Logan

To be honest, I actually hate Wolverine. Not always. When he first appeared with Chris Claremont’s X-Men, he was actually interesting like that cool uncle you just met. Over time, however, he just appeared everywhere: X-Men, Avengers, X-Factor; not to mention a whole bunch of his own titles. Soon it was all Wolverine this and Wolverine that. I hated it. So much so that I found it funny that Magneto berated him in the very first X-Men movie that not everything was about him. The worst, was when they made X-Men: Future Past and replaced Kitty Pride with Logan as the main character. The movie was terrible with Quicksilver as the only saving grace. So, out of all the X-Men movies, I only liked X-Men: First Class and, surprisingly, Logan. Let me tell you why.

First, both are character-driven. Yes, there’s plenty of action, especially in Logan, but they all serve a purpose. It furthers the main storyline and isn’t there just because it was an action film. Both should be characterized as dramas rather than action films. 

Second, the action scenes were worthy of the characters. The fight scene in the first movie was boring. The opening sequence of the second movie with Nightcrawler is the best I think but the rest was, again, ho-hum. Again, Quicksilver’s sequence in Future Past comes in as second best. Most fight scenes are just bits and pieces but never cohesive like in First Class and, now, Logan.

Logan stands out because all the scenes were worthy of Logan and Laura. They slice and dice like they just don’t care. The fact that Laura is a kid was also refreshing. Deadpool-level sequences without the humor. Very very Logan.

Finally, both movies go to the core of not just being a hero but a decent human being. Xavier trying to stop Magneto from pushing a coin through the villain’s head, and Laura ending the villain wasn’t just a good versus evil thing but had a deeper, much more human, motivation. The conflict was that more effective because of it. I’m glad both movies ended the way it did. You walk away with more than just a couple of hours of entertainment.
Fox finally made a true Wolverine movie. 5/5 Stars. Yes, it was that good.

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History in the making

History, as they say, is written by the victors.

Thirty-one years ago, Filipinos gathered on a street called EDSA to protect a couple of coup plotters and their men from the then president of the Republic of the Philippines and his army. They came in response to a call from the then Archbishop of Manila called Cardinal Sin if you can believe it. The rest as they say is history.

Of course, things could have been very different. The order to attack could have been given. An itchy finger could have sparked a firefight. The armored personnel carriers could have breached the thin hollowblock walls of Camp Aguinaldo, and helicopters could have fired upon the people gathered in the streets. Instead, a thin line of rosaries and flowers held back an unstoppable force. Believe what you will but that street is called Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (epifany of the saints) and it was a moment you can describe as a modern day miracle. You can say it was a moment touched by God.

That moment was not about a dead former senator, or his widow. It was not about their family against another. It was about a dictator and his ouster from power. The revolution itself was unintended. It all started with a coup d’etat that never got off, for intentions we will never know. Then the power of the people took over, and the dictator left or was taken out of the country. Make no mistake, the revolution succeeded. The dictator was gone.

After the victory, when the euphoria has been spent, we realize that we have changed little from where we were 31 years ago and ask, has God abandoned us? The truth is that while God can help us along the way, much of getting where we want to go depends on the decisions we make in every single moment of every single day.

Fast forward to 2017 and, horror of horrors, we find that the wheel has turned 360-degrees. Sitting as president is one who identifies closely with the former president ousted from power 31 years ago. The dictator has been buried in a place for men of honor and honored men. Blood runs in the streets. Policemen are abusing their power, and the government’s critics are being hunted. If history is written by the victors, then the victor in the last presidential election has decided to turn things on its head and rewrite history. There’s anger in the streets, and celebrating the victory that was the EDSA Revolution has taken on a new importance. It has become an inspiration.

True, there is a new victor in the seat of power but history is continuously being written, and if the people persists in the struggle, then perhaps victory can once again be achieved. However the struggle ends, history itself will roll on. What will be written, however, is largely up to us…

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Above all, Love.

You do not marry for companionship, support, wealth or comfort, and definitely not to change someone. As corny as it may sound, you marry only for love.

One might ask if love is enough to sustain a marriage and I have no doubt that it can. The reason for this would, I believe, be obvious: God is love. It is His presence that binds a man and a woman in marriage. Countless priests remind us at every wedding that to have a successful marriage, you have to have God at the center of your relationship; and that it takes three to have a successful marriage.

