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on getting A’s

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

i’m tired, burned-out, and in need of some heaven-sent inspiration to get me through. in 3 weeks the first semester of my first year as a student in the US will end.  now i’m experiencing what can only be described as complete and utter katamaran (laziness).

to put things in perspective, i have really aimed for perfection since school started. my goal was to get all A’s for the 11 units i was registered for: college english composition, anatomy and physiology 1, and a 1 unit course about the health care profession. when i figured out that to get an A, the final tally of the scores i receive should not be lower than 10% of the total possible points – i decided that the only way to assure this is that i should aim for a perfect score ALL THE TIME.

why i need all A’s? 1) the program i’m trying to get in is very competitive. getting all A’s for the pre-requisites is the only guarantee i can give myself that i’ll be accepted, 2) self-vindication: i already have  science degree, i have no excuse not to be good at this, 3) to thwart-off any chance of teasing from my very (very) competitive husband who runs by the principle: kapag average olats (mediocres are losers).

to reach such a lofty objective, i had to follow a strict regimen that i never did before as a student. i was taking online classes for all the 11 units, this meant i was practically on my own when it comes to understanding the text, disciplining myself to study, and meeting all the deadlines that was posted for class. i initially thought online classes will be easier, and as always, i was wrong. but honestly, it’s a style of learning that works for me. with the maturity and initial college experience, i have already figured out the optimal way for me to learn. plus with my toddler as the main and unyielding presence in my day-to-day life, the only realistic schedule i can devote to studying was during the night when she’s asleep and during days when the husband is not at work.

so with my tight schedule in place and a clear goal to target, i studied like i’ve never studied before. if i studied the way i did now back in UP (at hindi tumambay sa casaa or sa org), i’m confident there would be a latin phrase in my college diploma. but i didn’t – that’s that, would i have done things differently knowing what i know now? i digress.

anyway, so where did all the hard work, sleepless night, being fueled by caffeine (during most days), and time away from sleeping beside my husband and daughter get me? to-date:

         all essays and exams for english composition class: perfect score

        anatomy and physiology exams, quizzes, assignments: +7 – which means, out of the total possible score that a student can get as of the moment, i have reached that grade, +7. how was this possible? there were bonus quizzes along the way and since most of my exams were never lower than 95/100 – my current grade exceeded the number of possible points.

      1 unit health care course: -20; meaning the grade that i must receive for my final project should not be lower than -20 from perfect score to ensure that i’ll get my A for the class. why such a low grade for this course? ang dali kase eh. seriously, this has been my problem back in college. when a subject is too easy and boring, i loose all interest and end up getting a low grade for an easy course. my lose, i know.

this wasn’t an easy fleet to accomplish – especially coming from me. i was never the A student. i was more of the B student who had lots of fun. i really didn’t care about grades and i only study when i like it. once it becomes hard or when fun is out of the picture, i stop. it was a blessing that i had inherent interest in learning because if not for that i would not have graduated at all. so aspiring for an A grade, and working my butt of everyday to be consistently great was not easy. as i have posted in FB, i have a newfound respect for honor students.

so what am i basically rambling about in this long blog post? it’s just that i’m tired, and that i need a break, but i can’t have a break – because there are 3 weeks left for the semester. based on my grades, (well, not for the 1 unit course) i could basically slack off by now.  the chances are high that even if i don’t get a relatively high-grade for the last essay (for english) and last exam (for a &P), i could still qualify for the A that i need.

chances. at this point in the game, should i leave the fulfilment of my goal to chance? i desperately want to. but i can’t – so i won’t.

consistency – that’s the killer.

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Categories: others

Caramel (2007)

April 20, 2010 1 comment

I don’t know anything about Lebanon. I’m not even sure if it’s part of Asia. (at least I know Africa is a continent and not a country… Sarah Palin still wins) All I can honestly say that I know about it is that Beirut is its capital. This, I found out, from watching No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain’s almost Emmy win was the Lebanon episode when they were stranded in Beirut for weeks because they were filming for their show when the Lebanon Civil War of 2006 started. Ok, so I knew two things: their capital, and that there was a civil war in 2006.

This is one of the better reasons why I’m currently hooked on foreign-language cinema. These films give you a glimpse of the culture, the country, and the people’s regular way of life that a tourist-y group tour or cruise will never provide.  My husband and I try to stay away from the “tourist attractions” whenever we visit a new place. Rather than doing an “amazing race” tour of a certain region just to have more ground covered, we’d rather sit in a coffee shop and watch the day go by. Or better yet, live it that area for a significant amount of time. That’s really the only way a traveller can truly immerse themselves to a foreign culture. Foreign language cinema allows me to do that in the comforts of my living room. Yes of course, the actual travelling is far better, but I can settle for now.

