Red White & Blue (2010): Love Loss, Blood Loss

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“Red White & Blue” is an example of independent cinema that uses a grand plot and makes everything work with subtlety, very strong performances and a rarely seen type of narrative that adds to the effectiveness of this horror/suspense drama.

The intro shows a trailer trash brunette named Erica who sleeps with different men every night in a small Texas town. In the apartment compound where she lives, there’s Noah who is a well-meaning bearded dude who will help her when she gets fired from her job as a house cleaner. Erica rejects his acts of kindness at first but will later give in because he really is a stand-up guy (aw shucks). Conflict arises when one of the men who Erica had a one-night stand with discovers she left something behind that has potential to ruin his entire life. That sounds vague, but I’m afraid that is as far as I can go because more details mean less thrill punches. Just trust me when I say it has a really good story that is intelligently wrapped around the tropes of horror/suspense movie conventions.

The cinematography projects a dark and warm atmosphere that would probably taste like honey but would feel like it has an aftertaste of poison. Huge credit should be given to whoever thought of shooting in Austin, Texas because the setting is pretty scenic. I didn’t think for a second that Leatherface resides in the area. The BGM that is mostly comprised of piano arrangements works effectively as it has resemblance to what was successfully used in Takashi Shimizu’s “The Grudge” and “Marebito.” It sounds pretty but you also feel the sense of dread fucking up your psyche.

Simon Rumley carefully peels out the layers of his characters by providing concise moments of well-written dialogue exchange and encapsulating the poignancy in the two lead’s portrayal. It rings true in the dramatic scenes of Amanda Fuller (Erica) and Noah Taylor (Nate) together where they blew the roof off. I mean, the acting displayed here alone deserves a loud praise.

This is one of the more mature horror movies that I have ever encountered, and it definitely is one that I could say one of the best from the genre that I have seen in the last five years. What a fucking gem.

reynaldopagsolinganjr@yahoo.com

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The Petri Dish

Two red lips painted on the angel’s right cheek
One’s from a deer from the East
One’s from a goddess named Maria
The detached hand of the king stood witness
His brains scooped so he won’t tell a soul

The deer went home to her family of females
Her sister cooked the raccoon for breakfast
Her second child draws a cloud made of leaves
She grinned as she entered her little kingdom
As if she conned something on her way home

Maria grew a tail made of fish scale
They threw her sons in the pit of chameleons
Their tiny bodies resemble of green crickets
Her lover called the axe man to play a love song
She danced with him ’til the moon set the town ablaze

The angel rejoiced as she brought the devil in Eden
They had meals of pain and limbs of foolish people
As they chant spells and prayers for everyone’s doom
The angel took his wormy heart from behind
The devil’s in awe and swallows his tongue

The deer arrived, so did Maria
They turned yellow as they kissed each other
They swam in the waters of heaven
In the bottom of the lake the angel waits
The corpse of the king still white as a rabbit

The devil’s heart is stuffed in the king’s mouth
The angel uses her three-finger hand for force
The deer vomits red diamonds, the goddess eagle claws
The ground shakes and the King opens his eyes
He eats the three of them and there he births a son

reynaldopagsolinganjr@yahoo.com

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Blade Buried at Seven

I.

Entering a kitchen a decade and a half ago

Witless, a kid, scolded for stupid reasons

An adult should’ve known better

To never let a young one feel dejected

He exited the gray room with a hole in his chest

Her eyes stabbed him like a greasy dagger

II.

A couple of years past he recalls

They’re juxtaposed by his idea of their worth

His hands touched the bottom of his shoe

Placed in the center of ridicule and insults

He learned not to keep rotten photos

He learned not to eat their dirty words

He kept his foot still, he showered with shit

 III.

Adolescence is a tad bit kind

Credit was given, applause was amplified

He built foundations where love was abundant

He gained perspective from a spectrum of emotions

Of course, that’s more than enough to reap respect

It’s funny though, he remains a moving target

 IV.

He was in gratitude, he accomplished something

He’s been inspired by ideas and people

His principles intact and cynicism at minimum

He fell and got up with his strengths and weaknesses

He molded his heart until it’s cushy and empty

He loved quickly and disconnect easily

 V.

Who shall be blamed for his dysfunctional disposition?