In my college days in the Ateneo, we were taught that love is not a feeling; that it is the affirmation, not the possession of another. That finds its ultimate expression in marriage. It is a conscious act, a decision made everyday, to love your spouse as God loves His Church, which simply means that you intend to let God in your marriage every single day, every hour, every minute, every second  and every fleeting moment you have on earth.

To affirm the other is to make your wife the best version of her that she can ever be. You give everything you can even at the cost of your own life because that is the highest form of love: that you give your life for another in the same way that Jesus gave His life for us, even death on a cross. You do not have to worry about your self because your spouse has the same objective, and with the two of you consciously bringing God into your marriage, your marriage will endure any test and surpass every hardship.

To marry for any reason other than love is selfishness because it is only in loving that we are able to give freely of our selves and expect nothing in return.

The Bible tells us that in the end, we have faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. It also tells us that the greatest commandment is to love: God first with all our heart, soul, mind and strentgh, then our neighbors as we love ourselves. Love then should rule our lives from how we treat our enemies to building lasting relationships in marriage. From how we treat sinners to serving our heavenly Father. In all these, there should always be love in our hearts. We exist because of love, and we live to love. Above all, love.

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I, God.

Today, we live in a world that is quickly losing any sense of appropriate boundaries in everything, and yet creates the most baffling restrictions.

Imagine this: we want to be able to criticize someone’s religion but his race is off-limits. The logic behind this is suppose to be one’s beliefs are different from who he is in his very core.  In other words, while we can supposedly change our beliefs like our religious beliefs, one’s race is something so fundamental in a person that criticizing it would be attacking his very person. Now, think about that. First, what if a person’s belief was so ingrained into him that one cannot easily separate one from the other? You think it is not possible? Think again. Recall all the hurt a single satirical illustration of the Prophet Mohammed in Charlie Hebdo caused. You think this is an extraordinarily singular event? It is not. That one illustration, even when cloaked in what we call one’s freedom of expression, did not just hurt the few who attacked the magazine’s offices but the majority of all Muslims. One can say much the same thing about Catholics. There are just some things that they feel they cannot compromise such as issues like abortion and contraceptives. Any debate allowing or restricting these will always be contentious, at times violent. Certain beliefs are part of someone’s inner being.

Second, when we are willing to accept actions as part of one’s freedom of expression — such as flag-burning that offends ultrapatriots — to the point of protecting it under law, then why wouldn’t something far more extreme be covered? When jihadists took exception to Charlie Hebdo’s satire and attacked, would that too be an expression protected by law? No less than Pope Francis did note that if you say something against his mother you may expect to get punched in the nose. Rights are never absolute yet we’ve lost sight of that simple truth in the drive to be more our selves.

Third, think of the other extreme. Why shouldn’t one be able to criticize another’s race? If we all have the right to speak what we want, when we want, under the great umbrella of freedom of speech, then surely one should not be restricted by something as “silly” as another’s feelings. Of course, that would be racism but, again, in a world quickly losing all sense of restraint, racism is just becoming another norm. This should not be.

We are turning too much in on ourselves. Deciding for ourselves what was set long ago. Imagine a white woman who identified as black. People ridiculed her and yet we allow people to identify themselves as male or female even when they were born female or male respectively. Taking everything to extremes, there are some who now identify as animals. We laugh. They are serious. Again, think about it: why shouldn’t they be able to choose what they want to be? Countries are now allowing children as young as ten to choose their gender, or just be someone other than who they were upon birth. Why draw the line on one’s ethnicity?

This world is changing…and not necessarily for the better. There are commentators who have noted the similarities (not literal naturally) of the situation today with the period prior to the First World War. Rising from the Industrial Revolution, a great many felt they were not part of the progress brought about by the new age of the 1900s. This is no different from those who now feel left behind by globalization of the 2000s. Germany of the 1910s wallowed in its sense of entitlement yet feared encirclement, which shadows 2010s’ China’s current situation. Populist movements as well as strong men proliferate then and now. If these situations tell me anything, then it is that people are turning more in towards themselves or their country. Think Brexit and the not so new US first policy of Trump. Other countries have been in it longer with nothing much to show for it. What does the U.K. and the US think it can do better? Yes, economically, they are in a much better place but the future is not so promising.

We note how much our children appear to be driven by a sense of entitlement. Again, more of one’s self over the many. Even their collective action betrays a bias towards self. Self. Self. And even more Self. Be it the individual or the state, we are more and more about our selves. What do we want? We want what we want. And we want more of it. We cannot sustain such a way, a philosophy, a movement. That can only lead to disaster. Remember, if these times mirror the early 1900s, then we are just a short time away from a great war. Three minutes away according to the Doomsday Clock. Is that what we want?

