Sunday, March 31, 2013

“I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone”

Brazilian short
The best thing about the wild blue jungle of Tumblr is that you get to stumble upon little treasures that can lift a layer of stress off your back. I was aimlessly scrolling down my dashboard one afternoon when I spotted a link to this Brazilian short film called “Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho,” which loosely translates to “I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone” in English.

The small screen treat follows the story of Leonardo, a blind teenage boy whose world was turned upside down upon the arrival of a new student in his class. Simply put, it’s a short film about young love. You can watch it below (don’t forget to turn the English subtitles on!)

I guess the charm of this short film lies in the fact that it treats homosexuality with so much simplicity—no frills, no out-of-the-closet complexities, no twisting pathways before landing to the problem of romance. It’s not like the film is boxed in a gay utopia; it’s just treats how gayness should be treated. Natural.

Just a couple of minutes ago, I received news that Daniel Ribeiro, the director, is spinning off a full-blown feature from this short film in 2014! It’s now entitled “Todas as Coisas Mais Simples,” or “All the Simple Things." While I think the short film itself is already a portrait of succinct perfection, I’m not averse to seeing what Ribeiro can tell in 90 minutes. I’m even excited! :)

Check out the FB photos of the production team.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Jellicoe Road

Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
My Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)


Many pop literature junkies are getting more vocal about giving up on the stories churned out by most of today’s YA authors. And no wonder—if you've noticed how ‘bestseller ideas’ are being downcycled again and again to populate the genre's shelves, you may even agree with them when they huff, "Oh well, can’t blame the writers; kitsch sells.”

Fortunately, novels like Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road emerge to reassure us that the Young Adult section isn’t in any way heading for an aesthetic holocaust. It’s the kind of book that stands stark against its slew of peers; it’s the kind of book that says, “Just dig in, there’s still a multitude of us here.”

Jellicoe Road follows the story of Taylor Markham, who was abandoned by her mother on the Jellicoe Road when she was eleven. She hasn’t moved on about it six years later, but she tries to swim with life as it surges forward. She takes over their school’s Underground Community in their annual territory wars against the Townies and Cadets. But Lady Luck has a way of tethering Taylor to the past. Taylor finds out that Jonah Griggs, the boy who betrayed her when she ran away to find her mother three years ago, is the current Cadet leader. Problems and internal issues heap up when her guardian Hannah goes missing, leaving only a story about five kids that Taylor feels a strange connection to. Taylor acknowledges then that only when she is able to properly arrange her past’s puzzle pieces would she only find the key to her present and future.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s any summary that can do justice to Jellicoe Road’s real magic. If anything, the book itself refuses to be boxed by its own blurbs and nondescript excerpts. Marchetta’s storytelling talent is evident in the fact that even if the book is built on the same foundations of a hackneyed YA novel, it manages to morph into something so tastefully refreshing and intricately beautiful. It veers off the kitsch high way, if you get my drift.

Marchetta’s prose flaunts an even blend of insightful and crude. It gets deep and lyrical during Taylor’s introspections; it gets laugh-out-loud funny in the punchy, profanity-peppered dialogues between the main characters. In both sides, Marchetta showcases a kind of writing style that I can only describe as a breath of fresh air from the heaps of YA lit that I’ve previously devoured. Add to that a certain edge that gives off a vibe of magical realism, and I can totally say the book is nothing short of unforgettable.

Onto one of its distinguishing points: Jellicoe Road contains a story within a story. As I’ve heard, the first hundred pages made most readers mistake the book for mind-screw galore, discouraging them to leaf through the next three hundred pages. It’s understandable because the two parts read like very different entities. But as the plot charges along, Marchetta drops clues that glue both stories, filling in the gaps little by little until the two meshed together to form an intricate masterwork. The mystery is not so hard to crack, though. The wham! lines would elicit an “About time you figure it out, Taylor!” instead of an “I didn’t see that coming!” from the thinking audience. Be that as it may, the emphasis given on the anticipation factor was excellent.