He turned his miseries into blades that cut his kindness into pieces

The little goose should’ve never had its neck wringed

The whale should not be bred at amusement parks

What did he learn from those who cut his toes

when he was just starting to glue his bones?

V?=VI.

Loneliness is company

Love is a leftover at Christmas parties

Smile is strength masking pain and later on indifference

Help can only be found in independence

Bruises are moral dictators

Medals are stolen if not worn by their closest kin

 VII.

(-I,II,III,IV,V,V?=VI)

A dove carries a four-inch knife 10 feet above ground

It approaches a baby lying on the grassy ground

Chirps and bubbly shrieks play like bass and electric

It flies away, the baby left with a standing three-inch silver in the forehead

reynaldopagsolinganjr@yahoo.com

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The Fault In Our Stars (2014): It’s Okay If Not Good

The unwillingness of a movie to bend for premature respect from easily fooled moviegoers is a trait that makes it stand out. Josh Boone-directed “The Fault in our Stars” is a major motion picture, and while it still has plenty of inauthentic shades of histrionic fervor, it manages to present an uncontrived plot treatment and characters that feel real albeit a little too likeable to draw a connection from. Shailene Woodley takes her character from “The Spectacular Now” and harnesses it to maturity and replaces its ultra(dumb)niceness with sharpness, and borrows the unflinching but vulnerable strength of her character from “The Descendants.” She delivered awesome as always.

The movie could use some more despondency as it is a little too bright even in its dramatic scenes, but I suspect it’s deliberately that way to fend for the target demographic. It’s a small issue, and doesn’t really affect the overall movie that much, so it’s okay. I guess. Maybe.

“You are a side effect of an evolutionary process that cares little for individual lives. You are a failed experiment in mutation.”

I have a thing for cynicism more than the tear-jerking stuff that I must admit I also have a soft spot for. While bawling in the movies makes me feel good on the inside, it’s the face-slapping truths that give grounding and a clearer perspective on a version of humanity that is untethered by chains of sentimentality and cinema magic. The quote above is from novelist Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe) — directed mean-spiritedly at cancer-stricken Hazel (Woodley). The scene makes you want to gut Peter, but what he said has stuck with me even after leaving the theater. I don’t want to think I’m grasping at straws by saying it doesn’t apply only to people diagnosed with grave illnesses. I believe we are all literally and metaphorically under repair, and the world doesn’t really give a shit if we drop off the face of the earth in the process. Nothing is ever personal and as Gus puts it, “the world is not a wish-granting factory”, so we should stop being so fucking sensitive. The movie is a good cry-fest, but the skepticism found in some characters pushes it a step further from the teen flicks that are plagued by schmaltz and coming-of-age contrivances.

reynaldopagsolinganjr@yahoo.com

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Dumb Rambling: A Song About Sex

A little closer, it’s wearing off
It runs deep, I can’t take it off
I need a hand, you have two
I know you want a peep

Those glasses look awful
I don’t want them here
You can’t see clearly
Distraction, I can’t kiss you

Do it now, everything’s history
Unbutton it now, we’ll make new history

My hands they’re not monsters
I’ll go easy on you
You see me as I see you
Babe, don’t be afraid
We’ll gun down the peepers
We’ll kill them, my lover

Don’t bother, we’re invisible
Chatters will be chatters
I’ll show them like I’ve showed you
Not a crime, it’s me and you

Wipe that smug off your face
It doesn’t make you pretty
Hold your head high
We all have the same skin

Do it now, everything’s history
Unbutton it now, we’ll make new history

My hands they’re not monsters
I’ll go easy on you
You see me as I see you
Babe, don’t be afraid
We’ll gun down the peepers
We’ll kill them, my lover

Times are a-changing, says genius Dylan
We’ll make love on the doorstep
What’s to say, the ever nosy neighbors
It’s none of their business
It’s not their penis

We are not monsters
It’s our primal nature
You see me as I see you
We’re both made of flesh
We’ll gun down the peepers
We’ll kill them, my lover

 

Reynaldo D. Pagsolingan Jr.

