Random Thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi

December 29, 2017 at 10:24 PM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This post contains major spoilers from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Read at your own risk!

Much has been said and done about Star Wars: The Last Jedi (a.k.a Episode VIII) in recent weeks and I for one, enjoyed the movie very much and didn’t hate it unlike some rabid fans.

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, director Rian Johnson has reset the button and made everything new. The movie felt fresh and so… today. There were so many fan theories that came out long before The Last Jedi came out and some people were expecting them to come true. And when their theories didn’t materialize in the movie, they got disappointed and have gone crazy with those various online petitions.

I don’t read fan theories of Star Wars because I know most of them are just speculations and possibly won’t even become real. There’s a possibility that I would just set myself for a major disappointment if I invest too much on these theories and expectations. That’s why I didn’t get angry when I first watched The Last Jedi because I saw it with a fresh mind – untainted from those theories that were widespread online.

Was I disappointed that Luke Skywalker died? Or that Rey wasn’t trained enough by Luke when she was in Ahch-To? Of course I was. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the rest of the movie. I can understand that Johnson might have deliberately went against the high expectations from fans and did something of the opposite. People expected an epic fight between a real Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren. They expected something similar to The Empire Strikes Back where a young Luke was trained by Yoda. They expected an older Luke of the present to fight with the Resistance along with Rey, Poe Dameron and Finn.

Photo credit: inverse.com

Instead, they saw a jaded Luke Skywalker who practically became a hermit and refused to help the Resistance fight the First Order. But like what Kylo Ren said in the movie, it’s time to kill the past and start over. I think that’s what Johnson was trying to do. I think he wanted something new out of the franchise – something that would appeal to the generation of today. And yes, that would include a few jokes thrown in (because duh… Marvel movies). At least that’s what my interpretation of his intention.

One of the things I loved about the movie was General Leia’s scenes. Granted that she and the ship’s crew got blown up by the First Order, she still survived and managed to steer the remaining Resistance fighters to a safe haven. It was a delight to see Leia use the Force to propel her injured self towards the destroyed ship. That was the first time I ever saw her use the Force. In the original Star Wars films, it was always the other Jedi who use the Force.

Photo credit: digitalspy.com

Some fans are angry that Admiral Ackbar was killed off in that scene with Leia. Honestly I couldn’t care less about Ackbar. Others are mad that Luke gave up on being a Jedi. I may be disappointed that Luke became a curmudgeon but I can see that it could happen, especially after Ben Solo turned into Kylo Ren. It was too much for Luke. He became dejected. He’s a hero with a flaw.

Of course I still have questions about the movie that weren’t answered in The Last Jedi (e.g. what was the backstory of Supreme Leader Snoke? Who were really Rey’s parents? Who will train Rey now that Luke is dead?). But I can only hope that they would be answered when Episode IX rolls out in 2019.

A Stroke of Genius: ‘Loving Vincent’ Film Review

November 6, 2017 at 9:38 AM | Posted in Art, Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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To create a hand-painted, animated feature film using the style of Vincent van Gogh would seem an impossible task but Loving Vincent successfully did just that. The film Loving Vincent sets itself apart from any animated movie by being the world’s first fully painted feature film.

When I first saw the trailer of this film, I was immediately blown away. The fact that this movie is fully made from 66,960 oil paintings hand-painted by artists from across the globe is a feat in itself. While I don’t know much about Vincent van Gogh or all of his work, I’ve always loved his “Starry Night” painting. I’m also a fan of Impressionist/post-Impressionist art so this added to my curiosity of watching the film.

Loving Vincent is set a year after van Gogh’s death in 1890 and tells the story of a postman named Armand Roulin tasked to deliver a final letter from van Gogh to the painter’s brother Theo. What would be Armand’s simple journey to Auverse-sur-Oise in France ends up being a retelling of the last days of van Gogh. While in Auverse-sur-Oise, Armand gets curious and decides to investigate the death of van Gogh.

What is amazing about this film is the fact that they used some of van Gogh’s famous works as part of the story such as “The Night Café,” “Café Terrace at Night,” and of course “Starry Night.” The characters are also based from van Gogh’s paintings like the portraits of Armand and Joseph Roulin, Adeline Ravoux, Dr. Gachet, “Girl in White,” and “Marguerite Gachet at the Piano.”

