Friday, January 29, 2010

Daybreakers (The Spierig Brothers, 2009)

Blood stew with a long green chili floating on top and its classic accompaniment, rice cake

I am wretched


The Spierig Brothers' Daybreakers might be considered the sequel to I Am Legend--I mean Richard Matherson's short novel, not the terrible Will Smith ego trip directed by Francis Lawrence. In Matheson's vampire classic, everyman Robert Neville finds himself confronting a fully armed and organized vampire civilization--a touch too fascistic, perhaps, with little regard for judicial process or civil rights, but that's the flaw of all new societies (in Lawrence's dumbed-down version the best the digitized vampires can do by way of self-expression is a murderous glare and a guttural burp).


The Spierigs' movie might have taken place some twenty years after the events in Matheson's novel. They propose a fully working civilization arising from a humanity turned vampiric, one where the bloodsuckers outnumber the bloodsuckees at an increasingly unsustainable rate (political parallels to endangered tribes, shrinking rain forests, and dwindling supplies of oil are, I assume, intentional). Eventually blood stocks will run out, and civilized vampires will lose their human intelligence to turn into 'subsiders'--monstrously feral vampires with no reason or self-restraint (an effect unique to the Spierigs--can't recall any other work of vampire fiction, print or big screen, that mentions this). No one wants that, least of all Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), chief executive of Bromley Marks, a Big Pharma company that acts as both developer of possible blood substitutes and main world supplier of the genuine article (just imagine--a supersized combination of GlaxoSmithKline and McDonald's!). Bromley needs a blood substitute and/or a new source of human blood ASAP--his ears are already stretching into distinctly batlike points.


Perhaps the movie's best scenes are those that flesh out this topsy-turvy world. A vampire bum holds up a sign saying: “WILL WORK FOR BLOOD;” when he snaps and attacks an innocent bystander, police rush forward with long-poled clamps that close in on the neck and deliver vicious electric shocks. An all-night diner serves blooded coffee; when the staff admits that by law they can't sell coffee containing more than five percent blood, the customers leap over the counter and snatch at the blood bags hanging overhead. Loudspeakers mounted above streets and underpasses chime out the warning “one hour till sunrise;” cars shift to daytime driving mode, with blacked-out windows and exterior videocams that provide all-around visibility.


The Spierigs do their best to imagine what it would be like to live in a vampire society, but even this seemingly esoteric concept isn't all that original--Larry Cohen's “Return to Salem's Lot” (1987) presented a similar notion on a smaller scale, a community of vampires hiding out in New England. They sustain themselves by draining cattle, marrying off their immortal vampire children to each other, and teaching their young their version of American history (vampires came with the pilgrims on the Mayflower, and only want to lead a quietly prosperous and orderly life).


Cohen's film is underfunded and haphazardly directed, but it did have a sharp sense of humor and an even sharper sense of satire (the vampires resemble small-town Republicans--miniature fascists). The Spierigs take their material very seriously--too seriously--and have little sense of fun about the whole enterprise: the vampire police are your standard-issue stormtroopers, the subsiders your standard-issue men in monster suits. Instead of peppering their work with ideas, the Spierigs pepper it with loud and elaborate action sequences, at one point tossing in in a chase involving the vampire car in Daytime Driving Mode (how to incapacitate such a car? Shoot the cameras).


That's basically what's wrong with the picture--too much action, not enough explanation to flesh out its society. I don't mean a lecture; as Cohen demonstrates, one can take a largely expository tour and still enjoy the deadpan jokes along the way. Certainly an amount of implausibility is par for these pictures, but ask a few simple questions and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down--Bromley Mark's system of harvesting blood for example: humans are kept in gigantic warehouses, in a state of sleeping stasis, blood coursing from pipes in their necks. You'd think a huge corporation like that would be familiar with the idea of sustainable harvesting--breeding the humans and then just harvesting enough to meet demand, but no; we want to act like oil companies, and keep on pumping with little thought of the future.

Worst of all, the filmmaking is decidedly on the Michael Bay side: instead of allowing the vampires to creep up and play on our terror of the undead, the Spierigs fling them on us in giant fanged close-ups (some of them look like they badly need a scaling session).


I'll say this much: the picture is superior to Chris Weitz's New Moon, the latest installment in the Twilight Saga where vampire males are pretty, sparkly beings that don't wash their hair for six weeks or more, and werewolves are basically Native American males with serious anger management issues--but that's not saying much. Neither come close to the two finest vampire flicks of recent years: Tomas Alfredson's bleak Let the Right One In (2008), about the friendship and tentative romance that blossoms between a twelve-year-old boy and a two-hundred-year-old vampire, and Park Chan-wook's Thirst (2009), a far bloodier depiction of a relationship cursed with vampirism. Weitz and the Spierigs operate on large Hollywood budgets, employing the latest in digital technology, and the result basically resembles something a werewolf might leave steaming on someone's doorstep; when filmmakers like Park and Alfredson have at it, the results are often more toothsome (if decidedly less family-friendly--the amount of red sprayed about in Park's movie would go a long way towards satisfying a global blood crisis). The difference, one might say, is instructive.

First published in Businessworld, 1.14.10


Love letters at Criticine


For the month of love--

One of Alex Tioseco's last projects was a special issue of Criticine that would publish love letters from film enthusiasts and filmmakers, dedicated to filmmakers or films or even men or women somehow related to filmmaking that they passionately love. Then Alex died, and as I wrote in my tribute to him, I believed any possibility of the issue ever being finished died with him.

Happily, his friends Ben Slater and May Ingawanij decided to finish the issue anyway, and for their extraordinary effort and for this beautifully rendered special issue, I thank them.

You should read it. Because of Alex' tragic death, many of the letters (including an intriguingly lovely short film, by Apichatpong Weerasethakul) are offered in the memory of the webzine's former founder.

Mine isn't, unfortunately (or perhaps not unfortunate--some of the letters are heartbreaking and I feel it would have been embarrassing to even try approach their emotive power). When Alex asked me I immediately knew to whom I would write.

The result was finished in an hour or two with very little editing, one of the quickest (if not easiest) pieces I've ever written. The only reason it took that long (and why the process wasn't at all easy) was because I had to decide what to leave out.

So here it is. As for her identity, I have this series of emails to offer by way of a clue:

Hi Noel

I'm assuming you won't want to use film stills
to accompany your letter for Criticine. (Perhaps I'm wrong!) Do you have images in mind, or no images?

_______ chose some photographs to use for the site...there's a couple of profile
images...these might be appropriate. I could send them to you.

Dear ___;


Hm. Could you send the pics? Also, do you have one from the film ________? Not a poster, a still?


Hi Noel,
No I don't have the still from ________. Do you? Below are _______'s pics.

Dear ___;


I don't have any pics either. I think the black and white one is better.

And that's all you'll get out of me. Enjoy!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

The number of Filipino films; Jean Simmons, 1929 - 2010

Jean Simmons in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's Black Narcissus (1947)

Jean Simmons, 1929 - 2010

An unbelievable beauty, I remember her best for the times she didn't speak--as the dead Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), the mute Indian girl in Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus (1947), the enigmatic lure in David Lean's Great Expectations (1946), the slave smiling shyly at Kirk Douglas in Spartacus (1960).


That said, my last memory of her wasn't so much her face as it was her voice--aged and cracked, yet full of of great warmth and spirit, the voice of elderly Sophie Hatter in Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle (2004).


So long, Ms. Jean, glad to have seen--and listened to--you.

Answering a question from a previous discussion, this is what I found in the Plaridel Journal, published by the University of the Philippines Department of Mass Communications. The Journal's introduction mentions the number of 35 mm films commercially released each year:

2001 = 103
2002 = 94
2003 = 80
2004 = 55
2005 = 50
2006 = 49
2007 = 39
2008 = 36

Which doesn't look good. But add to this a separate count of the digital films given a full theatrical release:

2004 = 1
2005 = 5
2006 = 12
2007 = 40
2008 = 47

--and you can see where most of the creative energy and passion has gone. Amazing to note the burst of activity in just four years, from one film to forty, thanks to the efforts of Cinemanila, Cinemalaya, and Cinema One Originals festival organizers.