I’ve been seeing this Lebanese film in my “movies Netflix thinks you will like” list even during my first subscription months ago. I never had the chance to see it though, but I never forgot about it. Lately I’ve come to trust the films Netflix recommends. I was able to see Conversations with Other Women through this list – it has gained my trust. So when we renewed our subscription and I again saw Caramel, I decided to see it as soon as possible.

Caramel, is a Lebanese film directed by a female director. That alone scored high on my charts. Women directors, with the exception of Almodovar, are the best storytellers of women stories, which I am a big fan of. Then, I read from the movie’s short description that it is a – yes, a romantic comedy. Jackpot! By the time I was attaching my laptop’s cables to the flat screen I was too excited already, though I was trying not to be – one disappointment for the day was enough.

And then I saw the film. Netflix database – you’re a good friend. You really know me! It was everything that I wanted it to be and so much more. I know I made some comments about not discussing a film’s plot, especially since one can easily check Wikipedia. So despite really wanting to, I won’t. Well maybe just a little bit…

The film revolves around the story of 5 Lebanese women who are all connected to a rundown beauty salon in Beirut, though the salon is not the only thing that they have in common. Women, or so they say, all have secrets – some of them they’ll take to the grave. The lead character, played by the director, has an affair with a married policeman. “So what?”, most western cultures would say. If you want to book a hotel room in Beirut for a couple, you have to show proof that you are married to the person you are rooming with – it’s the law. So an affair, with a policeman to say the least, is no laughing matter. There is a character who is about to get married, but she has to take care of something important before “the day”. She has a problem, she’s not a virgin anymore. Another big “so what” right? Well, maybe not. Because I few days prior to her wedding day, she silently went through an operation to “restore” her virginity. There was a lesbian character, which I do not have to elaborate, is keeping her secret a secret. A funny character couldn’t face the fact that she’s old, so she pretends “mother nature” still visits her every month. And then there was an old lady, who was a good sister, so she’s falling in love for the first time at 70.

It doesn’t sound like a romantic comedy right? But it is! How those plots were explored, how the actors played with their characters, how despite the circumstances they were in the viewer still got to see the lighter-side of life, to me, is what made this film great. I’m guessing that’s how the “caramel” metaphor fits into everything – being sweet, delicious – but slightly painful since the film shows the characters enjoying it in its semi-liquid state which, if you have no idea how caramel works, would be somewhat hot. Also, this I didn’t know, they use caramel for waxing in Lebanon. Since they work in a beauty salon – that’s one of their most precious stock. Of course that isn’t how things are done here in the West, but then again – I guess that’s another metaphor.

The film was acclaimed because unlike most Lebanese film, it didn’t discuss the war or  had any form of political agenda. It was a heart-warming story about ordinary women and ordinary lives told in a magical way. I remember reading something that Gabriel Garcia Marquez said that he is often amused with the many interpretations critics came up with the things he wrote in 100 years of solitude, since some (or probably most) of them were merely ideas he made up without any profound meaning. Maybe I’m semi-doing that for Caramel, maybe. Still I loved it.  Plus it made me trust “Netflix recommends” more.

All About My Mother (1999)

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Where do I start?!

All About My Mother, is a Spanish film by the genius Pedro Almodovar. I am a big fan of his work for the simple yet amazing reason that he is one of the best directors that can portray and tell stories about women. He is an expert about women, he is openly gay, yet he was able to develop a spectacular narrative about men (Talk To Her, 2002); that’s how great he is!  His films are well-known for their complex narratives, for always having some musical or theatrical reference in them, and their artsy-film quality. They are a feast to the eyes because of his distinctive cinematic techniques. His movies talk to you in a way that’s almost visceral yet it’s done in a manner that unfolds slowly and skillfully that by the time you finish one, you’ll be staring at the credits with a sense of awe. Yes I love PEDRO ALMODOVAR, and seeing All About My Mother gave me another reason to adore him more.

This film is said to be Almodovar’s tribute to women, and is probably one of the, if not the best,  film I’ve seen that discusses their multifaceted nature. The movie is made up of an ensemble of characters that represents various archetypes, yet every one of them is unique because of the intricate details of their life stories. Do you have to be a woman to enjoy this film? Probably, unless you are a man who loves film for the sake of loving them, then this would be quite an experience. Most of Almodovar’s film deal with women in their most vulnerable and intense of moments – to say one is better than the other is difficult for a fan. Together, they seem to form this one big cloud of ode to the better half of the human race and to choose a favorite (or the best) would be like saying one woman’s story is superior than the other – it never is. So I won’t do that. Nor will I compare this to Volver or Live Flesh – both with similar undertones yet a stand-alone by its own merits. What I would say though, is that I really need to find a way to see Women On the Verge of Nervous Breakdown, which is one of his earlier films that has established him as a “woman director”.

