#MMFF2016: Let’s Take a Chance on Saving Sally.

I haven’t made an effort to watch any of the entries to the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) lineup in the past few years. In between all the cash cows and the award baits, I just didn’t want to. I tried once with my dad, and I can’t even remember what that year was, nor what the film was about. This year – 2016! – there’s a different story.

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To say that this year’s MMFF lineup is controversial would be an understatement. Big companies and the masses they pull on a string made quite an uproar on the change of criteria the MTRCB used to screen the MMFF entries for this year. On the other hand, independent filmmakers and their supporters yelled out hooray.

I’m part of the latter group. I take the controversy this year’s festival brought as a good thing. Finally! Finally, we are moving forward.

The independent film scene has been booming over the years. And yet, mainstream Filipino cinema is still constrained to worn-out love stories and brainless comedies. For the first time in decades, there is a documentary in the festival’s lineup! I haven’t seen it, but I will when I have the time.

How I envy those who still treat these days as holiday vacation. I’m back to work (I never left!) and am left with only one alternative – sneak in a film before I have to go to the office.

Thank goodness for my close proximity to a local mall. I was able to catch the first showing of Saving Sally today. It’s on the top of my MMFF must-watch list, and I’m glad I took the time to see it.

My problem with the past MMFF’s was the entries they were showing were either cash cows with no plot, or immensely dark and serious films they snuck in just to say that the entire festival was not just a payday for the country’s already established media corporations. And Shake, Rattle & Roll. You can’t have an MMFF without a Shake, Rattle & Roll. I’ve lost count how many there have been.

I’m not going to bash on these films. They all have their merits, but they lack something that I believe all works of art should have. Heart.

Art is best when it tells a story. When it simply tells a story. There are no other agendas. They are not after the paycheck, nor the recognition. They just want to share something.

It was said that Saving Sally was made within the span of more than a decade. It had to be reshot, recast and redone over and over again, and I just have to say – all of their hard work was surely worth it.

From the very start, the film made audiences aware that it was a very typical love story unfolding in front of them. In this day and age, it is impossible to do away with stereotypes and clichés. Although I refuse to believe it, in one way or another, every story’s already been told. The only way to go about is to tell a story differently.

What I was reminded of when the animation began to blend in with the live action was the early days of Walt Disney when he put together cartoons and people. We weren’t exactly brought to a different world, but we were allowed to see the world differently.

Basically, Marty and Sally are the classic pair of best friends. They’re weird in their own ways, they have a secret language going between them, and Marty’s in love with Sally. Like most halves of a best-friend-in-love-with-his-or-her-best-friend pair, Marty’s too chicken to admit it. In Filipino, we call that word torpe.

And yet, he does everything for her. When she gets a boyfriend – just when he was about to admit his feelings for her! – he serves as their messenger to get past her ultra-strict parents. Again, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s maybe something we’ve even seen for ourselves. Admit it, we’ve all been there.

And that’s the thing. When we go through challenges and difficulties in life, it feels like such a grand spectacle to all of us, but what we go through are mostly mundane everyday tribulations. Remember that boy you liked in high school? Just one wrong word from him, and you felt like the whole world was ending.

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That was how Marty made us feel all throughout the film, and he did it so flawlessly with his illustrations and the animations the filmmakers supplied us with. I loved it.

Here I go with what I didn’t like about the film, though.

When Marty was drunk in N(D/Pr)ick’s car, he called him out for dancing with another girl at a club. Maybe it was just TJ Trinidad’s acting, but I really believed N(D/Pr)ick when he said he would never do that to Sally. I wanted it to go to that direction. I prayed to the heavens that they would eventually fall out because the age difference wasn’t working for them. But no, Marty’s interpretation of N(D/Pr)ick was accurate. He was a dick, and a prick.

Adding in Sally’s abusive parents added another layer to her character. However, they didn’t do much with her parents. Why were they abusive? They can’t just be abusive. There has to be a reason. For the purposes of this story, though, they were just abusive. Perhaps its something the filmmakers could no longer delve into with the timeframe that they had, but the deeper layer it added was a particularly thin one given that the abuse she suffers is not rooted in something realer than what it was.

I loved how Marty’s unwitting confession played out. They went to college. Lost touch. Found new people to be around, new people to love. It was so real. It felt so real, watching them live lives separate from one another’s. THAT’S HOW LIFE IS. I don’t even notice when people who used to mean so much to me pass by anymore. It’s not because they don’t mean anything to me anymore, it’s just that I have a different life now, and so do they. I simply passed them by, as life has passed and is passing all of us by.