I can see some questions need to be asked: how much money did these digital productions make? Not sure; but if the number of productions is increasing and not decreasing, someone must think there is money to be made out there. Either that, or someone must think our filmmakers need an outlet, to say what's on their minds, and that this endeavor is important enough to keep pouring money in.

Which makes this welcome news:

Cinemalaya 2010: A battle between veteran, new directors?

MANILA, Philippines - Former Cultural Center of the Philippines president Nestor Jardin delivered his opening remarks at the launch of the 6th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival Wednesday noon at the CCP Main Theater lobby with intriguing lines.

He said: “...the Open Category for established film directors was introduced to bring complication to the festival.”

Jardin wasn't speaking in limbo but on concrete terms.

It wasn't of course the complication of doomsayers, but the more enlightened vision of an artist and a technocrat.

The Open Category is an initial venture of the festival to feature works by Filipino directors, who, according to Cinemalaya Foundation Board of Director Laurice Guillen, have directed at least 3 full-length feature films that have been released commercially.

According to the CCP Public Relations Office, big name and established directors will add luster to this year's Cinemalaya.

From out of the 20 or so entries, only 5 got to the final round namely "Ang Paglilitis ni Bonifacio” by Mario O'Hara, “Isang Pirasong Buhay” by Mark Meily, “Pink Halu-Halo” by Joselito Altarejos, “Sigaw” by Joel Lamangan and “Two Funerals” by Gil Portes.

Meanwhile, the annual Full Length Category carries relatively young and independently spirited filmmakers.

Ten entries from out of 198 aspirants qualified officially to the contest. They are Gutierrez Mangansakan II's “Limbunan,” Sheron Dayoc's “Halaw,” “Arnel Mardoquio's “Sheika,” Dan Villegas and Paul Sta. Ana's “Mayohan,” Kim Homer C. Garcia's “Magkakapatid,” Danny Añonuevo's “Rekrut,” Francis Xavier Pasion's “Sampaguita,” Art Katipunan's “Si Techie, Si Tekboy at si JuanaB,” Dennis N. Marasigan's “Siya ang Mayor Ko” and Ian-Dean S. Lorenos' “The Leaving.”

Speaking on empirical sense, O'Hara said indie filmmaking isn't a new idea to the local film industry.

“Panahon pa ni Lino Brocka sa kanyang 'Insiang,' indie film na 'yon dahil maliit lang ang budget. Twelves days lang ang shooting days no'n. 'Yong pitu-pito ni Mother Lily (Monteverde, producer of Regal Entertainment), indie din 'yon. Ngayon, sa project na ito, ang mahalaga ay substance at performance.” (In Lino Brocka's day his Insiang was an indie film that had a low budget. It was shot in twelve days. Mother Lily's pitu-pito were indies too. Now, with this project, what's important is substance and performance)

Lamangan, meantime, is very optimistic he can pull off a film that can conform to an indie filmmaking budget.

“Susubukan natin at alam ko na may magagawa tayo,” (We'll try it and I know we can do something) he said.

Portes is very certain he can do a full-length feature in the indie spirit by meticulously seeing through the script before the cameras roll.

He reminded the young indie filmmakers though to refrain from being too “ideal,” if not being unrealistic, about the handling of the material at hand.

This was how he contextualized it: “Halimbawa, ang isang bagong direktor, ayaw niyang mapuputulan ang kanyang mahabang mga eksena kahit wala nang sense.” (For example, a new director, he doesn't want his scenes cut even if they don't make any sense)

On the other hand, from among the new set of directors, the tension between them and the old timers isn't a problem.

“Wala namang magiging conflict dahil may respeto naman kami sa kanila. 'Yon lang, sa casting, 'yong ibang artista, nasa veteran directors at sa amin din kaya nagkaka-conflict sa schedule,” (There isn't going to be any conflict because we respect them. But for the casting, we may want the same artists, so there could be a problem with schedules) exclaimed Añonuevo.

Or what CCP PR head Irene Rada had said: “Marami ring matutunan ang mga bagong direktor sa mga beterano and vice versa.” (The new directors can learn something from the veterans, and vice versa) -Boy Villasanta, abs-cbnNEWS.com

as of 01/21/2010 12:25 PM

Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie, 2009)


Lock, stock, and two sorry buttheads

Look folks! The Sherlock Holmes© action figure!

He leaps! He kicks! He cracks the bad guy's kneecap with a bartitsu move, dodges explosions with spine-cracking dexterity! And when handcuffed to an ornate hotel room bed, shoots off hilariously inappropriate quips!

Please. The former Mr. Madonna's latest isn't so much a Holmes updated for our times as he is dumbed-down video game for the ADD crowd (Tekken Holmes, anyone?). They've tacked on a nefarious plot to gas the British Parliament with a cyanidelike gas, opposed him with an invincible hulking sparring partner not unlike 'Jaws' in the James Bond movies, and promised the involvement of Professor Moriarity in the already advertised sequel (we're not just out to snatch money from your wallet, we don't want to waste time doing it).

Perhaps the movie's only interesting idea is that Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) are a barely closeted couple (they share the apartment with their housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson) about to end their relationship in favor of Watson's marriage to Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly)--basically borrowing the plot of the '20s theatrical classic The Front Page,” with Watson playing the wandering Hildy Johnson to Holmes' jealously possessive Walter Burns. Law and Downey do have a chemistry, a kind of frat-boy bonhomie that's diverting, even intriguing; when a bomb explodes and either Watson or Holmes is down and hurt and one hovers over the other, mortally worried, you keep expecting their lips to meet in that ever-promised kiss--

--which never happens. Either a bigger bomb explodes or the huge French thug shows up, prompting Richie to throw the picture into slow motion, fists swooshing like jet fighters. Ritchie might be called the Michael Bay of British cinema, with his fondness for larger-than-life action sequences barely held together by a supposedly witty script (in that he's probably Bay's superior--I've yet to see evidence of wit in a Bay movie, much less a script). There's too much loud business, too much smoke and sparks and Rube Goldberg devices whirring around for Downey, Law, and Rachel McAdams (playing Irene Adler, the only woman to ever flummox Holmes, in “A Scandal in Bohemia”) to develop their characters: they remain cartoon sketches that pose prettily and run briskly, occasionally dropping a funny remark along the way in what nowadays passes for dialogue.

Much prefer Holmes' cinematic incarnations of past years. I'm familiar with Basil Rathbone, generally considered the definitive Holmes, but tend to gravitate towards more revisionist versions. There's Terence Fisher's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), full of the lurid color palette and shock imagery of classic Hammer horrors, plus Peter Cushing as an icy yet authoritative Holmes, Christopher Lee in a small role as Sir Charles Baskerville, and Andre Morell as a humane, uncharacteristically intelligent Dr. Watson.

Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) is an unusual chapter in the lives of both Holmes and Wilder--first, because the film has a distinctly romantic spirit; second, because Wilder (The Apartment (1960), Some Like it Hot (1959)), legendary for his fierce satirical bite, appears in this film to have developed a mellowed, almost toothless, tone. Actually, it's Wilder at a late stage of his career, when he seemed more concerned with capturing the essence of his characters instead of savaging them--in this case Holmes (Robert Stephens), at a relatively early stage of his career, and the reasons for his shyness towards women. The parallels are irresistible: both are famed cynics, both highly intelligent (one might say Holmes is the genius behind the magnifying glass, Wilder the genius behind the camera lens). Wilder pursues Holmes with the same relentless determination that Holmes pursues his quarries; Holmes resists analysis with the same stubborn determination that Wilder resists depicting easy heartbreak, easy tragedy. When Wilder finally runs the prey to ground--when he finally arrives at the reason behind Holmes' misogyny--it's as if a tiny crack had formed on a solid crystal; just the slightest of flaws, and only noticeable if you look closely, but definitely there, and startling to behold. Come to think of it, the film's title may be a misnomer--it isn't just of Holmes' life we're attempting to to catch a privileged glimpse.

