What I’m watching: Terrace House

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I got a little bored with Netflix after having seen The Crown (a show which I loved, by the way) and nothing else interested me (as in pinatulan ko na yung Trollhunters lol, though maganda naman and nadala ng pangalan ni Guillermo del Toro) so I was contemplating on ending my subscription when the latest season of Terrace House, the one set in Hawaii, showed up under new arrivals. Terrace House is sort of an international sleeper hit and I only learned about it from the cool kids I follow on Twitter, and later, in articles on The Verge and Wired. Anyway, Terrace House is a Japanese reality TV show, which is sort of like Big Brother in that the cast lives in one house and is followed by cameras everywhere, but the huge difference is that everyone is free to live their lives in the outside world (i.e., they still go to school, hold down jobs, go on mini breaks). They are also free to leave the show for good any time they want, in which case, someone replaces them in the house immediately.

In each episode, in between the “story” arcs (in quotes because the show stresses that it is unscripted), a group of titos and titas provide comic relief with their commentaries as titos and titas do in real life, but their collective wisdom is also highlighted as they provide insight down to the nonverbal cues of the housemates.

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The titos and titas, plus a token teenager. That guy in the glasses is soo funny.

The show almost serves as a dating show in that the cast members are all straight, mostly single, no more than a decade in age apart, and are almost always equally divided between girls and boys. There’s a missed opportunity to tackle more controversial subjects outside your usual boy-girl problems, but I suppose that’s where the appeal is: it’s almost like a palate cleanser to all the reality shows we’ve been consuming in the last decade when there is hardly any drama or shockers or sexual content in it. Even the latter is treated in a matter-of-fact way, such that it’s no big deal when someone outside the show asks her younger sister, who is part of the cast, if she’s done it with her new boyfriend. (And the answer is yes, and older sister barely batted an eyelash.) But things did get exciting in the Terrace Houses’ first Netflix season (Girls and Boy in the City) and some topics remain up to debate for me. (Like, I still have a problem with the Meat Crime incident—I’m absolutely with Uchi on that one.) So far, there are no such crises in Aloha State (I’m done watching all eight episodes and now just waiting for the second batch), but the people are beautiful to watch, especially Lauren, and the vibe is just as laid back as the Hawaiian coastline.

Film review: Die Beautiful

Die Beautiful is one of the most original films to have come out recently, which seems ironic at first considering the following storyline: Patrick (Paolo Ballesteros) grows up as a young boy who is a fan of beauty pageants. He clashes with his father (Joel Torre), who does not agree with his identity and who later evicts him out of the house. Patrick then becomes Trisha Echevarria, and along with BFF Barbs (Christian Bables), she makes a living as a beauty pageant contestant. Hardly anything new as far as LGBTs’ lives are concerned.

die-beautifulBut the film goes way beyond those bullet points: there may be a common story among LGBTs, a template of pain and suffering, if you will, but it’s the details that need to be told. Director Jun Lana and screenwriter Rody Vera flesh them out tenderly, not only in flashbacks, but also in a non-linear way; after all, layers aren’t always peeled in the correct order. As the film remained deftly edited—not once did I get lost in the plot despite the alternating timelines—I thought it was a well-maneuvered approach to the typical coming-of-age story.

It is after all, Trisha’s coming-of-age story. I normally dislike the phrase, thinking it’s a cop out for teenage movies which gratuitously feature sex and drugs, but in Die Beautiful, Paolo’s Trisha is treated with such respect that despite the ugliest scenario, she remains… well, beautiful. If there were anything gratuitous in the film, they were the “beaucon” jokes and I hope they’re not what the viewer came to see the movie for. That’s why it’s interesting how Lana takes the unsuspecting viewer for a ride: the beaucons and Paolo’s makeup transformations are nothing compared to what awaits the audience, a semi-Stockholm syndrome which Lana never quite resolves (intendedly), leaving us to wonder whether she should have indeed walked out of or stayed for true love. And isn’t that a beautiful metaphor for LGBT rights in the country?

Film rating: 4.5/5

Film review: Vince and Kath and James

I’m more than a decade past the market of Vince and Kath and James; watching this almost seemed like a social science experiment, when you had to do something out of your comfort zone. And so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. There are ridiculously syrupy lines—there were times I pulled my hair and screamed internally—and I barely survived the ending, but in total, it’s a story which serves some pretty good lessons for tweens, especially for girls.

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I absolutely loved the feminist angle given to Kath (Julia Barretto): her feminism isn’t angry or loud or in your face, but rather, she just is. Kath unapologetically joins a beauty pageant for money and at home, tinkers around the house as the handyman. An engineering student, she, along with the other female students, are relegated to admin work at their internship, but she later volunteers to do heavy labor because the desk job bored her out of her wits. She calls out Vince for body shaming her when he remarked about her weight. And although her fat cheeks remained the butt of Vince’s (Joshua Garcia) joke throughout the movie, by then you know it comes from a place of love, not bullying, unlike earlier in the story.

