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On Homeland. October 25, 2012

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Oh You Know, TV.

At the time of writing, Homeland is airing its second season, just a few days after the fourth episode, and it demands to be written because that particular episode, wittingly called “New Car Smell,” illustrates how political thrillers should be made. It’s no doubt a masterclass in writing and direction, its pacing like a live wire waiting to be touched, and when touched explodes in the end, which actually happens in its mind-blowing conclusion that feels like an early but by no means premature season finale. The brilliance of Homeland lies in its unpredictability, and this is not just unpredictability for the sake of suspense but also of something that reveals a kind of fearlessness that its pool of ace writers has managed to deliver since the first season, making the viewers feel as if the episodes are conceived and taped at that very moment, the plot turns never random but always impulsive, the narrative arcs of Carrie and Brody, as well as their family baggage, meeting without actually seeing each other, their emotional intensities equaled by no one but themselves. For a show that features two main characters that rarely meet in person, Homeland knows when to hurl its most deafening grenades. That particular sequence when Carrie and Brody meet at a hotel bar is quite similar to the time they spent in the cabin one weekend, only the former is more taxing because neither is drunk and both are more frightening when they’re not under the influence of alcohol, especially Carrie because she has a plan in mind that she’s going to carry through no matter what, regardless of instructions given by Saul, Estes or Quinn, and simply because she is a manic and ruthless intelligence officer. Claire Danes portrays her with massive keenness, displaying a kind of demeanor that leaves the viewer in awe of her dramatic range, too focused to be bothered by anything trivial yet too sensitive to miss the complexity of casual details. She’s like a plane that always experiences turbulence, and unfortunately for the people around her she refuses to put her seat belt on. Any one or any thing that can make her feel uncomfortable or can loosen the screws in her head is welcome, and Brody, episode after episode, does so on various levels of terrifying intensity. Damian Lewis provides him with human and beastly qualities that shred the character in little pieces, only to be picked up and put together again. At this point, who cares about the logic of madness? At the rate it’s going, Homeland doesn’t seem to care for its audience’s nerves. Wherever its story turns up, in the Middle East or in the woods in Gettysburg, one can only expect brilliant anomalies, and in the crazy scheme of things, those fractures can easily suffice.


Aliwan Paradise circa 2011: Willie Revillame’s New Record Low March 30, 2011

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Shame, TV.

Ang Empresaryo sa Aliwan Paradise (Southern Winds, 1993)

Ang Empresaryo sa Willing Willie (TV5, 2011)

After watching that video entitled “Willing Willie feat. JAN-JAN ang batang ASTIG sumayaw! (March 12, 2011)” I can’t help but bounce between sorriness and rage. I’ve seen a whole lot of Wowowee episodes before—my incredible idleness allowing me to stomach three hours of misogynistic and homophobic remarks from Willie—but this particular clip is just way beyond infuriating: It’s utterly disgusting.

It’s a masterpiece of foul TV hosting, a ten-minute display of social realism treated so mundane and harrowing, it unsettles any sensible viewer no end. Also, as a documentary filled with many highlights—exhibited by that unbelievable flow of interest among its four subjects: Jan-Jan, Willie, Jan-Jan’s aunt, and the supportive audience—its final moment hits the hardest. It’s a scene worthy of comparison to the opening sequence of Burlesk Queen, or to Allan Paule’s miserable dance in Macho Dancer, only the person I see in Willing Willie is a six-year old Julio Madiaga, not from Brocka’s film but from Mike de Leon’s parody of it: Aliwan Paradise.

Every word from the movie’s sensational tagline fits: “Hindi tradisyonal! Hindi basta bago kundi higit pa sa bago! Bagong bago!” Also, it’s not unlikely that the film’s closing statements, delivered by the great Empresaryo Johnny Delgado, are the foundation of Willie Revillame’s cre(e)d:

(1) “Nasa paglalantad ng ating tunay na kalagayan ang bagong bagong aliwan. At ang bagong bagong entertainer, marunong gumamit ng kahirapan.”

