Cupid and Psyche: The Double Standard of “Kita Kita”

Since Wonder Woman, we’ve been using the GMovies app to book tickets online. It is cleverly integrated into the Ayala Cinemas system, making our booking selection easier. I often forget my SureSeats password.

But what drew me in was the BPI promo: a Php 150 off on our first transaction and Php 50 off in the succeeding transactions. However, as July comes to a close, the promo also ends. It would have been neat to have this promo forever. (Oh, happy birthday Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling!)

Our GMovies E-Ticket for the movie 'Kita Kita (2017)'

Our GMovies E-Ticket for the movie ‘Kita Kita (2017)’

Anyway, let me write this down before I become too lazy. Our last GMovies transaction was for a local movie ‘Kita Kita’. Until bedtime, I still recall snippets of the movie that gave me the frisson. Aside from a new movie review in a while, I haven’t had that lingering feeling for a long time.

(ETA 06 August 2017: Update on the GMovies app. Cancelling your ticket transaction is not as easy as having it on SureSeats. Their landline is not working, and I had to call them several times over their mobile only to inform them that I already emailed asking for cancellation. They then coordinated with Ayala Cinemas to have this settled, then inform me of the result. They are quite helpful but I just cannot with red tape. It would be better if cancelling is a breeze, but oh well. Back to SureSeats now and time to uninstall GMovies.)

*MAJOR SPOILER WARNING*

The title was a play on the Filipino homonyms ‘kita’. When you put the stress on the first syllable, it is the root word for the verb “to see”, while if put on the second, it means “you” (functioning as both subject and object ‘I… you’). Taken as a whole, then, it becomes “I see you”. It was well integrated into a scene called ashiyu (足湯), where Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) and Tonyo (Empoy Marquez) bathed their feet.

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Zombie movie on Valentine’s night

Mon and I were both on halfday leave in the office for Valentine’s Day and it was a sudden decision as well. For today, I wanted a Valentine-related outfit, but alas, I can’t bear to wear anything red nor too dressy. The best thing I can put on, then, was this polo shirt with a black heart on the chest. I also wore this pair of YSL sneakers for the first time. =D

Maroon cardigan, gray Play by Comme des Garcons Black Heart polo shirt, blue L.O.G.G. by H&M skinny pants, Yves Saint Laurent multicolor high-top sneakers, vintage Mulberry wexford briefcase messenger bag

From the office, we just walked to Greenbelt 3 because it was very difficult to get a cab. We had no choice because we still have to claim our tickets for the movie and waiting for an elusive cab to come would definitely eat up our precious time. It was a nice night to walk anyway, because it was quite windy.

Arriving in the Greenbelt area, we immediately noticed how crowded the whole place was. It was dofficult to walk from one place to another, and all restaurants were brimming with people eating and queuing for an available table. Yikes. We had to get our movie tickets first and good thing we have already reserved the night before because if we were to get the tickets right there and then, we’d end up sitting separately or not at all.

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Greenbelt 3

The rare occasion when he had his picture taken, with his face full on

As mentioned, every restaurant in the area was full, and the only place available where we can eat was in Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Greenbelt 5. We had no extra time to spare waiting because we had less than 40 minutes before the movie started from the time we got the tickets. We immediately ordered for the most possibly-satisfying food they have on the menu and not all of them were even available. Well, we had little time to eat anyway, even if it was our quickest Valentine’s dinner ever. LOL

The only pasta available that night - Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Greenbelt 3

Blueberry cheesecake - Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Greenbelt 3

The quickest Valentine's dinner we ever had - Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Greenbelt 3

We barely finished our food, when we found ourselves walking back to Greenbelt 3 for our 8:35 PM movie. We chose ‘Warm Bodies‘, as it was what we were supposed to watch instead of ‘Mama‘ last Saturday. I can’t even remember seeing the trailer of the movie before, but all I know was it features Nicholas Hoult (who played Beast in ‘X-Men: First Class‘ and a favorite model of Tom Ford, and even starred in the latter’s first ever film ‘A Single Man‘ — and yeah, he is also Jennifer Lawrence’s boyfriend).

It was tagged as a “paranormal, romantic zombie comedy’, which was a peculiar but very apt description of what we saw on screen. It was told in the point of view of R (Nicholas Hoult), which after a usual hunting spree with a pack of zombies, fell in love with the human Julie (Teresa Palmer), who was also out with a bunch of humans including her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and bestfriend Nora (Analeigh Tipton) to forage for medical supplies. The zombie pack attacked the group and R ended up eating the brains of Perry, which eventually reinforced his attraction towards Julie.

