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Monday, May 30, 2011

How the Uruguayan Women Rock Their Jewelry

One of the attractions here that I always look forward on our everyday taxi trip to the office is the walls along Avenida Paraguay. They are always packed with posters of upcoming events fuelled with hope that The Script or Lady Gaga, at least, to pay a visit here. That’s where I first saw an Andy Warhol-inspired ad of Danger Four who had a stint at Sala Zitarrosa in Avenida 18 de Julio. I caught their first gig out of the four-night event.

Danger Four is, according to an officemate, the best Beatles tribute band here in Uruguay. I don’t know how many copycats they keep but four gigs mean a lot here especially for a band that plays non-Spanish/Latino songs. But, yeah, it’s the Fab Four. I didn’t even research about the band. I just wanted to hear some Lennon or McCartney being performed live and that’s all I needed. The other come-on, according to the same officemate, is that the band purchased (and now, using) some instruments that were once owned by the Beatles themselves (he thought it’s the bass guitar but not very sure).

Sala Zitarrosa isn’t a big venue but it’s not Saguijo little either. The capacity could be comparable to Music Museum and seeing it full house with fellow Beatlemaniacs was a good indication that I was in for a ride. Entrance ticket is UYU 340 (PHP 770) with a cheaper alternative at the balcony for roughly UYU 100 less. It was reserved seating (I got the leftmost spot in the middle of the fourth row) and no drinks were sold.

The band is composed of Beto Fregosi (Paul McCartney), Coco Boudakian (George Harrison), Camilo Celi Nuñez (John Lennon and the object of sexy headbanging from the pretty teenage girl in front of me) and Lucas Fiorentino (Ringo Star); all representing different age brackets. For instance, their George Harrison looks like their Paul McCartney’s dad who, in turn, happens to look like their John Lennon’s dad. They opened the show, all in their 60’s combo uniform, with “Eight Days a Week” and immediately followed with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. Prior to that, a cool animation was projected on an ASAP Rocks-like video wall while “A Hard Day’s Night” was being played as an overture.

Name a popular Beatles song you know and it’s probably included in the repertoire. I missed hearing “Blackbird” or “Two of Us” but their list of songs was serviceable enough. To my surprise, the mixed crowd partied big time during “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Twist and Shout”. I was relieved to know that women here know how to rock their jewelry.

The gig lasted for around two hours. They sold CDs for UYU 200 each with (surprise, surprise) covers of Beatles songs. Some even asked for autographs or pictures; proof that they already have a healthy fan base here.

It probably rained during the gig. The streets were all damp.

Revisited: Colonia del Sacramento

This was my third visit to the Ciudad Vieja at Colonia del Sacramento. One thing's for sure: I love catching sunsets there.

The rest of the pictures here and two videos here and here.

Revisited: Escollera de Sarandi

One of the first things that I did here in Montevideo was a trip to Escollera de Sarandi after having a hearty meal at Mercado del Puerto. Nothing fancy, really. Though it doesn't look like a relaxing place, it's a therapy to walk through that alley of fishermen and and their family trying to catch their luck.

More pictures here and videos here, here and here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Montevideo Comics

The recently concluded comicon here is simply called "Montevideo Comics". It was held in a downtown cinema complex in the city center. Entrance fee is UYU 220 (or roughly PHP 484). I'm not really a fan of comics but I enjoyed the gathering (as much as I enjoyed playing with my Color Splash app). Details of the event can be found in

More pictures here. Backlog albums for some dinner meet-ups here and a short visit to Fuente de los Candados (or Fountain of Locks) here.