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The Bling Ring (2013): Materialism, Idiocy and Wrong Priorities

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The entertainment industry has always capitalized on celebrities’ public image. This has led to a lot of people’s fascination with whatever their idols are up to and into without feeling the need to apply perspective from anywhere but the shrine of “stars” they admire more than themselves. This NBA player has this shoe named after him so it is definitely more valuable than the dental work you need because oral hygiene, in your opinion, is less important. This model who rose to fame for her involvement in a sex video wore this skirt at an awards festival so it is only right that you spend your allowance for the month to buy one to show your friends you can be, in your own way, a better-dressed stripper who you can leave a party with at two bottles of beer and a kiss on the ear. Admiring celebrities and wanting to be them is not necessarily an awful thing if, say, you understand that being shallow makes people look dumb and you actually want to at least replicate the moral values of those who do humanitarian efforts like Bono or Angelina Jolie. However, this is not the case for the majority, and the celebrity-obsessed culture they are a part of is what Sofia Coppola starkly presented in “The Bling Ring.”

The movie is based on the lives of affluent teenagers who stole high-end goods amounting to $ 3 million from the homes of Hollywood celebrities in California. They were able to victimize Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom, Audrina Patridge and Brian Austin Green. The media called them the “Bling Ring.”

The gang is comprised of Rebecca, Marc, Nicki, Chloe, and Sam. Marc, a meek and awkward transferee from another high school, was approached by Rebecca (future ring leader) in the locker area and they quickly hit it off as they share the same interests. The latter introduced the former to the other three. With Marc attending his first party with his new pals, he didn’t feel alone and probably thought he should do everything he can to please them, especially Rebecca who he would call his best friend. She took him outside the house where they were partying at and showed him her kind of fun – opening unlocked cars and taking money, gadgets, cocaine and other valuables she can get her hands on. Marc, beguiled at first, went with the flow and that is how the robbing spree started. They easily persuaded Nicki, Sam and Chloe to tag along with their break-ins. They visited celebrity websites and targeted those who were out of town. They picked Paris because they thought she seems to be the kind of person who would leave her key under the doormat and, according to Nico (Marc in the film) in a real-life interview, she is “dumb” and “doesn’t contribute anything to the society.” (I can’t say I disagree. She was robbed six times and it took her two months to discover there’s been a break-in.)

Since these kids are well-off, what could possibly be the reason for their kleptomania?

Most of these Cali kids’ hobbies include cocaine-snorting, pill-popping, clubbing and shopping. Sofia did not really dig into the psychology of how these kids acquired such behaviors, but I felt it’s intentional. They are self-centered (except for maybe Marc who just wants to have company to keep), and geographically near the “stars” that they are crazy about.  In a generation where many celebrities share everything on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, any young-minded individual raised on bad TV will fall easily into obsessing, and their perception of what is and what should not be a necessity becomes muddled. You could say that some would want to be their idols by wanting to have the stuff they have, but in the “Bling Ring’s” case, they take it up a notch by actually stealing stuff from people they so love they want to have the exact clothes, bags, jewelry and fragrance they are wearing. In the film, it’s clear that all, with the exception of Marc, didn’t even think what they were doing is considered felony. One explanation for that is they are all spoiled rotten rich kids who don’t think taking responsibility for their actions is a big deal. I mean, in the last act when Rebecca was brought in the police station for questioning, she fangirlingly asked what Lindsay said upon learning they stole from her. It’s also not going to take deep analysis to figure out the level of IQ these kids have. They will brag about their exploits at parties, and would not even wear gloves or disguise of any kind when entering the victims’ houses.

Unsurprisingly, this being a movie from the same director who helmed “The Virgin Suicides”, “Lost in Translation” and “Marie Antoinette”, the cinematography makes images that are seemingly empty on the surface but are projected in stylish photographs filled with moody colors and an un-energetic brightness that suggest a foreboding ugly conclusion — eliciting feelings of wonder and uneasiness at the same time. The long takes that are sometimes devoid of dialogue and score felt gaps that are both enigmatic and comfortable places where you can allow yourself to take in the carefully-handled scenes that has Sofia’s signature stamped all over it. Emma Watson, whose American accent is better than the one she used in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, is hilarious as Nicki (the dumbest Valley teenager in the gang). Newcomers Katie Chang (Rebecca) and Israel Broussard (Marc) gave what you would call a decent debut for a major movie. Claire Julien (Chloe) has that X factor onscreen that I can’t quite point my finger at, and it always draws my attention whenever she enters the screen. The musical score that includes modern pop and urban tunes is suitable for the caricature that Sofia is trying to paint throughout the story. “The Bling Ring” is not so concerned of peeling out layers that will give viewers a more comprehensive look at why the characters did what they did.  Would it hurt to add dimensions to these characters? No, but Sofia’s intentions, in my opinion, don’t really want to go to that extent. It’s metaphorical in a way that the superficial is dressed up in a conspicuous style.

