Neomanila (Directed by Mikhail Red)

My rating: 4 of 5

Neomanila follows a classic noir that features a perspective behind the extra-judicial killings in Manila: one that is caught in the middle of the drug war. This is of the hitmen. Two of them, Irma and Raul, work together as a partner until “saved” by a Makati boy named Toto, whom they recruit eventually. The story then continues as Toto enters the world which he is not supposed to as a boy, thereby losing his innocence in the process.

Following Birdshot, Red’s personality as a director can be seen even more in this movie. Comparing these two works I’ve watched from him, Red likes to tackle politically-relevant issues in a subtle but critical way. He’s not preachy on this, too; he takes an issue, presents it on a different light, and leaves the audience to answer questions for themselves. In Neomanila, Red does these by starting in medias res, where the drug war is rampant and the EJKs never stop. The main characters, caught between the whole mess, choose to get involved even more just for the money they earn, and maybe even for passion. A lot of the scenes take place at night, and the movie’s artistic cinematography proves itself to be praise-worthy with several aesthetic shots of the lights of Makati.

However, despite Red’s attempt of delivering a message through the whole film, his style of ambiguity brings the movie down. It’s clear that he wants to make the audience answer questions for themselves, but lack of proper context combined with several “supposedly-implied” meanings make the movie dragging until it nears the end, which apparently has a turn that raises a new question to be answered again. While it is true that not everything has to be spoon-fed to the audience, it is also worth noting that not everything has to be restrained. Furthermore, the characters who are supposed to be bold and raw turn out to be loosely formed–it’s, then again, up to the audience to decide who they really are and what’s behind them.

Unlike Birdshot, which has enough context and enough ambiguity to deliver a message that can be concluded by the audience on the same level, Neomanila provides either a satisfying or unsatisfying intellectual value, and it is up to the audience how they would receive the “impact”. Personally, Neomanila is excellent as an art, but not as a movie.

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The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The VegetarianThe Vegetarian by Han Kang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Vegetarian Review

The Vegetarian is a narrative about a once-normal woman, Yeong-hye, who decides to become vegetarian after a particular dream followed by a series similar to it. Although being a vegetarian is not necessarily wrong, Yeong-hye decides to take this to the next level by being paranoid with the taste of anything but plant-based food, until she considers becoming “one with nature” in the end.

The story is pretty straight-forward and it does not have any unnecessary fillers—it begins with Yeong-hye deciding to become a vegetarian so that it sets the botanical, lunatic atmosphere all-throughout the book. As a thriller, this is a plus for the book since including only the relevant sub-plots make it fast-paced and compelling to be read. The book is also told in third-person, but in each of the three sections, there is a character that is followed by our narrator: the husband, the brother-in-law, and the sister. Personally, the first section is the most captivating because we see how Yeong-hye starts to develop an excruciated character while the other two sections develop this character, but by this time, we will have grown accustomed to it. This is why I don’t find the rest of the book as mind-fucking as other people would claim; Yeong-hye’s character already grew on me, and I guessed the path where she was headed.

In the end, The Vegetarian takes into account the critical and rare condition of a mentally-ill person, and it does its job well with the pacing and the shifts of the characters to focus on. It’s a good novel to read when you’re feeling weird.

3.5/5

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Birdshot (Directed by Mikhail Red)

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Birdshot is not for everyone, but let me at least convince you that it is deserving for appreciation.

Birdshot is a mystery-thriller that centers on two perspectives: the family of Diego Mariano, who works as a caretaker and lives with her daughter, Maya, and the local police. It also focuses on two “to-be-solved” cases: the missing bus, along with the passengers inside it, and the disappearance of the Philippine eagle from the local sanctuary.

What makes it good is the mystery itself because it’s the thing that keeps the tension from the movie’s viewers–making them feel intrigued until the end. Character development is also a factor, especially for Domingo, a rookie cop. Most of all, the intellectual value of the movie persists even after you watch it. Birdshot is about the HDA Luisita Massacre that, up to now, has still not received the justice it deserves. It effectively uses cinematographic elements to capture objects that are open for interpretation and thought. Although it makes you think even after the lights turn on, the message didn’t want to be open-ended so that it is clear: corruption and abuse from the system are easy to create yet difficult to douse.

It is better to watch this one blindly, but prepare yourself with an open mind for a disgusting truth that has been overlooked as time passed.

