Man of Steel, Man of Still
by Jared Carl Millan
Man of Steel (2013)
D: Zack Snyder
S: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Christopher Meloni, Laurence Fishburne
The general consensus, it seems, is that there is no general consensus. Everyone who’s seen and reviewed Man of Steel either liked or disliked it or remained somewhere in between. It has, as of this writing, a 56% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an ambivalence in itself. The Chicago Sun-Times said it was underwhelming. IGN called it amazing. What’s curious, however, is that Man of Steel, stripped off of all undue partiality, is simply not a very good film.
Man of Steel is an origin story of Kal-El. It begins on a dying Krypton, as Kal-El is being birthed by his mother. Immediately after—because Zack Snyder has never been known as a paragon of subtlety nor patience—mayhem happens. General Zod obliterates, quite literally, the ruling council. Jor-El steals Krypton’s codex and infuses it into his son’s cells. Kal-El is shot off into the galaxies and onto Earth. General Zod kills Jor-El, and is then captured and banished to the Phantom Zone. Krypton, because of its unstable core, is wiped out.
The next time we see Kal-El, he’s in Kansas and goes by the name Clark Kent, raised and adopted by farm dwellers Jonathan and Martha Kent. Or perhaps I’m mistaken? I seem to remember a scene in which a bewhiskered Clark Kent saved the lives of the helpless in a burning oil rig, a scene which came before the Kent household is shown. It should’ve been easy to tell an origin story from this point onward. But because Superman is perfect, and perfection is boring, David Goyer and Christopher Nolan incorporated into the story a way to humanize the inhuman—angst, as what Nolan did with his other DC hero.
It’s all very well in theory but it hits snags in practice. Instead of a linear narrative, the first half of the film jumps back and forth between the nomadic life of adult Clark and the repudiation of his younger self, struggling to adapt to human life. What should have been a reflective and illuminating sequence instead becomes a disjointed narrative, rough around the edges and generally incoherent.
There’s also the matter of a lackluster script and poor character development. Amy Adams seemed out of place as Lois Lane, not because of her performance, but because of the apathetic script and her lack of chemistry with Henry Cavill. Michael Shannon’s General Zod, although brilliant for the most part, did not feel like a true villain. Ultimately, Cavill’s Clark Kent, though miles ahead of the listless Brandon Routh’s version in Superman Returns, seemed two-dimensional.
With movies like 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and Dawn of the Dead under his belt, there’s little doubt Zack Snyder is a brilliant visual artist who doesn’t skimp, occasionally to his detriment. What Game of Thrones does to nudity, Zack Snyder does to fight sequences: sooner rather than later, one is desensitized to them. The second half of the film feels entirely like a harrowing climactic confrontation which doesn’t end. And Hans Zimmer’s overblown score does little to assuage the building discomfort with which they come. Some of them make for a visual feast, an eleven in the entertainment scale, but the rest offer no true visceral impression, doing little to move the story forward.
There are a few things missing in Man of Steel that I think are worth mentioning, although none of which, save for one, I didn’t particularly like. One: a black-haired Lois Lane. We get a redhead Amy Adams, a negligible change in the franchise because Adams is a fantastic actor. Two: Superman’s red underpants. What he has on, instead, are 50 shades of blue bodysuit and a red cape which billows majestically. Three: the cowlick. It can be done without. Four: a white Perry White. By default, I like the characters Laurence Fishburne plays. Last but most importantly: John Williams’s Superman March. Nostalgia is one formidable foe whose value can never be impugned; to do without Superman March is almost tantamount to changing the symbol in Kal-El’s chest into something unrecognizable.
Taken at face value, Man of Steel is a visually stunning film which offers 143 minutes of eye candy, nonstop action, and state-of-the art CGI. But in those 143 minutes, we tried and failed to see the wit, charm, levity, warmth, and most importantly, fun that were once associated with the films that came before it.
Juana Be Free
by Jansen Musico
Juana C The Movie (2013)
D: Jade Castro
S: Mae Paner, John James Uy, Angelina Kanapi, Annicka Dolonius, Jelson Bay
Juana C The Movie got pulled out of theaters just in time for Man of Steel to take its place on Independence Day. The irony of that statement is lost somewhere in between the ticket counter and the long line of people queuing to see another Hollywood comic book adaptation on its opening day. Who is Juana C compared to Superman? Both are heroes in their own right. Clark Kent has super strength, super speed, super hearing, super breath, and heat vision. The dude can also fly. Juana? She’s just your everyday Juan turned social activist. There is simply no contest.