Taylor as a character doesn’t stray so much from her antiheroine peers: she’s angst-on-two legs, carries an emotional baggage heavier than herself, snarky, unapologetically selfish, and has lots of trust issues. But akin to all the characters I’ve loved in literature, it isn’t about how unlikable Taylor seems to be—it’s all about how she emerges as a well fleshed-out person from the pages. Her humanness shines the brightest when she tries to be tough but grudgingly acknowledges that she needs other people to hold on to.

Standing alongside her is a ragtag bunch of other memorable characters: Aboriginal Townie leader Chaz Santangelo, the amiable ex-Townie Raffaela, the self-deprecatory muso Ben, and the damaged and stoic Cadet Jonah Griggs. This group as well as the other in the accompanying story are caught up in complicated relationship polygons—enemies, friends, friends-but-not-quite, lovers-that-aren’t—that somehow contributed to their dimensionalities.

Reading about their petty territory disputes was somewhat fascinating, though it made me extra-afraid of the actual territory wars our country is engaged in with Sabah and China. In the book, violence is the punishment for whoever trespasses into enemy terrain. That’s just black eyes and broken bones, but it’s violence just the same. Imagine this system blown up as the people involved fight over international lands. Death tolls, negotiations, pleas? Our newspapers carried headlines about those for weeks.

Anyway (sorry for digressing), since we’re already talking about boundaries and places, I commend Marchetta for her first-class world-building. The weight of the realm she created is as palpable as the lives of the people who inhabit it.

As a whole, I can say that Jellicoe Road is one of those books that deserve an improper fraction—I’d totally give it 6 out of 5 stars if I could! Hands down, this is definitely one of the best books I’ve read.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Power of Words


-from One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, A Marriage, and the Language of Healing by Diane Ackerman

Friday, March 22, 2013

Book-to-screen news!

Apologies for not regularly updating this  little online abode of mine! I hope you’re still there and that you’re forgiving my being asleep at switch, blogger-wise. Lots of things have happened both in my offline and online world, and here’s a book-related chunk of the latter that you might have missed (or not):

YA Heroine Jackpot: Shaileen Woodley
Casting announcements about two of the most popular YA titles today—Veronica Roth’s Divergent and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars—brought fans in a screaming frenzy. Not of the purely positive kind, of course, since a lot of them naturally engaged in a heated volleyball of opinions about the casting. Shaileen Woodley landed the role of Tris Prior in Divergent and Hazel Grace Lancaster in TFiOS. What do you think?


I haven’t seen her act but like what I did with Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen, I’m giving her a chance. There must be really good reasons why she’s chosen and why the authors seem so glad to have her in the forefront of their masterpieces. I’ve no complaints looks-wise (I’ve stopped expecting there are actors that would look exactly like what I’ve imagined them in the pages).  Hey, never underestimate the power of Hollywood makeup! In the mean time, I’ll pick up The Descendants or check a few episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager to see what suddenly made everyone think she’s perfect for the roles of leading girls in gigantic franchises (I just realized she’s also playing Mary Jane Watson in The Amazing Spider-Man 2).

See Divergent’s IMDB page | See EW’s article on Shaileen’s involvement with TFiOS

Jellicoe Road film update:I was told that Jellicoe Road is going to be turned into a movie not long after I finished rereading the book, and I’m beyond excited! I used to be overprotective of my favorite novels when it comes to movie adaptations, but I’ve learned to love the screen translations for a number of reasons (first one is that the movie will be a good instrument to point more people to the source material).

Melina Marchetta

Here’s a snippet from the script as posted by Melina Marchetta in her blog:

TAYLOR: So who’s their captain?
(Ben painfully unbuttons his shirt. Written across his chest in green paint are the words: I AM.)
BEN: He seemed to think you’d know who “I am” is.

Props to you if you’ve read Jellicoe Road and know who “I am” is! Dang. How can Marchetta cram a lot of intense personality in just two words? Have I mentioned that I’m excited?! On a recent interview with Hypable, Marchetta says they believe it will be “an international film, and you can’t make an international film if you don’t have international names…It’s just the two leads, as in Jonah and Taylor, they will have to be international leads. My rule is that I’m totally fine about that, except they have to be the right person for the role, rather than just an international name.”