Wilder's is a great take on Holmes, but my hands-down favorite is the Hayao Miyazaki's episodes of the animated TV series Sherlock Hound (1984 - 85). Yes, Holmes here is animated and yes, he's a hound, and yes in Miyazaki's hands he's a good-natured charmer. Operating on a short format--around twenty-five minutes per episode--and on the low budgets of TV animation, Miyazaki performs miraculous feats of storytelling, scattering vivid imagery along the way like a trail of gold coins--in “The Little Client,” for example, Moriarity's drop forge--a ravenous behemoth of a machine--goes berserk and stamps out forged coins in bizarre shapes: necklaces ("this would be nice for mother," Moriarity notes) and jellyfish ("this would be nice in her parlor"). In “The Abduction of Mrs. Hudson” Moriarity's nefarious plot to kidnap Holmes' housekeeper turns into a Peter Pan comedy, with Moriarity and his men as Lost Boys and Mrs. Hudson the beautiful young nanny they've waited for all their lives. And as if to prove he can be as revisionist as any recent cinematic genius, Miyazaki in “The White Cliffs of Dover” proposes that Mrs. Hudson is the true protagonist of the adventure, and that Holmes harbors a secret crush on her.

It's not difficult to see Holmes' appeal to storytellers of all mediums, of all ages: he's a cold, lonely genius, capable of the sharpest observations--a filmmaker or writer or storyteller's highest aspiration. More, they project themselves into Holmes--in Fisher's hands Holmes is an intellectual titan but also a physical adventurer; in Wilder's case he's a cynic who has built a shell around him for protection; in Miyazaki's case he's a great detective able to relate to children because deep inside he's still a boy at heart, a gentle one at that (don't knock gentleness--it's the most difficult quality to portray, convincingly and entertainingly, on the big screen, and Miyazaki is a master). Given that in this latest incarnation Ritchie's Holmes is a frequent runner, a habitual boxer, an occasional nudist (albeit involuntary), a boor and a slob and an irresistible attractor of inordinately large explosions, what does this Holmes say of this filmmaker?

First published on Businessworld, 1.8.10

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pictures from Vancouver International Film Festival

As promised, here are the few pictures I managed to snap of people met in the festival, in between bouts of lying in my hotel room suffering from intestinal flu.


From left to right: fellow Dragons & Tigers jurist Ikeda Hiroyuki; yours truly; Eighteen director Jang Kun-Jae and his lead actor Lee Min-Ji. Can't remember what the circumstances were, but this was probably immediately after the film's screening. Yes, I suppose Lee looked cute in his breezy gray scarf and beribboned hat, but I thought I stunned with my black-and-white latticed shirt.


From left to right: Mr. Ikeda, Dragons & Tigers programmer Tony Rayns; fellow juror Johnny Ray Huston; and yours truly. Don't believe this pic for a moment; we finished deliberations, decided we had a few minutes to kill, and posed for this photo, apparently not very well--Mr. Ikeda and I pretended (feebly) to still be debating, Tony and Johnny thought we should be grinning like idiots at the camera. The lesson? Never snap a pic without an auteur in charge.


Kristin Thompson and I, our first meeting. I'd first met Kristin's husband David Bordwell in the Hong Kong International Film Festival, after which I wrote about his book Planet Hong Kong. I'd stopped going to Hong Kong years ago (nada dinero); when I met David again this year we hadn't seen each other for about, oh, ten years.

It was a keen pleasure meeting him again, and I wished we could have talked more, and I wished we could have spent more time together and I wished I'd have been able to say more to Kristin than "hi!" (I'd been reading her on their blog for years) but they had their own list of films to catch and I had my films to judge. We did manage to snap pictures together with my camera, four total, every one of which was hopelessly blurred. Fortunately, Bordwell's digital camera worked fine, and he emailed me this (unfortunately we couldn't get one of David and I, or the three of us together). Them's the breaks, I suppose. I suppose I should also get a digital camera, but--nada dinero.



Bakal Boys director Ralston Jover with my arm wrapped proprietarily round his shoulders. He had just signed his soul away to me.

Actually, that's his Special Mention certificate I'm holding. Very nice guy. Almost wasn't there for the award--after the screening he disappeared for the rest of the week. On awards night he had the festival staff running and radioing everywhere, trying to find him. Turned out he was sitting in his hotel room, wondering what time the ceremony started.


From left to right: yours truly in between actress Seo Jun-Yeong and actor Lee Min-Ji (doesn't he ever take off that hat?), the appealingly young lovers in Jang Kun-Jae's Eighteen.

It was right after the awards ceremony. The pair were high on the fact that our jury had given their film the Dragons & Tigers award; the photographers swarmed around them, snapping away. I walked up to her, held out my hand, palm up, and said "payment."

She looked puzzled. "What?"

"Payment," I said. "For the award."

She looked as if she didn't understand. Or rather, that she was starting to understand, but wished she didn't. Then I held up my camera. "Pictures." She started laughing.

I know, I know. But I just couldn't resist.



And if you think I'm going to resist having a solo picture taken with her, you just don't know me.


This was the Cook It Yourself Noodle Party at the lovely Eunhee's gorgeous penthouse apartment. Turns out Nguyen Doy Khoa, the lead actor of Bui Thac Chuyen's beautiful Adrift, is also a skilled pianist. All that was needed, really, was Eunhee in a slinky red dress, cavorting atop her piano and singing Makin' Whoopee, but would she oblige me? Not on your life.


Tony Rayns. Haven't the slightest idea why his expression's so sour--James Cameron's Avatar was still months away.


Dragons & Tigers programmer Shelley Kraicer, in a supplicant's pose. Don't remember why he was on his knees that time--proposing, perhaps? But what about that beer bottle he's sipping? Whatever the reason, it must have been one compelling reason...



And this was my last day at the festival, when I was determined not to sleep till it was time to board my plane.

The all-night drinking session eventually turned into an informal seminar on life, films and film festivals with, among others, Sato Fumiro, director of Denoted (left, I think (I could be mistaken)) and Mariko Tetsuya, director of The Yellow Kid (right). Tetsuya was a regular interrogator, asking me my opinion of this film or that, this filmmaker or that. He had a fierce curiosity about almost everything, and I ended up talking almost the entire night.

At one point--I don't know exactly what time, only that it was almost dawn--we ended up wondering what happens after the festival is over. "We go home," I opined, "and we keep some kind of contact. We might never meet again, not face-to-face, but we send email, message each other on Facebook, and so on.

"It's a strange community we have. We see each other for a few days, we go back to our homes thousands of miles away, we don't see each other for months, maybe years. Yet when we get back together, it's as if we've never been apart. Sometimes we pick up arguments as if we'd just parted only yesterday.

"It's as if we already partly know each other--we love films, we love filmmaking, and that's half the job of becoming friends done. The rest is just filling in the details.

"If I have any advice to give you, it's this: meet, talk, get to know each other fast as possible, cherish each other as much as possible because--well, you never know. I had a friend--Alex Tioseco, a film critic--and the last time I saw him was 2003. We kept in contact--I wrote several articles for him, and just a month ago we emailed each other about my discovering the films of David Gordon Green.

"And then he died. Shot in his own home. That was my last conversation with him--a series of email messages about David Gordon Green. Which was sad yet appropriate too, in a way--we were doing what we loved best, talking about films and filmmakers, giving each other a head's up on something exciting and new (new at least for me). Worse ways to spend one's last moments together, I suppose.

"So here's to you, and you, and you, and you, and if I may say one thing more, a quote: 'If we do meet again, why, we shall smile; if not, why then, this parting was well made.'"

Funniest thing of all, I remember sipping maybe three, four glasses of, I don't know, whiskey or sake or something all through the night, but when I left I was stone cold sober. Even my intestinal flu felt fine--no cramps, no nausea, nothing. I was, for all intents and purposes, cured. Happens.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Best of 2009, the Best of the Decade

The in my opinion film of the decade 

It's with perverse pride that I look upon Sight & Sound's Ten Best Films of 2009 and note that none of my own choices (scroll down) made it there--and that two of the titles I might have conceivably chosen (Peter Doctor's Up and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds) I didn't even like.