And by the way, a short glimpse of animation here (still at the comicon).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Movie Digest # 079

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 3, March 2, 8:35pm

There are two things happening in the film. It started as a simple love triangle story between grade school classmates Kathy, Tommy and Ruth (grown-ups are played by Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley respectively). Everything seems to be normal until one concerned teacher shares with her students about the “experiment” happening in the special school. That leads us to the other aspect of the movie. It turns out the special class is composed of kids that are cloned from other DNA. What I appreciate about the film is that it downplays the science part most of the time. It doesn’t try to be controversial or even informative and the key characters are treated as normal citizens. Performances are good, the leads provide a different dimension to the way we view clones. The direction doesn’t try to be loud; it stays normal as possible and does its best to pacify the already disturbing theme. I believe this film is underrated and deserves more nods than it already got.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who wish to see the next Spiderman’s previous movies.

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 4, March 2, 10:35pm

It’s always fun to watch a popcorn action movie with Liam Neeson on it. Just like “Taken”, this one’s equally enjoyable. There’s identity switch, there’s Berlin, there’s a car chase, there’s an explosion and a twist that I could have guessed.

Friends who might appreciate it: I really don’t know.

Glorietta 4, Cinema 6, March 4, 5:00pm

I’m not sure how Philip K. Dick the adaptation is but as I see it, it’s a film about love, angels without wings and NYC. I was probably in the mood for romance when I saw this one. Cheesy it could be to the cynics but there are a lot of things to root for other than it being a love story. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt provide a convincing couple who is trapped in a dilemma that seems irresolvable. Mr. Damon appears to be getting impressive projects since he started (even Eastwood’s “Hereafter” which got mixed reviews). I believe that this film project would be cheesier or would look more Hollywood if given to another actor. There’s a part in the movie, apparently the highlight, where the city of New York takes the center stage. The filmmaker or the writer is, no doubt, a fan of the city.

Friends who might appreciate it: Office folks who know Adjustment Types by heart.

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 1, March 7, 7:00pm

Compared to poverty porn that made headlines to the international scene, this Pinoy indie embraces a more goody path. It’s a tale about the seedy area in Tondo called Hapilan, its juvenile delinquents and the passion for football. The intension is there and it’s loud and clear. In fact, I watched this film as part of a drive to raise money for the so-called barefoot football players of Tondo. This is pretty much simpler than Jim Libiran’s first feature length but I don’t think the storytelling works very well given its candor. The football matches are a bit anti-climactic and not as exciting as it should be. I have an impression that the director is not really a football fan. The drama part could stand a chance proven by the teary eyed patrons inside the cinema. I am not sure if casting is the culprit but let me enumerate. Leading the cast is real life priest Fr. Jose whose story is the basis of the film. He may be a good actor but I am not a fan of that concept wherein the real character is required to undergo the whole process of recreating the emotions he’s gone through. The other off for me is the young lead who is cast as a Muslim living in Tondo. His accent betrays him big time. For an average Pinoy film, this is more luxurious as evident in the toned cinematography. I would always support this film primarily for the cause.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who pretend to like soccer like me.

Cines Hoyts, Sala 1, March 29, 8:00pm

This is Sofia Coppola’s least talky film. It’s about a Hollywood superstar who is living an empty life despite the popularity and the glitz. Being so quiet most of the scenes, this represents a different storytelling from a not-so-mainstream American filmmaker. I didn’t like it at first. I was turned off by the resolution in the end where the lead character finds solace somewhere (hence the title). I thought that the title should be altered to “Nowhere” as I was expecting the single dad angle to be resolved. On second thought, that’s the point of the film. The breath of fresh air means a relief from the emptiness and nothingness. That somewhere could be nowhere but for sure, it’s a place for the main character to be free.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who are asking “Where the hell is Stephen Dorff?”

Monday, May 09, 2011

Notes from XXIX Festival Cinematografico Internacional del Uruguay

The film festival ran from April 18 to 30. It started during the Holy Week and I wasn’t around the time it kicked off. I actually didn’t notice (read: language barrier) that there was an upcoming “big event” prior to my out-of-the-country trip. Thankfully, there are some officemates who find time to remind us of the events that we need to attend to (like the Candombe parade, the agricultural fair in Prado, etc.).