Anna Dressed in Blood to be developed into a movieLast January, I tweeted Kendare Blake about the rumors of Anna Dressed in Blood being developed into a movie. And guess what? Good news! It certainly is! But my heart is only half-celebrating, as it is Stephenie Meyer’s production company that’s doing the work.


I’m not jumping on the hate bandwagon, it’s just I’ve seen the kind of ‘artistic abilities’ Meyer possesses. I love Anna Dressed in Blood so much and I’d be glad to see it unfurl in the big screen…but I’ve always hoped it will happen in the hands of the right people. Ha. Well, I guess that as long as Meyer doesn’t touch a pen in the movie’s production (leave that to Blake!) then I’ll live.

See LA Times’ article about this  item.

Friday, March 15, 2013

PARAMORE: Pop Punk Juggernauts

I was but a wee sixteen-year-old when I heard Hayley’s yelping lyrics for the first time. I was a college freshman, earphones almost always stuck in my ears, obscure band tees always donned. Paramore’s songs somehow struck a chord with my teenage angst-pumping heart and I’ve always daydreamed about seeing the band perform live.

The second sonic riot

Fast forward to 2013: my music horizons have widened and I’m leaning more towards the sounds of Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, and the like. I’m wallowing in the beauty of the new musicscapes I’m stumbling upon. Yet, for some reason, when I hear Paramore, I can’t help but let nostalgia kick me in the gut. They’re one of the those bands that I can’t deny about being a part of myself. Last February 15 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, I was finally able to see them live. I covered their second Para-thrilla in Manila for Gala magazine.

8:00 PM. Fans were in a tizzy even during mewithoutYou’s set; they clapped and bopped their heads along to the indie band’s music. When the spotlights blinked out to end the front act, the Single’s Club sigil loomed as the stage’s backdrop. And then there she was—a lithe creature in the single spotlight, her flame-colored locks standing stark like a lit match-head in the darkness. The screams were deafening.


But before I get into the details of the concert, I think it’s worth noting that I thought I’d die that night. I’m serious! “Wild” doesn’t even begin to cover the audience. It was all right in the beginning; my only problem then was there were lots of tall people in front. I was standing on my tiptoes in the middle, hoping that I’d get to see the whole band in the whole duration of the concert.

“Can you see anything onstage?” I asked a girl randomly, seeing that she’s having the same dilemma as me. The tall chatty guys sandwiching us were not helping.

“No,” she answered with a sheepish smile. “I’m just going to watch from the monitors. I’m too short!”
“So am I,” I laughed. “I’m practically a hobbit.”

“Welcome to the club!” she laughed back.

I wasn’t even able to get the girl’s name when suddenly, at the first blast of notes, we’re enmeshed in a true-blue moshpit. We’re squished, squeezed, crushed, and pressed together. I should be relishing the moment—Hayley’s just a few arm spans away from me!—but the first thing that occupied my head was “Where’s my freaking inhaler?!” I wanted to detach myself from the throng, but believe me, I felt like I’m surgically attached to everyone there. My lungs were starting to act funny and prove me once again they suck at being lungs. After three songs, a small gaggle beside me perhaps figured out they’d die in there too, so they started to inch their way away from the crowds. I followed suit, mouthing a goodbye to my newfound, nameless friend.

I found Debbie, our photographer for the event, wide-eyed and standing at the sides. She told me she couldn’t stay in there, that she actually fell and was lucky enough not to get stomped by the rabid fans. The thing here is that Debbie and I were no virgins to concerts; Debbie was rocking with punks and metalheads in PULP Summer Slams ever since she can remember, and I’ve been to gigs of artists with fairly gigantic fanbases. The wildness of Para-whores were really just surprising to us.


So yeah, focus back on stage: Hayley Williams is indeed a human firecracker. It’s not only because of her hair, it’s also about how she commanded the stage with all her fiery intensity. The moment she popped into view, her back to the megacrowds and fist raised high as if to lead the revolution she sparked a few years ago, you’d know the concert meant more than just a sonic party for the fans.