Jonathan Romney's essay pretty much sums it up: I do have orphans I champion, I do have an agenda I'm pushing with my list--directors and films that I think deserve more attention, hence their inclusion, plus movies I'd rather not waste my time with, like the two aforementioned titles (hence their non-inclusion).

Even agree with Romney's conclusion, that the real value of such exercises isn't the plain-vanilla combined list composed out of statistics (as Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain) put it: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'), but the list of esoteric titles
behind that combined list.

Glad to see, then, Bong Joon-ho's Mother mentioned, and that Tony Rayn's list includes Yang ik-june's Breathless and Joko Anwar's Forbidden Door. Appreciate those who preferred Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo over the Pixar, and Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In over that
Twilight movie (though another strong contender in the bloodsucking sweepstakes, I submit, is Thirst, easily the first Park Chan-wook film I ever liked). And kudos to Adrian Martin for picking Filipino filmmaker Sherad Anthony Sanchez's Imburnal.

My Sight & Sound top five films of 2009 then (with links to articles where ever applicable):

Melancholia (Lav Diaz, Philippines)
 


Karaoke (Chris Chong Chan Fui)

It's with even more perverse pride that I note that none of my picks for best of the decade made Film Comment's Top 100 list either--a more difficult achievement, I suspect, because of the number of participants polled, number of films seen, the scope involved.

Didn't
mean to be so perverse. Was asked to give my ten best of the decade, looked back at what I saw, tried to remember which ones had the greatest impact, and wrote accordingly. No, I did not reject one or another because it was too well-known; I usually rejected them because I either 1) thought there was something better, or 2) ran out of slots.

Honest.

That said, I like to think that if you saw the films in my list you'd gain some kind of insight into some kind of sensibility, at least the one I've carried with me this past ten years--a little grim, perhaps, a little skewed, a little concerned about everything that's happened and may happen still.

I should have included a comedy, shouldn't I? Something lighthearted or at least comparatively lighter-hearted, like Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, or Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy movies or (and I was strongly tempted to include this) Joe Dante's Looney Tunes: Back in Action. But "that's how the crumbling cookie," as an old Filipino-English joke used to go.

So (with accompanying links):

Best Films of the Decade:

Demons (
Pangarap ng Puso, Mario O'Hara, 2000)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007)

Edmond (Stuart Gordon, 2005)

Election / Triad Election (Johnnie To, 2005/2006)

Pulse (Kurosawa Kiyoshi, 2001)

A Short Film About the Indio Nacional (
Maicling pelicula nang ysang Indio Nacional, Raya Martin, 2006)

The Sky Crawlers
(Mamoru Oshii, 2008)

Todo Todo Teros
(John Torres, 2006)

We Own the Night (James Gray, 2007)


West Side Avenue (
Batang West Side, Lav Diaz, 2001)

Best filmmakers of the decade:

Lav Diaz

Mamoru Oshii

Kurosawa Kiyoshi

Michael Mann

Stuart Gordon

George Romero

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Film of the Decade:
Demons (Pangarap ng Puso, Mario O'Hara, 2000)

10 Filipino Films That Deserve to be Known Better

Altar (Rico Ilarde, 2007)

Biyaheng Langit (
Paradise Express, Tikoy Aguiluz, 2000)

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (
Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, Auraeus Solito, 2005)

Heremias, Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess (
Unang aklat: ang alamat ng prinsesang bayawak, Lav Diaz, 2006)

Kagadanan sa banwaan ning mga Engkanto (
Death in the Land of Encantos, Lav Diaz, 2007)

North Diversion Road (
Sa North Diversion Road, Dennis Marasigan, 2005)

Taon noong ako'y anak sa labas (Years When I Was a Child Outside, John Torres, 2008)

The Teacher (Manoro, Brillante Mendoza, 2006)

Third World Hero (Bayaning Third World, Mike De Leon, 2000)

La Vida Rosa (The Life of Rosa, Chito Rono, 2001)

1.15.10

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Show Only One Hollywood Movie a Month, the Sequel

Philippine cinema, bound and gagged

Continuing from this post:

We had a friendly debate on the subject on this forum.

Noel Vera (NV): Actually a little protectionism DOES make sense at this moment in time. What just happened? Global economic collapse. Why did it happen? Free market economies. Why is China so quick to recover? They're focusing on their domestic market.

So if free markets fucked us up so bad, how about Something A Little Different?

av_phile1: Then what?

It's the same situation why the coups against GMA failed. Who you gonna install after GMA?

Okay, so there's no Harry Potter, no Ironman, no Robin Hood. You now have the entire domestic box office to your own. What's next?

NV: All we have left is Lav Diaz, John Torres, Raya Martin, Brillante Mendoza, Dennis Marasigan, Rico Ilarde, Ellen Ongkeko, Ralston Joven, Veronica Velasco, Sherad Anthony Sanchez, Auraeus Solito, Joyce Bernal, Quark Henares, Jeffrey Jeturian, Ditsy Carolino, Ramona Diaz, Khavn de la Cruz, Chito Rono, Maryo J. delos Reyes, Peque Gallaga, Laurice Guillen, Marilou Diaz Abaya, Lupita Kashiwahara and (hoping against hope) Celso Ad. Castillo, Mike De Leon, Mario O'Hara?

Heaven help us then! Grin

av_phile1: When I asked what's next I was hoping someone would tell me how they plan to go about limiting or banning hollywood movies and what to expect after. It's so easy mouthing some advocacy about it.

How do you invoke the Cultural Exception principle in the GATT/WTO/Unesco requirement that France, China, Taiwan, et al have been granted. Are we already enjoying it considering that we are in violation of the National Treatment principle behind GATT that explicitly forbids giving incentives to commercial products in the guise of protecting culture? There are already tax rebates on local films. There's a pending act in congress exempting domestic films with GP and PG-13 rating from the 30% amusement tax. There's another pending lifting the 12% VAT on imported film making equipment. Yet despite these incentives, where are we?

Then what? Will the government cast a safety net to theater owners who will lose income from foreign films? And what other incentive is there to increase film production to fill in the void?

Importation quota is meant to control competition with foreign products. But will there be a quota set against home entertainment materials like DVDs and BDs, because these are other competition channels. How about piracy? Will they be finally stamped out? How about the internet, will the government ban torrent sites? How? Because if not, any quota of hollywood films goes out the window because people can just watch them at home.

Like I said, it's too late. Any kind of protectionist importation quota should have been done right after a disastrous calamity or war that threatened to eradicate a culture or at least make it difficult for a nation to compete against imported products from countries that didn't suffer the same fate. That was what France did after WWII, protecting its film industry after the war devastated its economy. The French had worked hard to define cinema as a cultural product and had a cultural exception principle adopted in the GATT. Same with South Korea after the Korean War. We should have done the same thing like France after WWII. But we were too confident we had the stars that we claim to be better than hollywood stars. We had a Paraluman who was more beautiful than a Rita Hayworth. We had Fernando Poe Jr, that many say was better than Gary Cooper. We had an Amalia Fuentes which many say is more beautiful than Elizabeth Taylor. In short, we thought nothing of competing with hollywood films and we actually trumped many of them in the local box office.

Now in the age of internet and the opening of commercial borders, protectionism has lost any of its power to preserve culture. South Korea didn't get its cinema up because of it. Sure it helped at the start, but if not for their intrepid directors and excellent movie stories that really showed them at their cinematic best, no amount of protectionsim would have brought them to where they are today. Same with Japan, China and India. Where is France cinema today. More than half a century of protectionism and they still claim they need it to get an even playing field.

NV: GATT is frankly something we walked into without much critical thought. "Oh free market, it's got to be good for us." Yeah, right--did us just fine in 2008 and 2009.

I'd say the key word is 'commercial products.' Reword and redefine Filipino movies to be cultural products where the studios are renumerated for expenses and not much else (profit can be distributed through a dozen other means) should get around GATT provisions (I say redo those treaties, but assume the political will isn't there, or at least not yet). We're so creative about going around rules and regulations I can't imagine this should give us a hard time.

As for further details, I suggest checking out the French subsidy system (the stress there is cultural as opposed to commercial preservation), not to mention South Korea's quota system. Throw in China's too. Works for them, don't see why it won't work for us.