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I’m not the biggest fan of when they got back together, but a film like this had to have a happy, satisfying ending. It was. The rocket? I loved that. I knew Sally wasn’t a damsel in distress! I’ll spare this post from my misgivings about the title. At the end of a day, it was a nice way to end their story.

It is the small things in life that makes it worthwhile. That smile from the woman you love? A heartwarming moment with your parents? These are priceless. In the same vein, it was the small things that really made this film. It was these as well that made me love it.

I would definitely love to go to Sandara Park one day. I loved that reference the filmmakers snuck in. I loved the almost faceless but very alive monsters that roamed the city along with Marty and Sally, though I do wish they had more purpose. (Only one character had a human and monster form. What is the distinction? Why was one security guard in human form? Why was everyone else cartoon monsters?)

I loved this film. It made me remember what it was like to be young and in love, to be hopeful. It made me feel all fuzzy inside.

Saving Sally will not win any major awards, but it’s got a special place in my heart, as well as the hearts of many other satisfied viewers just like me. I encourage everyone to give this – and all the other MMFF entries this year – a chance. Let’s make mainstream Filipino cinema great again. Let’s make it real, honest. Let’s make it touch lives for more than just a few laughs. Next up on my to-watch list, Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeversNotEnough.

A Review on Colleen Hoover’s Maybe Someday

I think Maybe Someday (MS) is the first real New Adult novel I’ve read. I’ve read really adult novels (not the kinky kind!). Damn, Revolutionary Road was heavy. I’ve also read young adult novels, because duh. If we define New Adult novels by merely the timeframe in which these take place, this would not be my first. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Sandy Hall’s A Little Something Different would have gone first. Those were so fluffy, though. This was real.

This is my first Colleen Hoover novel. I haven’t really heard of her, but while I was browsing goodreads.com to find my next read, I came across Maybe Someday and liked the summary it provided. And so I thought, why not?

The story is about a girl named Sydney who finds herself practically homeless after finding out the truth between her roommate and boyfriend of two years. The guitar-playing boy she used to watch from their balcony takes her in with the condition that she helps him write lyrics for his band. He happens to be deaf, but so what?

From reading the synopsis alone, I did not think that Ridge would be deaf. Based on the first few chapters, I didn’t think he was deaf. And so, I was pleasantly surprised when it was later revealed to me that yup, he was.

I don’t know much about deaf culture. Most of it, I learned from Nyle DiMarco of America’s Next Top Model Cycle 22, and the groundbreaking ABC Family series, Switched at Birth (SAB). I love Switched at Birth. And so, because of how well Maybe Someday dealt with Ridge’s deafness, I loved it too.

Emmett Bledsoe from SAB – and the real deaf actor who plays him, Sean Berdy – is a master of the drums. How can that be when he can’t hear, you may ask. Well, he’s deaf. And so, he relies on the vibrations of the drums to tell him the beat he should be playing, the rhythm he should be following. Ridge plays the guitar in a similar way. These two characters are just living (fictional, but living) proof that you can’t really ‘dis abilities.

With that being said, I still had my problems with Ridge. In all honesty, I loved him. How could you not love someone who was that perfect? And there goes the very reason why I had my problems with him. He was too perfect. Throw in a tragic back story that would just make you love him even more.

I’ve read too many YA novels with boys who are just too perfect to be real. That’s precisely why they were in the novels and not in real life. I know, I must be skeptical. But still. What was Ridge’s fault? He was confused by his feelings for Sydney and his long-term girlfriend, Maggie?

I fell in love with SAB partly because of Bay (Vanessa Marano) and Emmett’s love story. I was expecting a Daphne (Katie Leclerc) and Emmett romance to blossom, but how naturally Bay and Emmett fell into each other was just too breathtaking for words. Of course, Emmett being deaf, and Bay not knowing any sign language at the beginning of their relationship was also a plus. It was amazing watching them learn how to communicate with one another.

Ridge in MS didn’t have verbal words to say, and so he relied on text messages, notes, laptops. I just have to wonder if any guy – or person even, in this day and age – would write as lengthily as Ridge (and also Sydney!) does. They both do it so fast, I couldn’t really believe it. Or maybe I’m just nitpicking.

But that was how they communicated. Poetically.

The romance between Ridge and Sydney felt slow at first, and then it became too quick for words. They’re attracted to each other, we get it. They connected over music and lyrics. Each songwriting session was nothing less than physical and emotional tension fighting each other.

Ridge and Sydney could have started a relationship the moment they laid eyes on each other. But then again, there won’t be any MS. What makes MS is the presence of Maggie, Ridge’s long-time girlfriend who has a secret of her own.

It felt so much like a Nicholas Sparks move to throw Maggie’s illness at the readers, but it was essential. I loved their love story even more than I did Ridge and Sydney’s. And so, I better understood why they had to break up in the end. I got where Maggie was coming from. I wouldn’t have wanted to be with Ridge either, no matter how much either of us loved each other.