I particularly had a good time hearing the hilarious timing of John Waite’s ‘Missing You‘ played on vinyl, during the key moments of the film, particularly when R first laid his eyes on Julie. I knew the song very well because Tina Turner’s version was once use by my old squad as music in one of the most amazing choreography I have ever seen. Anyway, the movie really had lots of funny moments, particularly when Julie was pretending to be a zombie and was acting a bit too much, perhaps based on a canned knowledge of how zombies move. LOL It was also good to see Analeigh in the movie. She was my favorite contestant in Cycle 11 of ANTM, and I was really heartbroken when she got eliminated. I did not realize how tall she really is, not until this movie, because she looked quite small next to the other contestants and Nigel and Ms. Jay. Analeigh has been doing good in her movie career, and her screen time in this movie was well spent. Excellent comedic timing and she was really hilarious in every scene that she was in. Julie, who I first thought to be a blonde and can-actually-act version of Kristen Stewart, looked very familiar. Searching Google after the movie, I was right in guessing that she was the love interest of the protagonist in ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice‘.

Tickets for the 'Warm Bodies' movie

After the movie, we went to another Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Greenbelt 3 to have a quick snack and a drink of coffee (Mon opted for a non-caffeine drink). I was surprisingly full from our quick dinner and I even had to push myself to eat this cookie and biscotti. LOL At almost 11:00 PM, the place was still bustling with people but we were lucky to get good seats inside, near the window.

Quick drink and a quick snack - Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Greenbelt 3

Black heart on Valentine's - gray Play by Comme des Garcons Black Heart polo shirt

When we were about to go home, we passed by the row of high-end stores and I was delighted to see Prada’s display window, with Sasha Pivovarova in it. Last October 2012, I expressed my delight to see the new mother doing fashion work again.

Sasha Pivovarova for Resort 2013 on the display window of Prada Greenbelt 3

I’m not a fan of flowers and Mon was fully aware of that. Instead, he gave me this stuffed heart which I will be bringing to the office with me. Happy Valentine’s Mon and thanks for the sweets as well! =D

Chocolates and a stuffed heart from Mon

Just for Les Misérables

While most of the world have already seen Les Misérables in the silver screen, it was just the first day for us here in the Philippines to have the chance of finally watching it. I’ve been anticipating the movie since last year and when I saw that the schedule was already up in the Sureseats website, I immediately reserved two seats by the aisle — almost all of the seats were gone.

I had to travel all the way from Marikina to Makati, with a pair of boots that blistered my feet badly (I forgot the rubber insole I usually use to protect my heels) and was running after the time before our reservation expires. Mon got there on time (12:45PM) and our seats has been already technically cancelled, but he eventually charmed his way onto the cashier’s heart and we got our seats all right. =D I, on the other hand, arrived five minutes before the movie started. I just had enough time to attach several plasters on my heels, adjust my socks and shoelaces, and get the most-needed toilet break to empty the reservoir, as we would be sitting on a two-hour and a half movie. The last time I woke up early for a first-day screening was for ‘Black Swan’.

First day showing of Les Misérables in Greenbelt 3

I assume that most people who were in the cinema with me had at least some knowledge of what the movie was about, given that it was adapted from a chef d’oeuvre of Victor Hugo, turned into a musical several times and even a movie starring Liam Neeson, Uma Thurman and Claire Danes. My inauguration with Les Misérables was with that movie and I remember watching with a bunch of high school classmates because we were to submit a review of the movie to our English class. The most interesting scene I recall from that movie was Fantine (Uma Thurman) being humiliated in the streets when she turned to prostitution, with snow (or was it a handful of francs?) shoved into her mouth. It was heart-wrenching. I have also seen some of the musical productions and clips online (thank you YouTube), which made anticipation for the movie more overwhelming.

Anyway, the point of comparison that has been exhaustedly discussed by critics and theater geeks alike (and no, I’m not one, not even the slightest) was the voice quality of the cast and the decision to record the voices live, contrary to a lip-synched playback. I personally liked the rawness of the emotion it brought to the film but given that the cast as whole were not at the same level of vocal prowess, some has suffered in the process. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean was amazing. He literally carried the whole film and met my expectation with the knowledge that he has musical theater background. However, I felt that his “Bring Him Home” performance was already stretching his abilities because his voice seemed strained (and it was beyond cool to cast the extremely talented Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop because he was the best Jean Valjean ever!). As for Anne Hathaway, whose little screen time as Fantine was very well spent, her close-up and long, continuous shot “I Dreamed a Dream” performance conveyed every emotion of despair. Although reading things online, a lot of comparison and argument has been made over what should be the real emotion in this song. On one camp, some argued that it must be of a rollercoaster ride of emotion, with hints of hopefulness and optimism (see Lea Salonga on the 25th Anniversary show). While on the other, the gut-wrenching rendition of Anne with utmost despondency in every note was preferred. I’ve got no problem with it and it was the first instance I almost cried. But I was able to stop myself. =P Rusell Crowe was, well, let me put it this way — he was singing like one of those guys who can really carry a tune in a videoke. The acting was on point but the singing part was really underwhelming. Too bad.