HEXAGRAM: Imagine your children growing up with mostly Filipino shows/movies. Puro kabaklaan, kajologan, prostitusyon, incest, panggagaya, kaingayan (hiyawan), sayawan (ng kalandian), neverending sequels, telefantash*ts, recycled casts (parang wala nang ibang mahanap), etc.

All I can say that I thank my dad for not permitting me to watch Filipino shows when I was growing up.

I hate to generalize but that's the way i see it. Global warming is enough of a dilemma for our future generations.

NV: Naw, we just watch Hollywood garbage, where white skin is better, girls are sexy and objects of rape and lust, gay men are comic relief and/or serial killers, Islam is the Devil's religion, the gun is glorified beyond all measure, and the USA beats all countries at war.

Oh, and kajologan, prostitusyon, incest, panggagaya, kaingayan (hiyawan), sayawan (ng kalandian), neverending sequels, telefantash*ts, recycled casts (parang wala nang ibang mahanap), etc.

It's not that different. At least there's a Filipino flavor to our garbage.

I thank my dad for not permitting me to watch Filipino shows when I was growing up

No O'Hara, Brocka, Bernal, Ad. Castillo, Guillen, the two de Leons, Silos, Conde?

You poor thing.

Puro kabaklaan

Whoa--so what do you mean by that? Something wrong with homosexuality? Some of our regular posters are gay.

av_phile1: GATT is frankly something we walked into without much critical thought. "Oh free market, it's got to be good for us." Yeah, right--did us just fine in 2008 and 2009.

I'd say the key word is 'commercial products.' Reword and redefine Filipino movies to be cultural products where the studios are renumerated for expenses and not much else (profit can be distributed through a dozen other means) should get around GATT provisions (I say redo those treaties, but assume the political will isn't there, or at least not yet). We're so creative about going around rules and regulations I can't imagine this should give us a hard time.

As for further details, I suggest checking out the French subsidy system (the stress there is cultural as opposed to commercial preservation), not to mention South Korea's quota system. Throw in China's too. Works for them, don't see why it won't work for us.

Except for China, all the countries you mentioned with movie protectionist policies are signatories to the GATT. France and India signed it in 1948, Japan in 1955 and South Korea in 1968.

The problem lies in differentiating cultural products and commercial products. The former is entitled to GATT exemption in the interest of protecting cultural diversity, the other is not. What culture are you protecting with Darna, Iskul Bukol, Wapakman, Panday or Shake Rattle and Roll? There's so few attempta to paint our culture in our cinema. Rizal, Muro Ami, Himala, Oro Plata Mata, Macho Dancer. Tuli, Foster Child, Caregiver, Kubrador, maybe. I think you have to show more than that when you want to seek GATT exemption.

And protectionism will just be another toothless grin with a borderless and impossible-to-regulate internet age sprinkled with piracy. We should have done it as early as the 70s. Now, the challenge of global competitiveness can no longer be set aside in favor of parochial interests. Better to rise to the occasion than hide behind anchronistic trade barriers. We've been doing it already, trumping hollywood blockbusters in the local box office. We just need to produce more. It's really no different from getting the entrepreneurial risk taking spirit among pinoys in any industry. We need to get more producers to invest on Pinoy directors who make good in filmfests.

Sadly, just as we don't have entrepreneurs to engage in our own car making industry, or consumer electronics (Do we have a Pinoy Cellphone or PC?), our cinema industry mirrors all our lackluster enterprising efforts. We can be world class artists, but not world class industry leaders and businessmen. No amount of trade protectionism can solve that.

NV: Like I said, it's too late.Any kind of protectionist importation quota should have been done right after a disastrous calamity or war that threatened to eradicate a culture or at least make it difficult for a nation to compete against imported products from countries that didn't suffer the same fate.

And what do you call this global economic meltdown? What do you call Hollywood's gobbling up the Hong Kong and Mexico markets?

Same with South Korea after the Korean War.

Yeah. Check recent South Korean history--they imposed their latest quotas in the 90s, after Hollywood brought down their industry.

South Korea didn't get its cinema up because of it. Sure it helped at the start

And that's what I'm calling for--a start. Turn down Hollywood's volume, and let's start.

no amount of protectionism would have brought them to where they are today

They still have a quota.

Where is France cinema today. More than half a century of protectionism and they still claim they need it to get an even playing field.

It's all about money, folks. Hollywood has money, we don't. We do, however, have the power to legislate. That's the function of government.

HEXAGRAM: Naw, we just watch Hollywood garbage, where white skin is better, girls are sexy and objects of rape and lust, gay men are comic relief and/or serial killers, Islam is the Devil's religion, the gun is glorified beyond all measure, and the USA beats all countries at war

No Brocka, Bernal, Ad. Castillo, Guillen, the two de Leons, Silos, Conde?

You poor thing.

Never said that I only watch Hollywood films. And you seem to be the expert on Tagalog films and film history, so good luck with that. Wink I still sleep well at night so no worries.

Whoa--so what do you mean by that? Something wrong with homosexuality? Some of our regular posters are gay.

Nice try in stirring things up for your delight. "Some of our regular posters are gay." - bravo!

I have gay friends. Who doesn't? But what they do with their “leisure time” is something I'm not interested in. Same applies to everyone with different beliefs.

I'll cite one example since you're clearly enjoying the discussion regarding "kabaklaan" - gayness.

Joey's Quirky World - Should be a very educational and informative program, especially for kids. But who the hell knows why they had to put 2 straight men to commentate using gay lingo and intonation (with the annoying shrieks if I may add). Add another fat, straight cross-dressing guy playing assistant to the equation and you get the general idea of what I’m trying to imply. I doubt the children will be able to pick up useful words to store in their vocabulary banks after watching such shows.

And if the show was targeted for the younger audiences, is that the network’s surefire and proven way of getting through to them? If it is, then that says a lot of what you're going to expect with these network producers who are also into film making. What's the new Michael V. show? I forgot the name - all I know that it's just another show with a cross-dressing host. But who cares right? It sells.

NV: I have gay friends. Who doesn't?

Classic! "I'm not an anti-Semite--all my best friends are Jews."

Joey's Quirky World - Should be a very educational and informative program, especially for kids. But who the hell knows why they had to put 2 straight men to commentate using gay lingo and intonation

Some people find swardspeak fun. I do.

And if the show was targeted for the younger audiences

I don't see anything wrong with exposing younger folk to homosexuality. I know gay couples that raise kids and they do a better job than some straight couples do, their kids are more squared away too.


If it is, then that says a lot of what you're going to expect with these network producers who are also into film making.

My problem with this is the broad brushstroke. If you snipe at TV producers (and I do think most of them deserve it) and commercial film producers (and I do think they deserve it), you need to point out that there is good work being produced out there. Otherwise, you're stereotyping and dismissing out of hand.

av_phile1: And what do you call this global economic meltdown? What do you call Hollywood's gobbling up the Hong Kong and Mexico markets?

Every country is experiencing the global recession. But nowhere near the calamity of a WW II.

Mexico is so much like the Philippines. More than half their population wants to own green cards. And because of its proximity to the land of milk and honey, most of their local stars and directors got their wishes. You have Mexican Holywood stars like Ramon Novaro, Lupe Velez, Cantinflas, Dolores del Rio, Gilbert Roland, Ricardo Montalban, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Salma Hayek, to mention some. And great directors who landed hollywood jobs or had workls distributed worldwide to commercial success like Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambian, Children of Men, Harry Potter PA), Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, Blade II). Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams). They probably don't need protectionism as much as we do. Mexico could have invoked GATT exemption. But it's interesting to note that AFAIK no Latin American country ever took advantage of the cultural exception in the GATT. Not that it matters to us, but I can understand their indifference to the idea.