Photo credit: mymodernmet.com

While the ending isn’t fulfilling and feels anti-climactic, the movie presents a somber and melancholic tone that captures the painter’s struggles with mental illness. But this also comes in contrast to the vivid colors of the paintings which the painter is known for. The flashback scenes are done in black and white sketches and in some scenes look almost like a film noir. The end credit is scored aptly with the classic Don McLean song, “Vincent.”

Loving Vincent is a visually stunning film worth watching, especially if you love art.

My Memorable Trip to Singapore

September 24, 2017 at 12:56 AM | Posted in Travel | 1 Comment

I just got back from Singapore on a business trip and had such a wonderful time. I’ve never been to Singapore so I was really excited to go there. Granted that my stay there was only for three days, I had hoped to squeeze some personal time to do some sightseeing. And fortunately, I was able to do so.

Singapore at night

It was a good thing that the hotel I’m staying at was very near the Marina Bay, which is one of the major tourist attractions in Singapore. I only had to walk about 15 minutes to reach the place. It was night time when I first went to Marina Bay. I came back to the hotel after work then headed out to explore the area. Too bad I wasn’t able to ride the river cruise or watch the fountain show because I went there a bit late already. But I still had a fantastic time. Never would I have imagined that I would see the Marina Bay Sands for real, and I’m just awed when I saw it.

Marina Bay Sands

I also had the opportunity to visit the famous Orchard Road. But I wasn’t impressed by it and was actually disappointed when I got there. There was nothing much to see there except rows and rows of high-end malls selling branded items. Unless you are keen to shop for expensive things and have the money to splurge, Orchard Road is not worth seeing. For me, going there was just a waste of my time. I did not stay long there.

As a traveler, I’m more interested to see the local culture of the place instead of shopping at modern malls. I’d rather go to museums, cultural spots, art galleries and flea markets than go to the mall. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to the museums in Singapore as I was pressed for time. I was really keen on visiting the ArtScience Museum within Marina Bay but there was just not enough time.

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

Anyway, I decided to go back to Marina Bay after I went to Orchard Road. My work colleagues in Singapore recommended that I visit Gardens by the Bay, which is just within Marina Bay. Of course, I couldn’t leave Singapore without trying the hawker food stalls there. So I went to Satay by the Bay and enjoyed a local meal there before heading to Gardens by the Bay, which was just a few strolls away.

I had such a fantastic time exploring Gardens by the Bay. The place is really huge and filled with greeneries. I loved it there and would have gone exploring the entire garden but I was in a rush that day because I had to catch my plane back to Manila.

ArtScience Museum in Singapore

Eye of Singapore

Despite of my short stay, I still had a great time visiting Singapore. Here’s hoping that I’ll be back there eventually.

“It’s Just a TV Show,” So They Say

September 10, 2017 at 1:45 AM | Posted in TV | Leave a comment
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How many of us are glued to the TV screen or computer every week watching our favorite shows and be completely engrossed by the story we are watching? Have you ever shed tears while watching a show or curse and yell at the characters you see onscreen? For some people, TV shows are just a form of entertainment – a past time that they do after a stressful day at work or grueling hours in school. They don’t dwell too much on the story or get invested in the characters of the shows they’re watching.

Photo credit: me.me

But for others, TV shows are more than that. Watching a show can be a life-changing experience for them. While it can be a form of escape for others, for some it can be very influential that it affects their decisions in life. For me, watching my favorite shows is inspiring. It sparks my creativity. It inspires me to be a better writer. That’s why I get annoyed when I read comments online that they find it funny that some fans of a show are so emotionally invested in the story and the characters. They usually say, “It’s just a TV show. You realize they are just fictional characters?”

Well let me tell you that it’s more than just a TV show. I’ve read enough articles, cast interviews and fan comments to know that these shows have had great influence on fans that they became a better person. Some even have launched successful careers based on the fictional characters they’ve watched and loved.

Photo credit: fredfarm.com

One fine example of this is The Scully Effect phenomenon. The Scully Effect is attributed to fictional character Dana Scully, a forensic pathologist and an FBI agent from the hit series The X-Files, which I also happen to love. The phenomenon saw female fans of the show pursuing a career in medicine, science or law enforcement after watching Scully on the show.

Photo credit: rebloggy.com

While I didn’t pursue a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) career, the show still influenced me in the way I view women in society. I look up to Scully and see her as a role model for women. She is strong, smart, independent, can hold on her own and is not afraid to speak her mind. After watching The X-Files for years, I now look for shows with a strong female character in it. I get disinterested with shows or movies with underdeveloped, two-dimensional female characters. I especially get annoyed with shows or movies that have damsel-in-distress or objectified characters in them.