Compared to Montevideo Film Festival last year, this one’s has more edge to say that it’s really a film festival. Numerous films across the continents participated, including one from Malaysia (Charlotte Lim’s “My Daughter) and the Cannes-winning film “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”. Films, just like in other international film fests, were categorized accordingly. Some were for competition for “Largometrajes de Ficcion” (feature length) and “Ibero-Americanos” (films within the Latin American region and other countries like Spain and Portugal). Some were for shorts or even documentaries. They also had Jeonju Digital Project (which included our very own Lav Diaz’ “Butterflies Have No Memories”). Two screenings of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” were held, accompanied by a live piano music from Stephan Graf von Bothmer. I missed this special event due to schedule conflicts but I sneaked in for a few minutes just to experience how they do it here.

The screenings were held at Cinemateca cinemas which are scattered in most key places here in Montevideo. Biggest of all is probably Cinemateca 18 which is just along 18 de Julio St. (their Ayala Avenue). It's a downtown cinema (meaning outside the mall or a complex) and it had me reminisce the good old days of watching movies in Lopez, Quezon. Seats are not of Greenbelt quality and even the toilets are not well maintained but I liked its charm. There's also Sala Cinemateca just four or five blocks away from Cinemateca 18 (not good for marathons); a bit smaller but has the same appeal. These are good cinemas but I watched most of the films at Casablanca primarily because it's the nearest from my place.

Based on the catalog (they sell it for UYU 70 or roughly PHP 150), they exhibited more than a hundred films. It should have been an overwhelming event for me but since Uruguay is a Spanish-speaking country, all subs were in Spanish. What I did was check out those that are in English and those that I think will not be that talky (I did watch three of it and survived!).

In case you’re interested to participate next year, here’s a link to their vision and an entry form can be found from this site. Just a note though for Filipino filmmakers and producers, I don’t see much “kababayans” here compared to, say, Brussels or Belfast. I am not sure if you can gather much Pinoys here to support your film. As for the case of the Malaysian film I’ve viewed, the cinema was more than half full (which is a good thing) and I was the only Asian.

As for eight films I had the chance to see:

1. Nicolo Donato’s “Broderskab (Brotherhood)” – 2009

I was asked before not to cross-reference a film but I can’t help but compare this to Ray Gibraltar’s “Brod” (the titles are even close). A neo-Nazi group recruits and trains people for a mission. It works like a fraternity (like in “Brod”), headed by some leaders, and executes some tasks that hurt other townsfolk. Lars, a newbie whose skills and determination get the attention of one of the leaders, is assigned to stay with Jimmy in a house by the sea and remote from the rest of the town. There they get acquainted, to a point that they start to develop affection for each other. Predictably, things become complicated when everything is poured into open. Tales like this could not be very fresh but I like the way it was made. It never becomes romantic or poetic; the lighting is a bit dark while most tight shots do not pretend to be something else. Maybe it is trying to mock those ultra-masculine groups and it succeeded for me. Or maybe it is just wishing for attention by trying to be controversial. Whatever that is, I would always appreciate its lingering last frame and a very competent acting from the whole cast. The film, by the way, is from Denmark and I couldn’t understand a word (Spanish subs, too) but the visuals helped.

2. Richard J. Lewis’ “Barney’s Version” – 2010

This film gives Paul Giamatti his first Golden Globe best actor award in a musical/comedy. As I see it, its main attempt is to come up with a film bio-like storytelling as it focuses on the ups and downs of rich mogul Barney Panofsky. It’s a cute idea. Mr. Giamatti who is definitely not a Brad Pitt plays a colorful character that pinpoints the tail of womanizing as something inherent to every Adam. He’s fun to watch, especially when surrounded by gorgeous ladies like Rosamund Pike and Minnie Driver (who both shine in this movie) but he is at his peak in the usual depressed and quiet moments. From film bio-ish, it swings occasionally to dry humor and makes a U-turn in the last few minutes. I can say that the film is probably conceptualized with Mr. Giamatti in mind but I am not complaining. Paul Giamatti is Paul Giamatti.