The band opened with “Now,” a new single from their yet-to-be-released album. Everybody was singing their hearts out; the lyrics “Lost the battle, win the war!” and “If there’s a future we want it now!” shook the arena. Those who were seated on the Lower and Upper Boxes as well as the ones in Gen-Ad were on their feet.


The set list was eclectic; there were tracks from Riot!, Brand New Eyes, and even from All We Know is Falling. The arena echoed with the audience’s voices as Hayley let them sang the first verse of “That’s What You Get” and let them squeal on some parts of “Born for This.” The band blasted their best on the tracks “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic,” “Decode,” “Renegade,” Pressure,” and “Careful.”

In between tracks, Hayley opened the rather touchy issue: their past tumultuous years as a band. “The last two years were hard,” she confessed, referring to their experiences in the wake of brothers Zac and Josh Farros’ departure. “We’ve been through a lot but we made it through. We can’t be more grateful for what we have right now. To play music—it’s such a gift, an honor. It was you guys and everyone around the world who encouraged us with your stories.”


The musical merriment went on after the emotional spiel. To balance the heavy power pop in the show’s first half, Hayley sat down and performed an acoustic version of “In the Morning” that was interspersed with a few snippets from “Landslide.” As expected, the next song was the crowd favorite “The Only Exception.” The whole arena was studded with firefly-like glows as every cell phone and every iPad was raised and swayed against the pitch blackness of the venue. Everyone was also crooning along.


After a couple of more songs, the band bade goodbye to the droves of sweating fans who obviously wanted more. Their screaming pleas were granted when the trio (plus their session sticksman) tumbled back onstage for their encore performance. “Hello Cold World” was a perfect duet of the band and the audience.

But perhaps it was on the last song, “Misery Business,” that wrapped the whole thing up with an unforgettable ribbon: Hayley picked up a lucky fangirl onstage to sing with her! The mob was torn between being overly happy for the girl and for being too envious and wishing she was them. They were cheering all the same, and it was one helluva last number. Vanessa, the girl, rocked out and hugged and practically went crazy onstage while giving her best singing the anthemic Riot! single.

For everyone who exited the door, this night is surely one for the books.

Photos by Magic Liwanag.
Don’t forget to grab a back issue of Gala magazine, where I penned a better and more complete post-cov write-up of the concert (sans the bloggery inanities). The event wouldn't be possible without Ovation Productions.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Unlocking a new world.


“A book is like a key that fits into the tumbler of the soul. Two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then—click—a world opens.”

-Brad Kessler

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Review: A Monster Calls

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Low Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★★


Humans are hoarders by design. We nestle every memory in our heart’s deepest cove, we stock lessons in our mind’s safest banks, and we keep piles of skeletons in our most secured closets. When it comes to these dark little secrets, we only let brief episodes of embarrassment follow the accidental tumbling of bone bits. But when we’re talking about the ones that are decaying beyond recognition, we do our best to keep them at the very back—no bone, no tendon jutting out. For all we know, they belong in the dark.

A Monster Calls’ Connor O’Malley has one such skeleton. He tries to keep it concealed while dealing with a hurricane of unfortunate events: his divorced mother is dying of cancer, his relationship with his grandmother is getting out of hand, his classmates are bullying him, and his father is living with the new wife. Because of this, Connor becomes angry, desperate, and too world-weary for someone so young. He doesn’t have any form of shield when his qualms attack him.

And you know what they say: we create our own monsters when we let our worst fears clobber us. The “monster” comes for Connor in the form of the yew tree in their backyard. He stays unafraid however, as he has seen worse things, like the “falling” nightmares that haunt him often. But the Monster seems to know what Connor keeps inside himself. It brings three profound stories and says that by the end of the third tale, Connor must tell a fourth, which should be “the truth.” Would Connor be ready to verbalize it? Would he have the guts to kick the closet door open and let the raw reality out? Would he be able to finally let himself—and anyone shackled by this truth—free by uttering the taboo words he so wanted to let out?