Fighting for social awareness in the Philippines is like throwing punches at the wind: you exhaust yourself trying, but in the end, you still lose. The truth is bitter and hard to swallow. Anyone who denies it has yet to open their eyes and see the slow decay of our countryside, has yet to tune in to the empty promises of politicians who rob us in daylight, has yet to smell the stench emanating from our overflowing cesspits, has yet to taste their own sweat from a whole day’s work in exchange for a few measly Pesos, has yet to feel let down by a lethargic justice system. To be socially aware in this country is to be exposed to these sad truths every single day. Who would want that?
The Philippines has a population of about 95 million people, and only a small percentage of that is actively pushing for social awareness. The rest are preoccupied with putting food on the table, realizing their ambitions, or protecting their assets. If they’re going to spend money on movies, they would shell out on something that would pull them away from their unpleasant reality rather than shove it further into their faces.
What happened to Juana C The Movie is a sobering reminder of the relationship between movies and moviegoers. Who decides whether a film is good for its audience? Filmmakers may have the best of intentions producing and distributing their film, but if the audience decides to pass on it, what good does it do? The success of a film depends on how many people get to see it, since film is a democratic medium. Films, at their very core, are meant to be seen and shown. It’s democracy in play. The audience has as much control over the movie industry as the filmmakers, film studios and theater owners. The more people line up for particular films, the more profit is made. It’s no surprise why we get the kind of movies big local studios produce. We get the cinema we deserve.
Sure, Juana C The Movie is rough around the edges. In fact, it’s all over the place. It tries to bring up as many socio-political issues as it can, given its running time. The film needs a sense of order. Though it reflects just how chaotic our society is, it doesn’t mean that the film should be just as chaotic. But perhaps that was the point the filmmakers were trying to make; Juana C The Movie holds up a mirror to the society it critiques. The number of issues tackled in the film is almost tantamount to the number of issues we have to deal with in real life. There is the problem of illegal mining and pollution, as what happened to Juana’s hometown. It brushes on brain drain in the case of Jun-jun. There is also sex trade, drugs, corruption in the government and church, oligarchy, the jadedness of privileged youth—the list goes on. It would be interesting to see how many can be dissected from the film and studied.
It takes a certain amount of social awareness for a satire like Juana C The Movie to work. The effectiveness of a satirical film is measured by how much the audience can connect between the details on screen to the issues they represent. Its message is lost on viewers oblivious to the subjects being critiqued. A satire, in the eyes of the unconscious, is nothing but a string of hyperboles judged by its entertainment value.
An example of successful satire would be Jade Castro’s Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington. Though seemingly void of politics, the film critiques homosexual acceptance in the Philippines by giving its audience a controlled microcosm of the whole country. Its message was veiled in Baklese punch lines. Its heart was dolled up in foundation. Its biting social commentary was brought to life along with the reanimated corpses of barrio gays.
How come Remington outlasted Juana? We can factor in the actors and the writing, but the main difference, I guess, is the treatment of the message. Juana C The Movie might have been too obvious in the way with which it made people socially aware. It is the irate editorial column to Zombadings’ editorial cartoon. Zombadings had more whimsy in it; it gave us zombies in drag. Juana served us our reality on steroids: moviegoers nowadays often just want to be entertained, not bludgeoned by the bitter realities they wanted to forget.
Though Juana C The Movie is far from perfect, it is a project with an undeniable importance. To see it so quickly disappear is disheartening. The local movie theaters have closed its doors on it, but I do hope that schools all over the country give it a home. It might be a tiny bit risqué, but it’s about time students got a taste of sex education. If there is an audience for this film, it’s the new generation of moviegoers.
The draw was originally supposed to be on May 30. It’s been four days since then, but it’s better late than never… right? There were a total of 65 reblogs as of May 30; we drew the winner using random.org.
And the winner of the Juana C. The Movie loot bag is: chilipeepers!
Make sure your Tumblr inbox is open. We shall be informing you how to get your prize through that.
The release date of the film was also moved. Juana C. The Movie will be in cinemas starting June 5. Click here to see the list of venues showing the film.
We’re giving away a Juana C. The Movie loot bag.
It’s so meta, it’s an eco bag with another eco bag inside. Also in it is a Juana C. shirt, a rolled-up movie poster, a baller tag, a random tacky fridge magnet, a Victoria Court cup holder, and Victoria Court card that, of course, goes with an unused condom. (If you don’t want that gunk, wrap up that junk!)
To get a chance to win this prize, just reblog this post once. Basically, that’s it… because we couldn’t think of any better giveaway mechanics. We’ll randomly pick out and announce the winner on May 30, PH time.
Do make sure you’re from Metro Manila so someone from Pelikula can hand over your prize. Sorry, folks from other regions. Mailing this will cost us.
Make sure you have Tumblr message inbox open. One of our editors or writers will contact you about your prize there. Good luck!