(2) “Mayaman tayo sa kahirapan. Kaya ito dapat ang gawin nating puhunan. Napakahalagang natural resource nito. Kaya gawing aliwan ang kahirapan. . . nang pagkakitaan.”

(3) “Madaling mapaganda ang kahirapan. Konting packaging lang, ayos na! At ang export potential? Heavy! Tunay na produkto ng Third World. At kahit burahin pa nila ang Third World sa bokabularyo, hindi nila maiaalis ang kahirapan.” (Doy del Mundo)

As consumers of this unique type of entertainment, we have become responsible for Jan-Jan, for the damage the show has done to him in mere ten minutes, the extent of which he will never grasp at his age, nor his aunt cheering him as he dirty dances, but whose effect will linger for the rest of his life. The uploader of the video, titling it like that, literal and straightforward, like it’s a negligible case of wholesome comedy, may have not realized the storm it would cause. But then again: it’s Aliwan Paradise.

Why don’t we go ahead and send this film to Cannes?

On Magkaribal November 3, 2010

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Noypi, TV, Whatever.

Last night’s episode of Magkaribal was dedicated especially to Gretchen Barretto. It was an acting piece—rife with compellingly repentant dialogues and sheepish expressions that showcase her newly-found skill: camp by seduction. Boy, was she challenged. As the camera zoomed in to focus on her face and glided to catch the tear falling from her eye, honestly, we were all having an incredibly hearty laugh. And as her chest heaved and her earrings dangled, much to our delight, we were relishing the apogee of Victoria Valera’s remorse, which we didn’t even know she was capable of having, but expected it any way since this is Philippine drama: one is required to forgive and feel an awful lot of guilt. Gretchen is at her finest in Magkaribal; you could even call it an attempt to “biographize” her. You could tell she enjoys every moment of it. Every time she appears she radiates with elegance. She’s calm and fierce, ready to attack any minute. That scene I mentioned when she was talking to Louie and asking about Gelai’s past—bit by bit putting the pieces together and arriving at the conclusion that Gelai is indeed Angela, her long lost sister—she embraced Louie as if holding onto him for support; but what struck me was her overwhelming desire to hug him, regardless of what she found out, to rekindle the emotions that they used to share together. That, I guess, is the reason we can’t get enough of Gretchen—she never fails to spark interest. She can have us imagine things. How many takes did it take her to let that tear fall just in time for the camera? Did she request for a longer “holding time” with Derek Ramsay? How does she feel about every belligerent confrontation with Angel Aquino and Bea Alonzo, in which some of their lines are too true to be good in real life? Oh, Gretchen, thy gnawing grace!

Other plots staled toward the end—Caloy and Chloe’s romance and Louie’s plain lifelessness, in particular—except for Vera’s revenge, Vera played magnificently by Angel Aquino. You could tell that Victoria is not threatened by Gelai but by Vera. In fact, the only time Gretchen’s acting becomes deliciously effective is when Victoria and Vera crash tête-à-tête. Neither of the two provides any hint of cowering, but one always gets to have the nasty sneer as they part ways. Vera Cruz belongs to that elite group of remarkable soap characters—Selina of Mula sa Puso: Amor Powers and Claudia Buenavista of Pangako Sa ‘Yo; Yuri and Katrina of Kaytagal Kang Hinintay; Corazon Berenguer of Maging Sino Ka Man; Katherine, Scarlet, and Isadora of Iisa Pa Lamang; Nurse Jane and Dr. Clarissa Briones of Habang May Buhay—and there’s no mistaking that almost all of them are women.  Their personage shares the same thing: an evil always reformed in the end. While Victoria is often victorious, Vera is always voluptuous. Vera outshines Victoria, but that is because only Vera can outshine Victoria; and if Gretchen wants her newly-acquired fans to stay, she must have someone like Angel to throw her wrath at.

In the meantime, three nights to go and three nights to rub it all in. Let’s pull some hair.