Patrick Ness is a name omnipresent in every YA shelf that I check. From all the accolades I heard are festooning his works, I expected him to be a force to be reckoned with. And indeed he is. A Monster Calls, the first from his oeuvre that I picked up, is the kind of literature that speaks of the harshest realities without appearing to be a tome of cruel pessimism. It’s a children’s book that’s so grownup that adults are guaranteed to get a bulky amount of substantial inspiration from it; it’s an adult book that has a heart of a true kid, making it accessible to both the young once and the young ones. It’s honest and raw in a way that doesn’t damage the soul. It refuses to be put under one label or genre; it’s a work of art that just is.
A Monster Calls is many things, really. It amazes me how so much truth about human nature can be condensed in such a thin novel.

Ness developed the book from the original idea of Siobhan Dowd, an English author who died of breast cancer before she could write the whole story. Sometimes I wonder if it would have the same effect on me had Dowd wrote it, but in the end I knew that it was both Ness and Dowd that I read. Clutching that knowledge to my heart has somehow magnified the novel’s power on me, I guess. Dowd had everything from a detailed premise to plot points to characters. What she lacked was time, and Ness made himself an instrument to fill that in.

Teeming with well-developed characters and studded with life lessons we should imbibe to the last drop, A Monster Calls is one of those books that don’t need thorough analysis. It bares its treasures for everyone to see the moment you get past its flyleaf.

Four stars for a stunning read.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Color Manila Run (Blogberry Uplate)

What’s better than going through hurricanes of pulverized rainbows? Doing it with your friends! Last January 6, the Gala girls turned into human canvases  as we tumbled and dashed through gigantic puffs of polychrome in Color Manila Run. It’s a fun run that gives nods to Holi, India’s Festival of Colors, with a touch that would effortlessly lure out health buffs from their nooks. Give the zombie chasers a rest, yes? Time to get crazy with Crayola hues!

…and a millisecond later, a car honked at us.

I’m covering the event for our magazine’s February issue (I think it’s still available in bookstores, so please grab a copy! The post-event coverage there was more comprehensive and readable than these bloggery inanities, haha!). Bonifacio Global City was teeming with life even before the break of dawn; there were lots of lively warm up, dancing, and animated chatting. Just imagining how everybody’s immaculate white shirts would be spattered with every hue imaginable was enough to get me extremely excited! Our gaggle was part of the 1.5km wave, so we’ve got time to watch the others run before our turn.

“I’ll roll on the ground just to get the colors to stick onto my shirt,” I remarked—initially in jest—when we noticed how the colored powders weren’t doing much to “paint” the runners of 10km, 5km, and 3km.
“I would, too,” Pola agreed eagerly. “So? Game?”

We were tense with excitement as we watched the timer’s nixies deplete to zero. And we did as planned: we rolled onto the carpets of pink and yellow and purple. We became instant favorites of cameramen and videographers because of that; we even ended up in the event’s official teaser video for the organizers’ next run.

colorrun3 Japan trip frustration: I’ll pretend those are powdered cherry blossoms.

It was only Sir Ferdie who stayed true to the “run” part. The rest of us just latched onto the “fun” part, walking and jogging, leaping in front of the “color guns” and photo-bombing our way to the finish line. Everybody got a medal. We also snatched packets of the colored powders, as we were told that we’re going to be a part of the first ever Color Festival in the country. :p

ColorRun2Walkathoners ‘til the end!

A few minutes after nine, everybody  was told to go to the activity area. It took us some time before the crowd grew in the middle, as the sun was already up and was starting to send out its scorching rays. But gather we did and soon enough, the whole BGC was engulfed in clouds of colors:


The whole thing was leaning heavier on the foggy side than the colorful side, to be quite honest. Gala girls who went to another color run (Live More Run) said the powder used on the latter was more vibrant, but that didn’t actually deter us from enjoying this. We could even say it’s one of the happiest and most memorable runs we’ve participated in (Outbreak Manila’s anniversary special was just around the corner, but since it’s still not happened yet, we’re going to tag CMR as the most fun).


Like scores of other runners, we went to McDonald’s and grabbed our brunch, ignoring the curious glances of people at our unwashed appearance.

Soon: Color Manila Nite Run…maybe. :p