Pelikula Q&A with Juana Change
by Jansen Musico
When you keep alternating between two unique personas, one more outlandish than the other, chances are, you have a personality disorder. That isn’t the case for actress and advertising mogul Mae Paner. When her better-known irate YouTube doppelganger Juana Change, takes over her body, it’s time for action. Juana Change to Mae Paner is a Hulk to Bruce Banner. She’s become the face of several socio-political advocacies, the hand that pushes this new generation to be more proactive. With Juana C. The Movie, she’s taking her act to the big screen.
Where do you draw the line between Mae Paner and Juana Change?
There was a time I was in a cab, and the driver was trying to kick me out because he wanted me to add 50 pesos to the meter. And I got so furious at him. I felt as though it wasn’t me. It must have been Juana Change, because she’s so matapang. I’m matapang as Mae, but I’m not as matapang as the character that just came out then. That must have been Juana Change. Mae is more regular. Juana’s the one who wears colorful wigs. Mae Paner is just the body who’s inhabited when Juana wants to get out there.
How did Juana Change even come about?
In 2008, when Jun Lozada came out as a whistleblower of the NBN-ZTE deal, I had been inactive in the political scene. But that itch to do something for country was calling me. I knew at that point, I had to do something, so I started to gather my friends. I said, “Hey, come on, let’s come together. Let’s do something. We have time, talent, there’s the social media now. We can upload videos on YouTube. I can direct. I can be an actor, so let’s do it.” And my friends, who are also like me, lovers of country, readily said yes. That’s how the movement started.
Isn’t it tricky you’re directing and acting at the same time?
It’s actually kind of cool in a way. We don’t have budgets, and because I’m a director, it’s very easy for us to come up with videos. While I’m the talent, I can also direct. That came in handy for the advocacy.
How many are you in the team?
Strictly, tatlo lang kami. Whenever there’s an issue, we get together. They come to my house for dinner, and then we talk. That’s how we start. And then we produce the video. Rody Vera is one of the writers. He’s a very prolific writer, a multi-Palanca awardee. In fact, two if his pieces are Un Certain Regard entries to the Cannes film festival. He wrote Death March for Adolf Alix and Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan for Lav Diaz. The other writer is Raymond Lee. He’s the brains behind Zombadings. He wrote it and produced it, Maximo Oliveros, and a lot of other movies.
How is it working with them on a regular basis?
I’m so lucky to be around very good artists. Kasi it’s not easy to pull off political satire. Hindi naman madaling magpatawa, tapos very edgy pa ang topic mo, tapos it’s also very truthful because it’s about the national situation. Kung hindi magaling ang mga writers ko, siguro hindi ako magkakaroon ng ganoong lakas ng loob na mag-produce ng videos. Yung soul talaga ng Juana Change advocacy ay yung content niya.
Why make a full-length film this time?
There are still a lot of apathetic Filipinos. They don’t care for the news. They don’t care for the country as much. But they love watching telenovelas. They prefer to watch film festival movies. We wanted to broaden the audience of the advocacy. If we make a movie, we’ll be talking to these people.
What’s the film about?
Juana is part of an indigenous people’s community. And because of mining and tourism, her community was threatened. So her parents told her, “Hey, you’d better study, because if you don’t, people will just get our land and we will have nowhere to live.” Juana didn’t really want to study, but she was forced to. And when she got to Manila, ayan na, napariwara. Before she knew it, she was in debt. Her last recourse was to become a prostitute and she began to enter into the doors of power.
What got you into performing?
Actually PETA really got me into performance. When I entered PETA in 1983, I became really active in political theater. Kasi during that time, it was the Marcos years eh. And that was when I actually started my love for country. We were joining rallies. And I was doing political theater. Then I understood, ah, ito pala ‘yon. Because it was also at that time people were trying to overthrow Marcos.
That was a dangerous time.
Actually, I was incarcerated in 1984 with Lino Brocka and Ben Cervantes when I joined the jeepney transport strike.
What were you doing before acting?
Right after college, I really went into theater. Then I was in advertising. I was an assistant director. I was production assistant before that. I was production manager, then I became a director, and then, that’s it.
Do you consider advertising your sideline?
Actually ito dapat yung sideline ko, pero ito yung naging buhay ko.
Would you ever consider bringing Juana to TV? It’s been a while since we had a political satire like Abangan Ang Susunod na Kabanata.
We’ve always wanted to have Juana Change on television, pero parang the stations are not ready kasi masyado kaming matapang. We were almost on air a few times, and then matatanggal.
The elections are done now. If you were a senator, what would be that one thing you’d lobby for?
Freedom of information. I think it should be made into law. A lot of things continue to happen, because people don’t have access to information. If we had, we’d know how much the government earns, what transactions and spending are done, and where our money is going.
Read more of the interview on Philippine Star Supreme.
Juana C. The Movie opens in cinemas on May 29.