The push-and-pull between Ridge and Sydney got tiring after a while. Just be together, please. Watching (reading!) you guys fight your urge got really annoying. But okay, they’re adults. They can’t just jump into a relationship because they feel like it. It doesn’t work that way. Such is life.

Spoiler alert! They do get together in the end, though. And it was satisfying, in every sense of the word. I watched Sydney pull a Bay and (FINALLY) learn sign language after the months she spent away from Ridge. In the end, Ridge something that Emmett never did for Bay in SAB. He spoke again. I don’t know if I would have done that for a girl I barely knew. I don’t think I would have even shared as much as I did to a girl I barely knew. But then again (and again and again and again), this is fiction.

I definitely recommend reading this novel! I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars. After having read the entire thing, I immediately tried to search for the songs that were featured in it, and thank God an angel named Griffin Peterson transposed it from lyrics in a novel to real music that you can watch on YouTube. I’ll leave some of it here for you to enjoy.

Maybe Someday

I’m In Trouble

Let It Begin

 

Manila

Mornings begin with the sound of your voice

tugging at ears a blend of screeching tires

and inaudible words set at the highest volume.

Your smile calls to wake up each and every day

at six thirty in the morning sharp, seven at most.

A method you have perfected over the years

caters to the needs of all your children;

the right amount of light to blind eyes awake,

an excess of heat to force off the bed.

You push out of the door, into the street,

into a multicolored rainforest with waters

infested with crocodiles and snakes

whose day jobs prescribe hours in the office,

and a lush filled with brothers and sisters

of the same color, the same blood, different directions.

A mother that forces her child out into the jungle,

without food or money to last the day,

with nothing but the endurance he has cultivated

over his years under her wing.

Guided by the rush of the life you have set

but confused by the congestion and stagnancy

of those who live it, he is left to stand

in the middle of a footbridge, above

a sea of cars that have ceased to go on,

amidst a current of people that move

from here to there, with his hand

stretched out towards them.

Anna Karenina

An approaching horn’s noise

deafens all who have ears.

The platform is shaking

with each feeble pebble

dancing on iron rails.

 

A woman on the edge,

decked head-to-toe in black;

a lavish purse, dangling,

its hue reminiscent

of her quivering lips.

 

Heels clacking, fidgeting

on the wooden floor,

 

mumbling;

What am I doing? Why?

 

A moment, a stillness;

seconds compressed in time.

 

A cloud of smoke rolls in.

fog as the train arrives.

God, forgive me ev’rything!

The black mist fades away,

dissipating slowly.

 

People shift in, shift out.

A red bag lies on the

edge of the platform, stepped

on by foot after foot.

The commotion ensues.

Victoria

I stood on the southern shore of Tsim Sha Tsui

the night before I left, to tell you goodbye.

Before dusk underneath the clock tower, as promised,

amidst faces all the same, waiting. Slowly,

you lit up the sky, as the dark settled in.

Your rough, gray skin glowed, replacing the stars.

Beneath you the harbor comes alive, along with the current,

and the boats, and the ferry who resembles a vision of you

from years long ago. I have shared you for too long

with millions just like me. The same dance every night

for both hellos and goodbyes – a ballet of lights,

blue, yellow, gray, and white, I mistook for you and I.

Goodbye, I whispered into thin air, listen.

A new love has swept me to a place far away.

Silence. Your breath crashed with the waves,

tapping on the pier, fragrant as the sea.

The light sprinkle of water are your fingers

brushing against my skin. A murmur into my ear,

so faint a voice. Too late to look back

on what once was. Goodbye, my lover,

I must let you go, back to your stage

above the water where you belong.

Rico Yan

A fan letter —

 
You must know that
I have fashioned every boy
I have fallen in love
with the depth of your dimples
and the sparkle of your smile.

At a tender age of seven years old,
I fell in love with a man who
I saw unfold in front of me
on the screen, through a series
of pictures and sounds.

I fell in love with a man who
smiled more than he should have.
We who adored you from afar
knew not of your world,
and so ours crashed

When the radio blasted the news
of your death on an island far away
from here. You left a mark
unscathed many years since then.

Why I Read This Book — a review on Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

It’s no longer only a matter of what you’re saying. It’s a matter of how you’re saying it.

 

Now that I have a lot of time on my hands, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. It’s the kind of reading I haven’t been able to do in such a long time (it’s a long story). It’s the kind of reading I enjoy. High school! Romance! Discovering yourself!

