently delivers with cleanly animated visuals, sheer audacity and unapologetic irreverence. It’s quite addictive, for all the right reasons.

More importantly, the gay empowerment messages aren’t lost in the blustering, boisterous revelries.

(“Chozen” recently aired on Jack TV. Visit the channel’s Facebook page for re-airing dates.)

Breaking the language barrier, one giggly scene at a time

(Jan. 7, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

It’s nothing new or earthshaking, and it has more than its rightful share of predictable predicaments—but “English Only, Please” works. It’s a simple feel-good film that stands out in a field often populated with grand and bombastic productions.

Verbal communication takes center stage in this Dan Villegas romantic comedy that proceeds on an uncomplicated premise: Jilted Fil-Am business analyst Julian Parker (Derek Ramsay), hires kooky language instructor Tere Madlansacay (Jennylyn Mercado) to translate an angry letter, written in English, to Filipino.
This setup presents ages-old tropes and parameters: Boy meets girl, they get the hang of initially baffling idiosyncracies, are exposed to each other’s vulnerabilities, then mutually acknowledge a spark between them that’s worth pursuing.

This Metro Manila Film Festival entry is typical and familiar in parts. The inevitables are a given and the filmmaker evidently understands that, hence the spiced-up script (by Antoinette Jadaone and Anj Pessumal) and tight focus on characters that more than make up for the latest iteration of the worn-out “romance recovery” plot.

Sufficient communication quirks and minutiae keep Julian and Tere’s bond relatable, too. He gets a crash course on Filipinos’ bilingual nature, or at least their familiarity with another language, taught in unceasingly perky ways by his patient teacher.

Tere’s take on the lingo is rife with “Tagalized” words and mutated slang, explained in cutaway, animated “dictionary pages” (reminiscent of the interspersed cartoon gags in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” among other flicks). The technique isn’t wasted and somewhat adds to the already cute scenario. And boy, does it milk the cuteness factor everywhere else!

Apart from the main tutor-student bond, there’s Tere’s obsessive relationship with an ex-boyfriend-turned-f-buddy (Kean Cipriano), obviously doomed to everyone else. (Cipriano is aptly sleazy and pesky as the ladies’ man who gets his way a lot, a persuasive guy who gets Tere to buy him expensive gifts).

But Julian and Tere, who give themselves the nicknames “Tanga One” and “Tanga Two” for being fools for love, gradually appreciate each other as much for their faults as for their strengths. Will the cutesy new friends—and potential lovers—survive the ultimate miscommunication scene?

Mercado imbues Tere with enough verve and tireless enthusiasm that these qualities translate on the viewers’ end.

The rawness is complemented by Ramsay’s mostly easygoing but sometimes impassioned character.

To those familiar with Ramsay’s hosting and veejay stints, the role fits, no problem—except for the parts where he speaks “Americanized” Filipino. It may send some into eye-rolling or cringing fits, although to the unfamiliar (yes, there are still those), he delivers just fine. In any case, he’s a good fit—his regular diction and intonation are put to good use.

Together, they share a unique, coruscating chemistry; they’re a functional enough tandem—they pleasantly reacquaint themselves with an oft-evolving culture, and break language barriers, one giggly scene at a time.