Hongkong cinema is a bit more complicated with its integration into mainland China so that any distinction between the two has increasingly blurred over the years. The main factor in its decline include an increasingly sophisticated population that found Hollywood movies more acceptable to their taste than the local films that have spiraled down in terms of quality. The Asian financial crisis of the 97 was the final straw that broke the mighty private sector that has been financing movies eversince. Most of these entrepreneurial producers found themselves financially bankrupt to further make movies the way they used to. Hongkong cinema is unique as it's the only Asian cinema that never got a single cent from government incentives and yet really stood on its own against Hollywood in the international market for the years before its decline in the 90s. Local hongkong market is just too small to support local cinema which promptly embarked on world audiences as its markets. It's no different from the history of its flag carrier Cathay Pacific which could not have survived with no domestic market if not for its international operation. Hongkong cinema's decline is almost inevitable with a confluence of socio-economic and political factors that now subsume the industry into the larger mainland China cinema especially with China already making international quality films.

Yeah. Check recent South Korean history--they imposed their latest quotas in the 90s, after Hollywood brought down their industry.

Yeah and all their films had been been funded by the government. With the exception of some from the private sector like Samsung.

They had their quotas revised 20 years ago. A good 5 years before the spread of internet popularity, 10 years before the spread of piracy. And they were only able to produce their first landmark hit Shiri in 1999.

If South Korea had done it 9 years after, what makes you think embarking on protectionism at this late stage right in the presence of torrents and pirated moves would benefit local cinema. It won't Your best bet is for those new breed of directors winning internal film fests to be tapped by hollywood to make films for international distribution. That is, if local producers won't tap them.

And that's what I'm calling for--a start. Turn down that volume, and let's start.

I'm sure Bong Revilla has his sights on the Presidency. If ever he becomes President, you'll get what you want.

Besides, I have the impression we're already taking the cultural exception in GATT. We have tax rebates on movies. Congress has a pending legislation on exempting local GP and PG13 movies from the 30% amusement tax and the 12% VAT for movie making equipment.

They still have a quota.

Of course, once you have it, why give it up. The French had it for the last 70 years and they still won't give it up.

It's all about money, folks. Hollywood has money, we don't. We do, however, have the power to legislate. That's the function of government.

There are already legislative action pending in congress short of making quotas to help the movie industry. These are considered subsidies that are already in violation of GATT unless we have invoked the cultural exception principle. And since we're on the topic of legislation, why not ask the government for funding as well, like what South Korea had done?

The cinema is just like any industry where you need investments for it to really flourish. Attracting investments won't happen if new businessmen don't find the industry lucrative enough. The problem is the small domestic market. You can only squeeze out so much from a local market. Protectionsim is a local market solution as it enables local producers to maximize revenues from a market that has little choices. But there's never a guarantee you'll be able to churn out products with a global world class appeal. There's a higher chance that because producers would be making more profit with mediocre films under a protected industry, they'd be content with it and not risk venturing out into world class quality products that cost more to make.

Like I said, it's too late in the age of internet and piracy. You stand a much better chance of attracting people who watch Titanic to watch Iskul Bukol if you had started protectionism as late as the 80s. Marcos should have done it with his MIFF. And coupled with the great films created at that time like Scorpio Nights and Oro, that could have really ignited a lasting golden age of our cinema with an international flavour. The benefits of movie protectionism would have been felt in the next generation of movie goers who would not have been weaned with Hollywood crap. And more importantly, local producers would have been well exposed to global competitiveness to rise above mediocrity. I have little quarrel with partially closing your market to foreign products, but only if you couple that with sustained drive towards world-class product excellence. And timing is of the essence.

But now, forget it. What makes you think the people who watch Harry Potter or Transformers can be weaned away to movie houses showing Wapakman and Shake Rattle and Roll. With protectionism, they'll just download the Hollywood torrents and watch happily their Hollywood crap in the comfort of their homes. Or go to their nearest tiangge to buy pirated copies. Cheaper besides. With unabated piracy and torrents with home increasingly getting their hands on cheaper PCs, the next generation of movie goers will still be exposed to them.

Nope, whatever promise a protectionist economy model has is now forever lost in the overarching presence of the internet and an unyielding global intellectual piracy. Sure, South Korea et al, still have it. But like I said, they won't give that up and it's just another remnant of an old world order when economies were more fragmented.

Your real hope lies in having those new breed of directors we have to get noticed by Hollywood filmmakers to make movies for international marketing and distribution. Or any businessman who are avid film enthusiasts. Like Samsung in Korea. Unfortunately we don't have anything similar to Samsung. Perhaps if Gokongwei, Lucio Tan, Henry Sy or the Ayalas and Ortigas can be persuaded to finance some of these good directors, we might get there faster. The real advantage of Korea is their highly evolved nationalistic psyche which has made them what they are. But that's another topic.

NV: Every country is experiencing the global recession. But nowhere near the calamity of a WW II.

I'm not all that compelled by a need to obey the spirit and letter of GATT, mainly because this free market thing is part of what pulled the world economy over the brink.

Nope, whatever promise a protectionist economy model has is now forever lost in the overarching presence of the internet and an unyielding global intellectual piracy.

Yeah. So what's the percentage of internet use in the Filipino population? People seem to think the whole country revolves around the middle to upper classes of Metro Manila. Need to remember that a majority of the population is still at the poverty line, and that majority of the people live in the provinces, where movies make a good chunk of their income.

Incidentally, in the period of 2003 to 2004, we did 97 films to Hong Kong's 92. In 2008 we made 89 films to Hong Kong's 53. We're still outproducing them, for all the wrong reasons, sure, and using crap, but there's still a considerable market out there.

Sure, South Korea et al, still have it. But like I said, they won't give that up and it's just another remnant of an old world order when economies were more fragmented.

That's the old new world order you say is taking over the old world order. There's a new new world order coming around thanks to the meltdown and it has a lot in common with the old world order. Less globalization, more localization. Checks and regulations on trading, and the selling and buying of stocks. Smaller companies, catering to local markets. GATT is already the detritus of that old new world order. Old news, folks.

The economies that escaped or are recovering fast are those that aren't fully globalized, or have a large domestic market to build on (China is the biggest example, India is doing fine, and actually the Philippines isn't too bad off, compared to the US--or it's been down for so long it didn't have far to fall).

Your real hope lies in having those new breed of directors we have to get noticed by Hollywood filmmakers to make movies for international marketing and distribution.

We've had this argument before. Remember all those J-horror remakes? That's the basic result.

The real advantage of Korea is their highly evolved nationalistic psyche which have made them what they are. But that's another topic.

Not really; it's the heart of another pet peeve of mine. What is it about our envy of other countries? Why do we think this or that country has a superhuman psyche able to solve economic problems and turn water into wine? Why do we look to other countries, shrug our shoulders helplessly, and say 'it's in our and their nature"? We've done it before, we can do it again. Heck, I look at our young filmmakers--and really, you naysayers should meet them, they are an awesome bunch--and they move mountains, perform miracles out of almost nothing. They're incredible, and they're the source of my inspiration, my 'secret weapon' so to speak, only I don't want to keep them secret.

Talk to them. Watch their films. If you can, help them (I try, whenever I can).

av_phile1: I'm not all that compelled by a need to obey the spirit and letter of GATT, mainly because this free market thing is part of what pulled the world economy over the brink.

That's the line of capitalist naysayers who immediately impugn what is wrong with capitalism. But it's very superficial. Nobody said that a free market economy was perfect. What caused the current global crisis is the ABUSE of the liberties afforded by free market economy. Not because of it. China is a example of a socialist capitalist economy that's well managed.

Yeah. So what's the percentage of internet use in the Filipino population? People seem to think the whole country revolves around the middle to upper classes of Metro Manila. Need to remember that a majority of the population is still at the poverty line, and that majority of the people live in the provinces, where movies make a good chunk of their income.

Unfortunately these PC owning people are the ones you want to watch local films, not those who are happy with Iskul Bukol. Mediocrity is not what you want even if it means local box office success. You want an international market for your films, and that means world class quality. And the people best poised to recognize what world class quality is are rarely your teeming masses, unless they get the right education.

On the otherhand, the teeming ruk will not want to watch your arthouse films either. They like to see their idols on the big screens. The problem is aggravated when you foster the divide. Why is it so difficult to make arthouse-quality films with their favorite stars in them? Because producers want quick profits so they make quickies. With or without a hollywood film ban or quota, these same people will be watching pinoy films. And producers will continue to pander to their taste. So where's the advantage?