I’m technically no longer within the ‘young adult’ age bracket, but it’s always been my favorite genre back when I had a lot of time on my hands. And – don’t get mad! – I’m actually reading more of it during this time to improve on my own writing (another long story!). It’s been surprising me how fast I’ve been going through all of them. And, because of that, I thought – why not write reviews about them? Oh, you know you have a lot of feelings.

Well, I do. So bear with me.

I just put down Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up. I started reading it Friday night in the bookstore. And then, I started reading it every spare moment I had. On the commute to work, while waiting for my friends, on the loo…

So here are my thoughts about Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up (WWBU).

I’ve been looking at the hard copy of WWBU on bookstands for AGES. Now, I’ve finally been able to take it home.

danielhandler18thannuallatimesfestivaloiy77v0tkullI caught Daniel Handler at the 2014 LA Times’ Festival of Books, and I fangirled over him so hard even though I never read A Series of Unfortunate Events (I’m sorry!). I’m an aspiring writer. He was like a god to me.

If his name hadn’t been on the cover, I would’ve never thought that Daniel Handler – this big, fuzzy guy I saw on the stage – wrote this book, and I mean it in the best way possible.

The story is about Min Green, Ed Slaterton, and – you guessed it – why they broke up. The premise of it goes a little like this. Min has dropped a box filled with memorabilia from her relationship with Ed on his doorstep. Each of these has notes on them, explaining why they broke up.

9780316127257-whywebrokeup_zoomThe story is told from Min’s point of view. Her voice is very much like that of a teenager. Albeit, a slightly obsessed one. Visually, it wouldn’t be pleasing to read run-on sentences and a lot of repeated words, but that’s how a teenager thinks. As a teenager, I never thought so articulately like the protagonists of my favorite YA novels. And so, to read a story from Min’s point of view was quite refreshing to me.

There have been a lot of YA novels who have tried to piece together the answer to a question by presenting its readers with evidence to unpack. Right off the top of my head, I remember Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. With that being said, the premise wasn’t entirely new.

The story isn’t new either. Min’s this ‘different’ kind of girl who falls into a relationship with the stereotypical jock with a soft side. The last YA novel I read – literally just days before I picked up WWBU – had the same plotline. (It’s To All the Boys I Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han by the way, which I both loved) And I’ve read a dozen more YA novels with the same idea.

With so much already being said, it’s no longer only a matter of what you’re saying. It’s a matter of how you’re saying it.

I enjoyed WWBU because I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories. I loved Min. I loved how she really wasn’t that different, and she really was just trying to find her place in this world. I knew from the very start that Al had feelings of her. It was obvious. It was a cliché. It was a trope. But that didn’t stop me from trying to bottle in all the feelings I had when Al tried to tell Min that.

Because the title of the book imposed it upon me, all throughout my experience of reading it, I kept asking myself, “So, why did they break up?” With every new chapter and every new item that passed by, I formed an idea in my head, and they kept being brought down.

I thought for sure that they would break up because they had sex, because Min just wasn’t ready. I also thought for a moment that they actually broke up because Min had feelings for Al. I didn’t want them to break up for the reasons that they really did.

Ed isn’t the best. He was a dick more than just a couple of times, and I liked that. I hated the idea YA novels have been trying to feed its readers for years. There are perfect guys out there. No. That’s just not true. Everyone has flaws, and Ed was full of them.

I honestly, honestly thought that he loved Min. But in the end, it was revealed – SPOILER ALERT! – that he was just a confused, horny teenager. Okay, maybe he cared for Min. But at the end of the day, they were both too young to know what love was. Hell, I’m still too young.

That revelation, though. It made everything ache. Reading through those few words Ed spurted out to defend himself after his secret’s been revealed made me go back to all those times he was charming, he was sweet. I felt like I was Min in that moment. I was deceived, and that was exactly what Daniel Handler wanted to make his audience feel.

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It’s a good read, I recommend it! Go along with the ride, and have your heart broken along with Min’s.

But I do wonder though – what else is there for YA novels? What else is there for YA romance?

I believe there is so much more. I would love to see a YA romance without a third party, without a love triangle. I would love to see one that embraces the reality of stereotypes rather than transcend them. I want a real YA romance. Because although this was very real – damn was Min’s heartbreak real – it wasn’t really. It was fiction.

No way would Ed read through everything Min wrote. I doubt he’d even look at it. And in all honesty, would a guy like Ed really look at a girl like Min?

We fawn over stories like these because of the likelihood of it happening in real life is very slim (but there is a possibility!). And so, I sincerely hope for a real contemporary YA romance. But until then, I’ll keep reading.

P.S. Kudos to Maira Kalman! I looked forward to every chapter because I knew a new illustration of hers would come along. And those flower petals? Falling and falling, page after page. It was magical.