3. Ben Safdie and Joshua Safdie’s “Go Get Some Rosemary” – 2009

Third film on my line-up is indie as indie you can get. It tells a city tale of a single dad named Lenny who tries his best juggling meager work and being a parent to two kids aged 9 and 7. The first thing that got my attention is the main character’s name. Very unisex; it says something to me about the dad and mom roles a single parent should take responsibility to. And it doesn’t look easy for Lenny. Not as cool as the opening sequence where he tries to cross a fence and fail, losing the hotdog sandwich and laughing at what had just happened. Backdrop is New York City with a Dave Eggers-like script, the film seems dreamy at times (especially the last part) and bittersweet in between.

4. Ken Loach’s “Route Irish” – 2010

I think I’ve seen only two or three Ken Loach films before (including the Cannes-winning film “The Wind that Shakes the Barley”) and my impression is that he loves to tackle socio-political issues (he took up Law, Google says). His latest film talks about the Iraq war, the violence it creates both from outside and behind the enemy line. It’s a war film but it doesn’t show much of the actual war but its persisting aftermath. The storyline could actually pass for a Hollywood action movie but it’s stuck to its vision in giving awareness of the oppression that our military men have to carry on. I wasn’t moved by the film but the filmmaker’s familiarity of the topic is loud and clear.

5. Joe Swanberg’s “Art History” - 2011

This one’s another indie film from the US, something that we normally categorize as an “art film”. It’s about a group of people who’s shooting a film in what looks like a vacation house. There’s no obvious plot in there and no characterization business whatsoever, just a bunch of film production crew doing their thing and sometimes swimming at the pool (which I like because of the shot being creative and its abstraction). Sequences are long and most of the time, nothing is happening (reminiscent of sequences of our very own Lav Diaz). It’s also unfeeling. The love scene that is being shot is not mindful of the crew and the cinema audience. Nipples here and there and some genitalia, careless of what the body parts may mean for the lovers in the set. The only time it provides an emotion is on the last frame just before rolling the end credits.

6. Aaron Katz’ “Cold Weather” - 2010

Among the low budgeted indies I’ve seen during the film festival, this one is the most reachable. It is about Doug, a college drop-out who returns home and be reunited with his sister Gail. First part establishes the relationship between the siblings and Doug to his new officemate and his ex-girlfriend. Second chunk is different as it travails to a crime solving route that looks like an adaptation of a teenage novel, complete with a reference to Sherlock Holmes. Direction is impressive. It lives up to its film title through its shots from that part of Oregon. The minus side for me is the second part that looks ridiculous at times. After the subplot about the missing ex-girlfriend surfaces, every clue pointing to the answer seems to be strangely and conveniently popping out. I thought it was all a joke, like the sister will unplug the surprise and admit that everything’s a farce. But it didn’t. It was really serious with the mystery part. The saving grace for me is the ending that seems to be pointing back to what I appreciate most in the movie.

7. Felix van Goeringen’s “De Helaasheid der Dingen (The Misfortunates)” - 2009

My second film on the list that is non-English is from Belgium (and Netherlands) I think. It’s a coming of age tale about Gunther Strobbe who grew up in the company of drunkard dad and uncles. One incident in the family changes the life direction of the kid which serves either as an eternal burden or a freeing opportunity. Aside from the very well-acted cast, it boasts of a pretty neat direction and a script that is both simple and genuine. The material may not be new but it still hits the spot (at least for me). I can say that this is my favorite among the films that I’ve seen from the festival.

8. Charlotte Lim’s “Li Fa Dian de Nu Er (My Daughter)” - 2009

The film, as I expected, is not talky but in the only scenes where dialog is needed, it got me lost a bit. It’s a mother and daughter tale on love between the two women and the factors that try to invade and ruin it. It is very quiet and the visuals make it a point to storm the emotions hiding in both the mother and the teenager daughter (both are really good actors). It’s also slow as per Hollywood (or even Asian melodrama standards) and I’m sure this is something that the international audience would really love. It’s also Hubert Bals-funded so expect a little something.
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