That's the old new world order you say is taking over the old world order. There's a new new world order coming around thanks to the meltdown and it has a lot in common with the old world order. Less globalization, more localization. Checks and regulations on trading, and the selling and buying of stocks. Smaller companies, catering to local markets. GATT is already the detritus of that old new world order. Old news, folks.

Globalization remains on tract. It's irreversible. The global crisis has actually hastened the creation of mega corporations that bought out or absorbed other companies in financial distress. They are now better poised to pursue a much more vigorous and unified global penetration of their products. You see airlines, financial institutions, car makers merging or consolidating. Globalization has never been stronger. Business outsourcing is blurring geo-economic boundaries. With the internet as its distribution and marketing channel, it's almost impossible for a small company to remain small. Once you have the whole world as your market, you'd have to have the muscle to supply growing global demand. Amazon and eBay couldn't help getting big even if they wanted to remain small.

Hollywood now make films using the cheapest resources - actors from China or Australia shooting in New Zealand and being edited in Bratislava. Using motion sensors, they can capture human acting nuances in a backlot somewhere in China and processed by CGI facilities in India, etc etc. The entire world is one small business community now.

The economies that escaped or are recovering fast are those that aren't fully globalized, or have a large domestic market to build on (China is the biggest example, India is doing fine, and actually the Philippines isn't too bad off, compared to the US--or it's been down for so long it didn't have far to fall).

Just like in the Asian financial crisis of 97 when we survived unscathed, we're not in any height to get hurt falling.

China and India are among those at the center of globalization. Their outsourcing business for western companies epitomize exactly what globalization is about. China is now a socialist free market economy with global reach after Japan and the US. Your examples are exactly what properly managed capitalist economy with global reach is about.

We've had this argument before. Remember all those J-horror remakes? That's the basic result.
That's globalization, film ideas can come anywhere. Just as it can be made anywhere where's it's more cost effective to make.

The benefit is not so much if the remake is good or not. Of course, better if it s good. But more on the fact that they get a wider international audience. Ringu was the highest grossing film in Japan and promptly got noticed by Hollywood who was fast getting bankrupt of film ideas. It's interesting to note that its Hollywood remake actually grossed more in Japan than the original and brought the film to a much wider audience. This started the trend for Hollywood remaking local films that have done well in their respective countries. Our own Sigaw was remade as the Echo.

It's a good start and eventually the reputation can precede you if you sustain it with really good movies from your own, not hollywood remakes. The problem is that we make films for pinoys, very few with an eye for the international market. When you start thinking GLOBAL, that's when you rise above mediocrity.

Not really; it's the heart of another pet peeve of mine. What is it about our envy of other countries? Why do we think this or that country has a superhuman psyche able to solve economic problems and turn water into wine? Why do we look to other countries, shrug our shoulders helplessly, and say 'it's in our and their nature"? We've done it before, we can do it again. Heck, I look at our young filmmakers--and really, you naysayers should meet them, they are an awesome bunch--and they move mountains, perform miracles out of almost nothing. They're incredible, and they're the source of my inspiration, my 'secret weapon' so to speak, only I don't want to keep them secret.

Different peoples have different mental make-up and predispositions defined by their tradition and culture. While it doesn't mean that some races are superior than others, some just have a more productive attitude collectively as a nation than others. The Japanese, the Jews and the Koreans have a level of nationalistic consciousness that is superior to many other peoples. Self sacrifce is a national trait. In the early years after the Korean war, Korea had young people studying and working overseas only to RETURN and bring their new found knowledge for the improvement of their country. The Japanese also did the same, they bought Swiss watches and Grundig radio in their European visits and promptly reversed-engineered them when they went back home. Not to mention the cars. And they improved on them. They have governments that care about their people and have the least corruption. They can even bring their erring heads of state to jail without getting pardoned. The Koreans are a bit better, they actually paid Japanese technocrats and engineers to work in their factories during weekends, all expenses paid. The history of Samsung is the history of a people's struggle to put their country in a position of industry leadership and excellence. It is also a story of how nationalism can be harnessed to bring a people into prosperity. It's all about putting the love of your countrymen above anything else.

If people don't recognize that there are other people worth emulating to correct their weaknesses, then they are bound to suffer their own weaknesses.

NV: What caused the current global crisis is the ABUSE of the liberties afforded by free market economy. Not because of it.

By this definition, a non-capitalist or managed economy is bad, a free market economy good? Now that's simplistic.

China is a example of a socialist capitalist economy that's well managed.

And living hell for people who think or say different.

Unfortunately these PC owning people are the ones you want to watch local films, not those who are happy with Iskul Bukol.

Why not? What's wrong with the CD crowd? Is there something wrong with poor people, or people from the provinces? Are they somehow unworthy?

You want an international market for your films, and that means world class quality.

Y'know how Japanese cinema developed? Ozu did films for the Japanese. Mizoguchi did films for the Japanese. Same with Kurosawa--when offered the chance for an international production, Kurosawa as much as professed regret he couldn't sell said production first to his own people.

The key to a successful cinema is a domestic market, not an international one. Study all the histories, get back to me. In the case of Hong Kong, which did cultivate an international market, it was an international market of diasporic Chinese. Read David Bordwell.

And the people best poised to recognize what world class quality is are rarely your teeming masses

Brocka? O'Hara, who never finished college? What's wrong with these people, I keep wondering?

Globalization remains on tract.

Not only has globalization not remained "on track," it's seriously derailed and taken the world economy with it. All those mega corporations are carefully being looked into and regarded with suspicion; more regulations are being put into place. China, that economic powerhouse, is looking inwards. The bloom is off, the boom is over. Listen to NPR, read The New York Times.

The benefit is not so much if the remake is good or not. Of course, better if it s good. But more on the fact that they get a wider international audience.

And a lot less respect because they're so bad. Seen any J Horror remakes lately? The trend is dead, and they killed it with garbage.

If people don't recognize that there are other people worth emulating to correct their weaknesses, then they are bound to suffer their own weaknesses.

Be aware, sure, but also be aware of one's virtues. That's pretty sad if you don't watch the best that our own country has to offer.

av_phile1: By this definition, a non-capitalist or managed economy is bad, a free market economy good? Now that's simplistic.

There's nothing being defined in that statement so don't imagine one. Also check your logic, Just because one is good, doesn't mean the other is bad.

But to be blunt, there's nothing better than a capitalist economy. China is a socialist capitalist economy. And it's interesting to note that despite all the crises and storms that beset a capitalist economy, the societies behind them have weathered and went on to new heights. Whereas non-capitalist societies have withered and died, like the soviets who have promptly adopted a capitalist one, and you see it in Cuba. Not to mention China which easily embraced it.

And living hell for people who think or say different.

Did that prevent them from creating world class products?

Why not? What's wrong with the CD crowd? Is there something wrong with poor people, or people from the provinces? Are they somehow unworthy?

You tell me. When they start flocking to see films in local film fests.

Y'know how Japanese cinema developed? Ozu did films for the Japanese. Mizoguchi did films for the Japanese. Same with Kurosawa--when offered the chance for an international production, Kurosawa as much as professed regret he couldn't sell said production first to his own people.

The key to a successful cinema is a domestic market, not an international one. Study all the histories, get back to me. In the case of Hong Kong, which did cultivate an international market, it was an international market of diasporic Chinese. Read David Bordwell.

You overlooked one fundamental thing. Japan's domestic market, even as early as the 19th century, is quite mature, sophisticated and demanding because of high literacy rate. Any country with a mature domestic market with a large middle class demographics like the US, Japan, Korea and UK can easily compete on a Global scale. What I am saying is for third world countries like the Philippines, the only way to transcend their product mediocrity and compete globally is to think global. They can't rely on the low standards of catering to an immature domestic market to match global standards, especially one with a very small middle class content.

Now you go back and read your economics and the roots of globalization. The domestic market WAS critical to a cinema. Actually it WAS critical to ANY industry. It dictates the level of a country's production quality, be it cars, appliances or movies. And in a global economy, a country with a highly sophisticated market with a highly evolved product line dictates and leads the level of economic activity for that product line. That's why you have hollywood leading the pack. So now with a global economy already thriving, competing globally means your products have to match the level of sophistication of those in these countries, and transcend the limiting infantile needs of your domestic markets that is pulling you down if you don't. It's now late in the day for many third world nations to make domestic markets the springboard to global prominence. You have to leapfrog it by targeting the international audience.