But I thought it was Joshua who truly shined in the role—he reminds me of a young Aga Muhlach (Mitzi offered John Lloyd Cruz instead)—and there’s a confidence in him, whether he’s in full-on pranskter-heartthrob role or being dramatic; he did have the meatiest role, thanks to a backstory involving her mother, played earnestly by Ina Raymundo. I think he’s someone to watch out for.

I have a couple of minor problems with the plot, but since they are spoilers, I would be happy to discuss them in the comments instead, if you like. But overall, the storytelling remained tight and very engaging; the character and story arcs give depth without losing focus of the heart of this film. Congratulations to the writers Daisy Cayanan, Kim Noromor and Anjanette Haw.

Film rating: 4.5/5

Film review: Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverisNotEnough

My review for the first Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (first published in my blog, and later, in PDI) couldn’t be more glowing—I found it way too short. For this sequel, I found myself looking at my watch and preparing to sleep, except the old dude behind me had beaten me to it and started snoring.

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Photo: Quantum Films

Eugene, who plays herself with what we assume are artistic exaggerations, had barely enough screen time to satiate our appetite for her perfect comic timing and wit.

This time, it was all Eugene. Unfortunately, the screenplay left her with nothing to do except rattle off formulaic suggestions to what was supposed to be a “serious” romantic film penned and to be directed by Ranier (Kean Cipriano). Thus, one-third of the film is devoted to torturing the audience with local romantic comedy banalities that the filmmakers are supposedly railing against.

And this was so boring. Whereas the first movie commented on the state of indie filmmaking and the inclination to exploit the poor (poverty porn), romcoms are hardly anything to be angry about especially compared to the larger issues in the country today.

This self-mockery is what makes “Ang Babae” both comical and enlightening: where does one draw the line between exposing and exploiting the truth? How do you present this truth in an honest way? And why not a musical?

And maybe, because there’s ultimately nothing to rage about romcoms (walang panghuhugutan), there wasn’t enough motivation to seek this truth. (Translation: 1.5 hours would be too long to make a competent commentary on local romcoms and writer Chris Martinez knew that.) It was only during the last 20 minutes of the film when Eugene, in a stunning turn of serious acting (because prior to this scene, all she had been doing were sketches), and Kean began to engage in a debate about this “truth” that my brain kicked into first gear and started thinking, but their conversation lasted only for 5 minutes and that was that.

Without leaving a spoiler, I loved the cameos toward the end; I thought how self-assured of them to take on their roles.

My rating: skip this in the MMFF lineup. After this and the Kimmy Dora sequels, Chris has Here Comes the Bride left to botch. I hope he leaves it as it is.

Mabining Mandirigma holds up a mirror to present politics

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I went to see Mabining Mandirigma by Tanghalang Pilipino on Sunday at The Little Theater in CCP having already figured out my review in my head: it’s a retelling of our problems as a nation during post-colonial Spain, problems which have endured for more than a century to exist as the same problems we have today. True enough, the musical did take me on a roller coaster ride of emotions—mainly frustration—because as with Noli and El Fili, the Rosales Saga, and even Heneral Luna the film, selfishness, greed, and impunity have all been deeply embedded in our government leaders’ DNA.

Mabining Mandirigma is about the life of Apolinario Mabini, particularly his role in the uprising against the Americans after we gained “independence” from Spain. (In quotes because the Philippines was sold by Spain to the US in the Treaty of Paris.)

I know little about Mabini prior to seeing the musical, and I can’t say I know more about him after. As the chief adviser to the revolutionary council, and later to Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the turning point of the plot was the choice to accept a P50-million loan from a group of illustrados to fund the cash-strapped Filipino government and the war against the Americans. Mabini says no, because the loan effectively places the Philippines under the hands of the elite—if it were him, he would have provided the funds for free; Aguinaldo says rejecting the offer might send the illustrados away and support the Americans instead.

It was a no-win situation.

Aguinaldo accepts the loan and the elites grow in power; they effectively have Aguinaldo by his collar. Mabini resents the elites—portrayed garishly and grotesquely by the production itself (“Oooh, is this a pro-Duterte play?” I asked myself)—and eventually quits Aguinaldo’s cabinet, after 1) Aguinaldo coddles his fellow Caviteño, Pedro Janolino, who refused to aid Gen. Antonio Luna in the Battle of Caloocan; and later, 2) Aguinaldo acquiesces to the demands of the elites who, after all, have contributed to his war kitty. (“Ay, shades of Duterte.”). Despite that, Mabini and Aguinaldo remain friends, until the former learns that Aguinaldo had Luna assassinated. (“Ay, extra-judicial killing.”)