Isabelle Allen as the young Cosette in Les Misérables

(Photo from hollywood.com)

Samantha Barks as Eponine was one of the highly sought after roles, especially with the song ‘On my Own’ being covered and re-recorded over and over again. I personally did not like her rendition of the song but her dying theme “A Little Fall of Rain” almost made me cry (second instance, but it still did not). Amanda Seyfried, playing the older Cosette, was okay in the sense that I came in not expecting much from her but she actually delivered. I also don’t understand the Cosette hate because I loved her! Although admittedly, her voice sounded a bit like that old Snow White film singing “Someday my prince will come” with the birds and butterflies in the forest — it was unusually shrill and high. And the kids, Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche and Isabelle Allen as the young Cosette, made me smile the most. The stubbornness and independence of Gavroche, as well as the innocence and delicateness of Cosette were perfectly captured by the two actors. I especially loved that part when Cosette was humming the haunting “Castle on a Cloud” in the woods and immediately ran when Jean Valjean arrived. She was like a small kitten disrupted from playing in her own little world and ran for cover. I wanted to hug her and say everything will be all right.

Les Misérables weaves the political and religious, which of course isn’t that different from present-day societies in varying degrees of complexity (I need not go that far: see our situation here in the Philippines). But what is evident here is Victor Hugo’s optimism in ending social injustice, which can be at times excessive, but his unwavering faith in humanity clearly manifested with the reformation of Jean Valjean eventually taking over the custody of Cosette after Fantine’s death. But what made him do so? Perhaps it was a chance for him to exhibit being a reformed man, or even seeing his dead sister and her kids in Fantine and Cosette, who he wasn’t able to save before getting imprisoned. Victor Hugo with this optimism can be considered a liberal, believing in the inviolability of human life and a staunch critic of death penalty (see ‘In Defense of His Son’). A similar theme was exhibited in Les Misérables when Jean Valjean under the pretense of executing Javert let the latter go and gave him his freedom, which of course shook Javert’s sensibilities and precarious moral/civil balance, which eventually led to his suicide.  I’m admittedly not the most religious person but I still find the line “to love another person is to see the face of God” to be the most compelling. It was at this point in the movie were I began to cry, seeing Cosette finally breaking down at the knees of her dead foster father, while the ghost of the now-at-peace Fantine leading Valjean’s soul on.

Overall, I think it was a very good film in itself. The length might be a bit too much for some and kids and it even did it for some adults who fell asleep. But what I love most was how it reintroduces the story to a new generation of potential lovers of Les Misérables, which can get their interest to other works by Victor Hugo or other great authors (or even the whole romantic movement as well, or even instigate other to learn French and read the novel in its native language!). It also serves as a form of rekindling to those who are already familiar with the story but would like to be reintroduced to the whole world of Les Misérables anew.

Afghanistan isn’t always about the Taliban: The Kite Runner

Amir and Hassan - The Kite Runner

(Photo from telegraph.co.uk)

When was the last time you cried while watching a movie? I just did and I can’t even recall when I last teared up prior to this one. This is one hardcore movie and only the stone-hearted won’t well up. Based from Khaled Hosseini’s novel of the same name, The Kite Runner was shown in theaters way back in 2007. Unfortunately, it wasn’t commercially released here in the Philippines (afaik).

It was like Atonement but in a different geographic location and time period. What will you do to amend the things you have done when you had wronged another person? It is a story of friendship and loyalty as explained through the eyes of a then-child and a war refugee. Amir and Hassan’s friendship is slightly twisted and Baba’s paternal authority and conviction is something to admire. Ever since the Taliban brought new interest to Afghanistan in 2001 at the height of the “War on Terror” (through infamy on the West, definitely), all we know now is the war-torn, poverty-stricken side of that region. Little do we know that Kabul once flourished as one of the most progressive and burgeoning cities in the Middle East prior to the Soviet occupation (Kabul is one of the cities along the ‘silk road).

Set in the beautiful snow-covered mountain ranges of Afghanistan (but in fact, they were not allowed to shoot there but improvise on a Chinese territory), the movie depicted culture and politics in a viscerally humane way. It puts things into perspective about how do we conceive culture, though. Ethnic wars, Hazaras versus Pashtuns, who is more superior, the question of nationality and who takes precedence in a given land. Things like that. For instance, one part of the movie showed a young boy (Hassan’s son and Amir’s nephew… they were brothers!) made to dance in front of the men, wearing bells and other adornments to the spectators delight is considered to be part of Afghan culture —- bacha bazi (English = “boy play”). It has long been outlawed but the practice still goes on and these young boys are continually exploited (emotionally and EVEN sexually!) by the grown up men. But how can you ensure that such measures will be upheld in the war-torn area? Implementation of such rules are not always strictly followed. It is very sad and disheartening and I was also able to watch this documentary available on YouTube, chronicling the practice of bacha bazi in present day Afghanistan and other Middle East countries.

Similar to other adaptations, I see the movie first and pass judgment before reading the book. I got hold of a copy of The Kite Runner and has already finished reading it. The wealth of description in the book is amazing, but I won’t take it against the movie because movies can only translate so much. The Kite Runner is nevertheless amazing.