We need restraint. A healthy dose. As Agent Phil Caulson said in The Avengers, we can do with old fashioned. We need to be old fashioned. We may not really want it but we definitely need it.

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Pulling ourselves out of the septic tank: Pesos and Sense.

There are comments circulating on how much Pesos the recent MMFF made, which is much less than the previous festivals. Yes, commercial success is important. No sensible person would pour money into a project that wouldn’t make a buck but I am hoping it doesn’t end there. 

I consider Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2 a failure as a comedy but as a commentary between artsy and commercial films, I consider it a strong voice. Eugene laments how after soaking in shit for a film, the film won tons of awards…overseas! When it was shown in the Philippines, however, no one came to see it. 

That is the MMFF. It is a battle between Direk’s artsy vision versus Eugene’s shallow commercial romp. Will it have another round of Shake, Rattle and Roll, or Enteng Kabisote, or a Vice Ganda-starrer; or will it risk showing more indy or indy-ish films? This is not to say that the former group has no value at all but do you go for entertainment with a moral lesson more than a film that deals with hard issues even if it is not as entertaining? 

I for one believe we should go beyond commercial success and rightly promote the latter group. Films in the former group are something that can be shown the whole year round. It will make tons of cash regardless of the season it is shown. What we need to do, however, is to encourage the making of artsy films not just for the sake of making them but to eventually broaden the choices for the viewers.  

There lies the true worth of a film festival like Cinemalaya. It helps enrich Philippine culture. The MMFF can be an equally effective vehicle for this in the hope that artsy films too will be available all year round and enjoy considerable commercial success.  

If we fail to do that, then we risk ending up like Eugene who, despite getting the film she wanted, still ended up in a world of shit.

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Rogue One

I’m sure that most who are even vaguely interested in this movie have seen it by now and this piece won’t be considered a spoiler anymore. If you are interested in the movie and haven’t seen it, then that’s on you.

Frankly, I was a bit underwhelmed by it. The start was a flurry of scenes that made me feel you were watching a series of short films. Important for sure but confusing and maybe could have been treated better.

The end tried to do too much squeezing in Princess Leia coming out from the damaged ship. It was supposed to be a link to Episode IV but it created problems because Episode IV, A New Hope, started with Darth Vader killing soldiers because they intercepted the transmission of the Death Star plans. Rogue One just had the rebels transmitting the plans out to a ship, which was then passed on in disk form to Leia who then made her escape. No interceptions there. I don’t think Vader would have mistaken a transmission from an intercept.

In between, there was a lot to digest. Did you know that the Death Star can actually jump through hyperspace? Makes you wonder why it didn’t pop up at the right place at Yavin and have a clear shot at the rebel base instead of having to maneuver around and give the rebels time to exploit the one weakness of the weapon.

Then there’s that itsy-bitsy  scene where Senator Organa and Mon Mothma talk about getting the Jedi, which can only be Obi Wan. Nothing ever came out of that scene even if it did make the final cut.

What all these tell me, when taken together with the early teasers and trailers, was that, somewhere along the way, the story got rewritten in a massive way. I mean in the early teasers, Jyn was a rebel even against the official rebellion, which implies that she was more Saw Gerrera’s follower than just a recruit to the rebellion. Still, the mad pilot was a good character. Even the ‘bot with attitude. It’s sacrifice was the most…human…of all.

Then there were the two Asians that while I enjoyed their banter, couldn’t figure out their relevance except to indicate that there were those who still believed in the Force even if they were not Jedis but we already got that with Maz  Kanata in Force Awakens, and all the people who kept saying “May the Force be with you”. Still, if they had to be there, then I wish they made them aliens instead. Would have made them more interesting.

We all know how this was supposed to end: they get the plans and transmit it until it gets to Princess Leia. What was a bonus, however, was Darth Vader in a truly Sith action scene and not just waving the saber around or telepathically but clumsily throwing things around but a real well-choreographed fight. That, at least, was refreshing.

This is just me being a fan-boy.

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Circles

(I read this story sometime in my youth. I do not know who originally wrote it but these are my exact thoughts at the moment.)

A man led his aged father into the forest. After what seemed to the old man a very long time, his son stopped, gave him a bowl for drinking, and left him in the middle of the forest.

The old man looked around, and with tears in his eyes whispered “This is exactly where I left my father.”

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