Brocka? O'Hara, who never finished college? What's wrong with these people, I keep wondering?

More exceptions than the rule.

Not really. All those mega corporations are carefully being looked into and regarded with suspicion; more regulations are being put into place. China, that economic powerhouse, is looking inwards. The bloom is off, the boom is over. Listen to NPR, read The New York Times.

Dream on.

Be aware, sure, but also be aware of one's virtues. That's pretty sad if you don't watch the best that our own country has to offer.

I have no problem with that. The question really is whether what's good in you is good enough to make you what Korea and Japan is today, or even a Taiwan and Malaysia. The problem is that 70 years after WWII, it hasn't proven itself good enough. It's not even about appreciating your own. A global economy is quite ruthless and unforgiving. You can appreciate your own all you like but if it can't pass global standards, you're screwed.

Both India and China have a very large market base. In the case of India, even if they have an inordinately large poverty line population, their highly educated middle class is large enough to sustain a thriving high quality domestic cinema that can compete in international markets. They have a sophisticated middle class population of about 300 million that's even larger than all of UK combined or equal to the entire US population. It is not surprising that India is actually the world's largest film producer with nearly 1000 movies annually that get shown in nearly 100 countries. Hollywood only produces about 600 annually.

Indians take advance studies in the UK, their former colonizers, in much the same way Pinoys love to get an education in the US, their former conquerors. It's actually interesting to see Indian films being highly popular in the UK, not that it has Indian immigrants as the largest ethnic minority community there.

NV: Both India and China have a very large market base.

And is ours peanuts? We're in the top ten line of film producing countries, and our market is the largest in Southeast Asia.

It's really a myopic solution for weaklings to hide under the skirt of a protective mother because he can't slug it out with the bullies.

You could argue it's a weak thing to hide under the skirt of a protective fiction like free markets, taking the Americans at their word that all they want is a level playing field.

Remember, under the Bush years America had eight years of free markets. Was there abuse? You bet. Would it have been corrected by market forces--what do you think? Free markets are supposed to be self-correcting--I didn't see much self-correction in those eight years.

Free markets had eight years--count them--to prove its case. Well it did--the world economy went to the toilet and millions of people were put out of work. We need a different paradigm.

Actually, I'd call complete and utter faith in the free markets delusional to a monstrous extreme. Free market? Level playing field? Are you kidding me? America's local movie market is the most protective of all--they block book their theaters for Hollywood hits, and woe to the independent that doesn't have the backing of a major Hollywood studio. I can see it, in all the malls and multiplexes here. Not to mention the American audience is if anything less demanding and more ignorant of world cinema than Filipinos ever were. They're sheep, consuming product from an assembly line.

As Harry Tuttle of Screenville put it:

What is scary is that the domestic American market is the most profitable in the world: more screens than in India or China! Yet they still make the most of their money abroad. And every year they complain about being on a slump... As if any country in the world could not have their cinema industry survive on a smaller budget than theirs!

The aggressive hegemony of the Hollywood culture overtakes the biggest revenue shares in almost every country, leaving peanuts for the local films to pay off their costs. It's not fair.

And these Hollywood blockbusters don't even deserve to take the largest share of the cake, in most cases, because they are not always better films (whether it is better for the entertainment factor for the widest crowd, or better aesthetically) than the local production.

In these conditions, it is perfectly justified to halt the "free market" (which is skewed by the economic pressures coming from Hollywood distributors who sell their products in bundles to saturate the market and turn local exhibitors into dependent addicts) with protectionist laws. The domestic American market is itself THE most protectionist among the "democratic world of industrial countries". Non-American films sell less than 5% of admissions to the American public!

I don't see my proposal as hiding under anyone's skirts, or laying the blame at other countries--there is a real enemy out there, and one that has to be dealt with.

Just because one is good, doesn't mean the other is bad.

So a managed economy isn't bad? Then we agree. That's good.

China is a socialist capitalist economy. And it's interesting to note that despite all the crises and storms that beset a capitalist economy, the societies behind them have weathered and went on to new heights.

Yeah. Got the US employment figures a few days ago for December. Eighty five thousand jobs lost. New heights, all right.

Whereas non-capitalist societies have withered and died, like the soviets who have promptly adopted a capitalist one, and you see it in Cuba. Not to mention China which easily embraced it.

Europe? India? China is freewheeling, but don't think for a moment they're not managing the importation of goods, film in particular. And as pointed out above, don't even believe for a moment America isn't protective about its domestic film market.

Did that prevent them from creating world class products?

Talent comes out no matter what the political system. Iran, China, the old Soviet Union--all had world class filmmakers.

You tell me. When they start flocking to see films in local film fests.

And you think they don't? Why hasn't Cinemalaya and the Cinema One Originals closed down long ago? The organizers see an emerging market, they're developing it as best as they can. Talk to Ron Arguelles, talk to Laurice Guillen.

You overlooked one fundamental thing. Japan's domestic market, even as early as the 19th century, is quite mature, sophisticated and demanding because of high literacy rate.

And you think we don't? We were under the American educational system till 1946, remember, and it persisted for years afterward. Japan had its first film screening a year after the Lumiere brothers projected their first film, in 1896; we projected our first film in 1897, produced our first feature in 1912, and had our first Filipino directed film by 1919. Our audiences have been supporting the industry until recently, when Hollywood started its expansion on foreign markets. But I've written about this before, here.

Any country with a mature domestic market with a large middle class demographics like the US, Japan, Korea and UK can easily compete on a Global scale.

Japan was a basket case coming out of the war. It was a basket case again during the Asian economic crisis, and it doesn't have the vigor it used to have right now. The UK has had it's ups and down; the USA too. When we were under American rule and some years after the war we were in very good shape economically.

Don't buy into the myth of foreign superiority. They've had their ups and downs, and so have we. Check your figures, and your own history.

What I am saying is for third world countries like the Philippines, the only way to transcend their product mediocrity and compete globally is to think global. They can't rely on the low standards of catering to an immature domestic market to match global standards, especially one with a very small middle class content.

Who says we need a big middle class? The Filipino industry was living off its own market for decades, since before the war.

Now you go back and read your economics and the roots of globalization.

Thing about economic theories, they can change. Globalization has a very sorry reputation at the moment. Check your recent news articles. Textbooks can go out of date.

That's why you have hollywood leading the pack.

Now Harry--who's American, by the way, and quite knowledgeable about their film industry--tells you exactly why Hollywood leads the pack.

Brocka? O'Hara, who never finished college? What's wrong with these people, I keep wondering?

More exceptions than the rule.

O'Hara, Brocka, Bernal, Bernal, Ad. Castillo, Jarlego, Posadas, Guillen, de Leon, de Leon, Reyes, delos Reyes, Silos, Conde, Nepumoceno, Diaz, Velasco, Ilarde, Henares, de la Cruz, Torres, Martin, Tahimik, Red, Romana, Ermitano? And that's just off the top of my head?

I'd say there are over a hundred exceptions., and more every year, thanks to Cinemalaya, Cinemanila, and Cinema One Originals That's a lot of exceptions.

Not really. All those mega corporations are carefully being looked into and regarded with suspicion; more regulations are being put into place. China, that economic powerhouse, is looking inwards. The bloom is off, the boom is over. Listen to NPR, read The New York Times.

Dream on.

Now that's an argument. Grin

Really, read them. That's reality knocking on your 'globalizing,' free market world.

I have no problem with that. The question really is whether what's good in you is good enough to make you what Korea and Japan is today, or even a Taiwan and Malaysia.

The myth of the superior foreigner.

A global economy is quite ruthless and unforgiving.

Now THIS we agree on. But believing in some fairy tale of an idealized free market where friendly countries let products go in and out through their borders with just a wave hello or goodbye isn't going to make that market any less ruthless, or more forgiving.

Photo taken from Rico Ilarde's Altar--one of the better films, Hollywood or otherwise, of 2007.

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