Mabini was eventually arrested by the Americans and having refused to pledge allegiance to their flag, he was exiled in Guam. He later gave up American resistance and was welcomed back in the Philippines. It was at this point that I felt dejected even if the musical tried its best to salvage his legacy. 1

That is until the lights dimmed and the cast came out one by one in their black t-shirts and each actor started speaking out against the Marcos burial and extra judicial killings in the country. I thought it was a brilliant call to action. For those first two hours, I had been examining Mabini’s life from a distance and got very judgmental in the process, then suddenly, in the epilogue, the spotlight was on us: the same problems from a century ago still exist today: what are you doing about it?

 

Mabining Mandirigma has an 8 p.m. show on December 16; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. shows on December 17; and a 3 p.m. show on December 18 at the CCP.


  1. Until now, I remain unconvinced about his legacy, so I did a quick research (for now). Ambeth Ocampo in this column, writes about how Mabini is reduced to the titles “Sublime Paralytic” and “Brains of the Revolution,” then proceeds with nary an argument about the weight of Mabini’s contribution to Philippine history. 

I will have what Phil’s having

I chanced upon this show while I was channel surfing. First impressions were: a) who is this? and b) no, not another food show. As it turned out, he’s Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond; and no, it’s not another food show: five minutes in, I was smiling and completely charmed by his self-deprecating humor and his (sarcastic) lack of affection for his kids. (“I love demons, they remind me of my kids.” “I have three pictures of my children [in my phone] and 50,000 photos of what I ate.”)

The opening montage quickly explains how he went from growing up knowing nothing about food to how Everybody gave him the opportunity to travel and learn about different cuisines from around the world. Hence, the title of the show: I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, indicating how his background and taste are a lot more accessible to you and me. Sure, he’s traveling around the world, but the locations so far have been very mainstream: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Italy, Paris, Barcelona, and Los Angeles.

Ok, perhaps, he can’t get more relatable than this: he’s the only food host I’ve seen take pictures of his plate. So food-porn fanatics should feel no shame.

I got to see the Tokyo episode which, as it turned out, is the first of the six-part series. It was breathtaking to watch, particularly his experience at the Narisawa restaurant that boasts The Most Beautiful Meal in the World™ (at least, that’s what I’ll caption my Instagram post when I get to eat here), which looks like this:

It could have been ludicrous, really—the wood tablet came with wireless speakers that was livestreaming the sounds of a forest in Japan—but the theatricality and grandeur of the plating and the entire experience were simply too majestic for Phil, or me, as an outside viewer, to ridicule. The visuals and sound were that great.

Aside from featuring food, each episode also films him in a Skype conversation with his parents as he updates them on what he’s been up to in the city; and his parents are just as hilarious in the most endearing way possible.

DO WATCH THIS SHOW!

I will miss Looking

I wished Looking had stretched into many more seasons. Until it got the ax, I felt it was the only gay-themed series that intelligently and realistically portrayed what’s it like to be gay AND an adult. (No, Ru Paul’s Drag Race does not count 😄). These guys didn’t necessarily have enviable lifestyles or well-cut abs, and the navel gazing could be annoying sometimes, but again, it’s a good representation of real life and its struggles.

I never fully got into Queer as Folk; I’m not sure about the succeeding episodes, but the first few centered around the hedonistic lifestyle of this super rich protagonist who basically gets away with being a douchebag. I think the appeal for me then was that it was the only gay-themed TV series I know of—plus, the sex scenes were nothing like I’ve seen on TV before—but eventually, I grew tired of the characters as one would tire of Grindr profiles and their sex invites.

Looking the movie isn’t as heart-wrenchingly good as I hoped or expected: it felt like an abrupt season-ender.

I know that it’s not supposed to stand on its own merit—one needs to appreciate the movie as part of the collective Looking experience—but I felt that it required another entire season to resolve the traumas of the previous, and still existing, conflicts. The movie had the awkwardness of a reunion episode wherein previous characters are introduced, literally, one by one; like it was Sesame Street and problems get solved from one neighbor to the next. Despite the validity of the characters’ gathering, it all felt too staged and it might as well have been an hours-long dream sequence for Patrick (Jonathan Groff). (In case Looking returns, can we pretend that the movie was all but a dream?)

Without sounding ungrateful (though I’m afraid I already have), Looking did end on a sweet note. I’m happy for all the characters (and Brady, LOL). Thanks, Looking, for that extremely satisfying ride.

Review: Bridget Jones’s Baby

It feels good to welcome back Bridget Jones—anyone who grew up reading the book and watching the first film will surely be pleased by the third installment and how well the beloved character is treated.

It doesn’t quite hit the highs of Bridget Jones’s Diary—everything was just right about that first movie—but what Bridget Jones’s Baby offers is a consistently funny, albeit mellow, journey for Bridget.