Another example of how life-changing a show can be is the fandom of Orphan Black, collectively known as Clone Club. As a fan myself, I’ve heard so many stories from fellow fans of how much the show mean to them, especially for the LGBT community. Many fans have said the show inspired them to embrace their sexuality and come out. To those who haven’t seen the show, Orphan Black has themes on female empowerment, diversity and inclusivity. Tatiana Maslany, who plays the lead character on the show about clones, also plays other characters, which includes Cosima – a young bisexual student – and a transgender named Tony.

Photo credit: pastemagazine.com

I’m sure there are other shows out there that have a profound effect on fans. That’s why it’s wrong to assume that TV shows are just a form of entertainment that should be taken lightly. There are many good shows out there that inspire people or spark meaningful dialogues about society, politics, religion, science and many more. And I know there are shows that hire consultants to make the story believable or scientifically accurate. Shows can question or challenge your belief on anything, or it can validate whatever you believe in. That’s how significant they are.

My Ideal Book Conference

August 21, 2017 at 9:48 PM | Posted in Books, Writing | Leave a comment
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Are you a bibliophile? Have you ever gone to book launches by your favorite authors and lined up for hours just to get an autograph? How would you react if you meet your favorite author in person?

I was lucky enough to meet my favorite local author Jessica Zafra years ago. I used to work for a company before and we had to organize a book launch for her latest book. Of course as a fan, I was excited – and also nervous. I admired her for years and loved her writing. I have her Twisted book series in my collection. It would be my first time to see her in person. And so I did. It was a thrilling experience.

Unfortunately, since I was part of the team that organized the book launch, I wasn’t able to get an autograph from her. I remember being caught up in a flurry of activities during that time, basically just making sure that the launch ran smoothly. I didn’t even get to thoroughly enjoy watching her read passages from her new book nor was I able to fully listen to the Q & A portion where she answered questions from the fans. I was backstage most of the time. The opportunity to come up to her and ask for an autograph didn’t happen.

All the same, that was still an enjoyable experience for me. It’s rare that you get to meet your favorite author in person, much less organize a book launch for them.

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, to see your favorite authors gather in one roof? If I were given the opportunity to plan a book event myself, it would be a gathering of authors, editors and publishers. I think it would be interesting to have a mix of experts in the industry as part of the conference so that the learning is not limited to the field of writing only.

Photo credit: guardianlv.com

For the panel, I would imagine my favorite authors to be part of it. It would be awesome to see Anne Rice there in the panel. I know she often gives writing tips on her Facebook page but I think seeing her talk in person would be an immersive experience. It would also be interesting to see Neil Gaiman talk about his writing process, especially when he’s writing the TV or movie adaptation of his books.

Gaiman has already been in Manila twice but back then, I never read any of his books or comics and wasn’t a fan. But I heard he was super nice to his local fans. Now that I’ve read some of his books, I’ve become a fan. If he ever comes back to Manila, I would definitely want to meet him in person.

As a book writer wannabe myself, I know there is much to learn when it comes to publishing your work. That’s why my ideal panel for a book conference would involve editors from major and independent publishers. It would be good to hear tips from them on their editing process, or how they pick fresh material to publish, what kind of stories they think readers would want to read, etc.

Photo credit: quirkbooks.com

I’m particularly interested to hear people from Quirk Books. I think they attracted quite an attention with their Quirk Classics line. Did they ruin the classics by injecting humor and horror into them? How did that idea of reimagining the classics come about?

My ideal book conference would be in a casual and informal setting. I think it would be great to have a Mad Hatters Tea Party as a theme for the conference. Imagine authors and editors sitting next to fans and interacting with them at a long and lavish table in an al fresco setting. I think that would be more fun and lively than the usual traditional conference set up. Throw in other notable authors like Pablo Neruda or Umberto Eco (yes, I know they’re dead but they can always appear as ghosts!) in that panel and you have an interesting mix of people. And who would be perfect as moderator in the panel than the Mad Hatter himself? I think he can share his nonsense poems and riddles with the authors.

Of course, these are all just wishful thinking. I’ve had enough experience organizing corporate events myself and some conferences can be pretty boring. This imagined book conference would be my take on how I would want an interesting event to go.

Organizing events can be fun but it can be stressful too. It’s a good thing that there are helpful online tools out there such as Eventbrite that make an event planner’s life easier. And there’s nothing more satisfying than to see your events turn out to be as successful as you hope they would be.

 

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