“Too many bottles of this wine we can’t pronounce…”

The first line of Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids”, played at the closing billboard, is a perfect representation of a culture in our society that is enamored by materialism, idiocy and wrong priorities. We don’t need it, we certainly can live without it, but we want to have it. Study well in school, kids.

 

reynaldopagsolinganjr@yahoo.com

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Video – Save Me (Original Song)

Everyone at some point felt they needed to be saved by a person they value so much. Once you’re okay, you would probably realize the only person you should have just cried for help is yourself, but it does not work that way. We can’t always know what to do in a crisis. I wrote this two months ago as a poem but decided to turn it into a more mainstream medium that I can hum to and touch people who aren’t accustomed to liking letters on pages.

P.S. Pardon my guitar skills. It’s in a developing stage.

 

Reynaldo Pagsolingan Jr.

reynaldopagsolinganjr@yahoo.com

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Save Me

Say my name
I’m waiting for someone to call me
Say my name
I’ve hold on to this nothingness for so long

I’ve stared at my fist hit the walls without any reason
Chewing my tounge ’til my emotions bleed dry

Save me
Save me
Save me

Hold me close
I feel I have nothing left to love
Call me now
Before these ears lose the will to recognize any voice

I burnt bridges thoughtlessly
Shall I lose myself before finding out what’s out there for me?

Save me
Save me
Save me

 

reynaldopagsolinganjr@yahoo.com

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Stones

The stones I buried under the mattress, they creak through the night
I’ve kept them all for a long time, loving and hating them at the same time

Tears wash but misery is amassed
It’s suppose to be lighter, but I’m heavier than ever

I’ll catch a bird and fly w/ it
Away from troubles, away from the wet pages
I’ll throw the stones one by one
I won’t pick them up
My smile is opening up
I’ll sleep sound tonight

The stones, they’re baggage, they’re nothing but garbage
I knew going out for air is good but I can’t get up, my drive has stopped

Tears wash but my face looked crushed
I thought it doesn’t get better but it’s true it’s not forever

I’ll catch a bird and fly w/ it
Away from troubles, away from the wet pages
I’ll throw the stones one by one
I won’t pick them up
My smile is opening up
I’ll sleep sound tonight

Dont pick them up
The days of the past shouldn’t again turn up
Loosen up
The noise of the past
has been put to a stop

I’ll catch a bird and fly w/ it
Away from troubles, away from the wet pages
I’ll throw the stones one by one
I won’t pick them up
I will say goodbye
I will smile
I will throw it all away

 

reynaldopagsolinganjr@yahoo.com

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Blurred by the Dampness of Naivety

 

It’s raining. The older siblings are at school and the boy is four years old. The dampness of everywhere translates to everything nice. The cushion is semi-comfortable. It’s cold and the blue blanket keeps his body warm. What he’s feeling is similar to the sensation you get when taking a piss. Electrifying. Sweet and almost like having mini-orgasms. He curls up with a pillow too big for him and dreams with his eyes as awake as his mother’s call for breakfast. Here’s what he’s seeing: an older man in a lab suit breathing in the smoke from apparatuses that are each filled with green and yellow liquid. There’s lots of boiling going on. He likes to watch grown-up scifi movies with his father and it’s probably where this alluvion came from. You know, from the scenes where men and women in white are busy solving the movies’ conundrums and mysteries. His father seems to enjoy it, and so he does too. It’s actually not determined what the man was up to, but the premise is the man and the room represent his idea of adult happiness. The man looks happy. That is him. Beguiled, he realizes it’s his first conscious attempt to form a dream.

Years past, he wonders what happened to the boy whose mind walked through un-desentisised roads of big things and orgasmic possibilities. He is lost without any valid excuse, he is running with his feet swollen.

 

reynaldopagsolinganjr@yahoo.com

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