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Photo: Instagram.com/EntertainmentWeekly

If you think about it, Bridget Jones is now 43, so gone are the hilariously stupid mistakes that made Diary a gem, such as the book launch speech, with the amazing cameo by Salman Rushdie; or emotionally gripping arcs, such as Daniel Cleaver’s infidelity toilet scene. Bridget is now a respected news producer and she won’t take crap from any one—any man—just like that. So the writers Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer, and Emma Thompson are left with just a small opening for the film’s signature British slapstick humor, and in Baby, that gap comes in the form of the generation divide.

But even millennial jokes are hardly exploited here; their presumed takeover in the workplace barely registered as a threat. Maybe the film’s problem is that it’s become too respectful, too politically correct, that when Bridget’s weight suddenly bubbled up as the joke in a particular scene, I could only embrace it—and so did the audience; the theater roared with laughter.

The writers seemed to have only scratched the surface, careful not to provoke or fall back into stereotypes, effectively shielding Bridget from feminist criticism. She doesn’t go the far end of feminism either—there are no politics here. The slapstick comedy largely falls into the hands of her new friend and colleague, the hilarious Miranda (Sarah Solemani). Bridget’s three original friends only make cameo appearances, and even that shift, the sadness in how the dynamics in that friendship has changed, is barely given attention.

Bridget Jones is, after all, also about the guys. Patrick Dempsey’s character is written like a Prince Charming caricature; he could have been annoying, but the handsome devil gets away with it—the sighs I kept hearing from the audience mean he sure is charming. Colin Firth has gotten his Mark Darcy down pat and here, he cranks up the cranky tito factor even more.

It’s Emma Thompson as Dr. Rawling, who almost steals the show. She has little screen time, but she relishes each second, releasing zingers and just the slightest indignance with her arched eyebrows and pursed lips.

Renee Zellweger is criticized as being dead in the eyes by The Hollywood Reporter; I get that, but again, I look at this whole film as an affectionate nod to a mellower, grown-up—but not dark—Bridget1.

 

Bridget Jones’s Baby opens in Manila on September 14.


  1. I’m glad she hasn’t ended up a widower in this universe as in the second book. 

My latest grooming arsenal (involves a whole lot of Kiehl’s)

Since my last post on my grooming products in March 2012, I stayed loyal with VMV and Olay. I’ve finished two bottles of the Re-Everything Cream: Anti-Age Advanced Treatment and Illuminants Plus Cream: Primary Brilliance Treatment—each bottle lasts an entire year—while I’ve restocked my Id Anti-Acne Toner and Olay Total Effects every two-three months.

As a fan and regular reader of Refinery29, once in a while, I’d be swayed into buying products they’ve written about. That’s how I learned about Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion. So I bought that, got samples, and those samples sucked me into buying more. (Good job, marketing team!)

And I love them.

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So here’s how my grooming lineup looks like these days:

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My Ooma favorites—and that fish that tastes like bacon

I’ve been meaning to try Ooma in Rockwell ever since I read about it in Pepper. I liked how it was described as the casual version of Mecha Uma, which I’ve heard so much of (though I haven’t been there either). So when Pam invited me for lunch as a guest of Ooma, I said yes right away.

Umami, the Japanese term for savory taste from which the restaurant got its name, is exactly how I’d describe the dishes we tried: there was no room for subtlety, as if each sushi was meant to deliver a punch—and immediately. This makes sense: as a casual restaurant (and with limited seating capacity), diners do not have as much luxury to slowly build up their meal with say, five courses. One bite and it’s wham, bam, thank you ma’am.

Still, the dishes came out so beautifully, like this Steak Aburi Maki, with threads of fried onion delicately balanced at the top:

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Steak Aburi Maki (torched steak, pickled and fried onions, truffle oil, grilled and marinated leeks)

 

And this Soft Shell Crab Tako-Maki, oozing with aligue mayo like melted cheese:

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Soft Shell Crab Taco-Maki (open-faced temaki wrap, crispy soft shell crab, aligue mayo, ebiko)

 

My favorite was this hamachi that would have fooled me for pork; the fish is torched just right enough to taste like bacon—I’m not kidding.

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Hamachi and Kani Aburi Maki (torched hamachi, sesame seeds, pickled carrots, fried shallots, aioli, teriyaki sauce)

 

I also got to try sake for the first time. I thought it would taste like vodka, but they couldn’t be more different: vodka burns, but sake soothes. It tasted clean and fresh, and I like how it reset my palate after we demolished each set of sushi. Same with the Half-Baked Chocolate Lava Cake—it wasn’t too sweet, perfectly rounding out our meal. This takes 30 minutes to make, so order ahead of time.

 

Ooma
G/F Rockwell Edades & Garden Villas
Amorsolo cor Waterfront Dr, Rockwell, Makati

Monday-Sunday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
+63 2 958 6712