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

The Taming of the ShrewThe Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Did a really long review only to find out it hadn’t saved. Goodreads, please add an autosave function.

I don’t want to type all of that again, but basically my review boils into one thing: the play is to be taken ironically. Katherine’s transformation is an exaggeration to “Renaissance ideals” and “male fantasies”. In other words, they only exist in a play, hence, a comedy on how impractical men can think sometimes. Y’all need to wake up.

Loved this book because of how it made me chuckle and think at the same time.

5/5

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When He Said He Hated Poetry

[Free Verse]

When he said he hated poetry
Words and lines of form and beauty
It was in truth for you

When he was dry as a desert floor
Speaking less without wanting more
It was so because of you

When he beamed like a summer day
In eyes and cheeks and lips all the way
It was not meant for you

When he shut the door after a glance
And the world stood in a trance
It was all inside of you

When Bliss gave her taste a spoonful
And after you swallowed it a mouthful
It was bitter

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Flowers in the Attic (Dollanganger, #1)Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Flowers in the Attic Review

 

Love. How often that word came up in books. Over and over again. If you had wealth and health, and beauty and talent . . . you had nothing if you didn’t have love. Love changed all that was ordinary into something giddy, powerful, drunken, enchanted.

Of course, this isn’t a story about love. Far from it . . .

Cathy and her three siblings; Christopher, Cory, and Carrie; grew several years in a normal, middle-class family. However, after they lost their father from an accident, all of the responsibility had to be left to their “dear” mother. As a woman who depended on her husband, ignorant to the harsh realities of life, their mother decided to take them to her parents’ house. This wasn’t just any house, though. It was more of a modern palace: a mansion. But why hadn’t she told them this before? Why did they have to live in an underwhelming house when she had all the luxury? All these were explained as soon as the children had been brought to the attic on one evening, where they had been reasoned that they would only stay for a night — or a couple. Naively, the kids agreed, knowing just a few nights would justify all the riches they would have in the future. But how is trust reasonable when they knew that they would be locked up in the attic in the first place?

Flowers in the Attic was, in one word, haunting. It was a mix of everything: innocence, grief, hatred, greed, maturity, adolescence, and, of course, lust. The story progressed slowly, giving its readers a realistic perspective of how maturity can come with doubt, indifference with greed, and affection intimacy. Who could blame them, anyway? Locked away in the attic, the two oldest siblings, Chris and Cathy, had to act as parents for the young twins, Cory and Carrie. All the while, they did what they had to to keep them distracted — from decorating the attic to exploring new hobbies. But that wasn’t everything.

Aside from its gradual, thrilling progression, Flowers in the Attic was a win because of our narrator — Cathy. She may be annoying, but her menacingly pessimistic view sets the general mood of the book. I wouldn’t say it’s a horror, nor a thriller, but rather a mature young adult that exhibits emotion and narrative, like a classic tale. Because Andrews was a natural story teller, each chapter was exceptionally written in great detail. Amazingly, Andrews managed to keep me enticed through vivid imagery, intensity, longing, and the desire to know what happens to children left in a peculiar situation. But emotion surpassed all. Andrews’ characters delivered such emotion that can be felt with meticulous dialogue. Readers could feel giddy with Carrie’s chatter, compassionate with Cory’s pleas, inspired with Chris’ optimism, and ruthless with Cathy’s straightforward words.

As a reviewer, it bothers me to see only some flaws (or even none at all!) in the book, though maybe it’s only as exceptional as that. Granted, this book is not for anyone, but definitely worth the read.

5/5

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Reminders

[Ballad]

Don’t feel special when there’s a start
of a conversation in a screen
She will either give one word to part
or leave you with a hopeless “seen”

Don’t feel special when you meet an eye
With the same black pupils so wide
For those few seconds are a lie
Even though they seem to confide

Don’t feel special when her lips open
to utter words or show a smile
Even when she sounds outspoken
It will only last for a while

Don’t feel special when she lends you
the music that causes her to groove
Everyone does that; nothing new
She only wants you to approve

Don’t feel special when you see ink
that dances around your forearm
It only takes your eyes to blink
to see that it is just her charm

Don’t feel special when you find yourself
with the same crowd she frequents to
Like a book just added to her shelf
You are but pushed through and piled onto

Don’t feel special when you get as close
as two bushes appearing as one
For when you feel lone and need her the most,
She will be there with her sympathy gone