 I hate discussing about the details of a film’s plot. I think it looses its merits when you know too much about it prior to watching it;  so I won’t do that here.  What I loved most about this film? Just like in most Almodovar films: the truthfullness of the ideas it juggles to discuss. How it was melodramatic, unadulterated, and complicated all at the same time – uniquely Almodovar yet universally acceptable truths that any person, regardless of origin, will be able to relate to. Almodovar is a genius (i can say this 10thousand times and i’ll still be in awe), and I can’t wait to see the rest of his repertoire.

Gosford Park (2001)

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

we have recently renewed our Netflix subscription and we’re enjoying it to the point that we forgot about our 900plus channels. what I love about Netflix? the extensive collection, instant play, and tons of foreign language cinema. i already have more than a dozen in our queue list, and Gosford Park was the first movie I choose to see since the renewal. it was just the right movie to start things off.

Gosford Park, a British movie with quite an ensemble, is a murder mystery film set in a shooting party hosted by a noble family in 1930’s England. this was a time when distinctions between social classes was pronounced and was the strongest driving force that dictated everyone’s way of life. i enjoyed its desire to capture an era that has not been forgotten but is almost obsolete and how it was able to unfold the depth of its many characters despite the limited amount of time it can do so. such achievements are impressive already, but then the superior acting of Helen Mirin, Maggie Smith, and the young Clive Owen had to be added in too,  to show how good this movie was.

However, as a film addict who is used to and thrilled by more than the necessary amount of character development, the film still, somehow, leaves a lot to be desired. i wish the film was able to intensify the cruelty of the character that was murdered and why no remose was felt upon the death. i wish the script tried to stay away from the more obvious hints to help solve the murder mystery which I think are insults to an intelligent viewer’s intellect. i wish the chemistry between Clive Owen’s character and that of the countess’ maid was more apparent to somehow create a whimsical background to a serious plot. i wish Stephen Fry had a longer part in the film, and his character made even funnier.

yes there were more to be desired. but in conclusion, I enjoyed Gosford Park. welcome back to my life Netflix. may this be the beginning of great movie experiences to come.

Categories: films and reviews, others Tags:

The Romantic Comedy List

April 11, 2010 5 comments

OK, so I’ve been delaying to write this idea that I’ve had months ago of finalizing my top 10 romantic comedy movie lists. If you know me, this is not something I take lightly. We are talking about,  my long-time favorite movie genre in my lifetime of being addicted to films. I had to think this through! However, one of the more logical reason why I haven’t finalized the list yet (well, at least before tonight) was because I haven’t seen My Sassy Girl.

I know, how could I not, right? One of the most successful romantic comedy from the romantic comedy powerhouse of South Korea. With three remakes, a multitude of pop culture referencing – Why? Let’s not get into that. Let’s just say that I just finished it a few hours ago and that has prompted me to finally complete this post.

But before I introduce THE LIST, let me first defend this movie genre that I’ve grown to love. Romantic comedy films have been loosely defined as light-hearted and humorous, and are probably at the same league as horror films when it comes to being critically-acclaimed. Honestly, I wanted to adore more serious films before. I have loved a lot of political dramas, biopics, or historical films. But nothing satisfies me more than a well-written and well-acted romantic comedy film. After reading a Roger Ebert quote, “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you”, I surrendered to my heart’s desire and accepted who I really was;  a romantic-comedy junkie.

What is a romantic comedy? To me, a good (because there are really bad ones) romantic comedy film should satisfy three rules. First rule, it should be funny. It doesn’t have to be laugh out loud funny, though a well written screwball comedy can easily knock-off a witty one if done correctly. Second, the idea of romantic love should be the main plot. Third, and the most important of all, there should be a struggle: to be in love, to stay in love, or to run away from love, and this is where the heart of the comedy should lie. Nora Ephron once noted that romantic comedies could be, in a way, divided into two categories. The first category, a derivative of the Woody Allen genre, involves the struggle of characters with themselves which prevents romantic love to do its bidding. The other category, is when the external factors: incidences, environment, fate, friends, family, everything else – hinders the main characters’ ever afters. Does it always have to end happily? Not really. But if it makes you feel warm, fuzzy, or absolutely tormented inside, then it has done its job.

Presented below is my top 10 romantic comedy list. Yes, it is in order. I’ll try to describe those that may need them, but I’m sure most of these films are well known. No, Bridget Jones is not on my list. It’s a nice film, so is My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but they’re not on  THE LIST.

#10. YPF (2007)
YPF (Young People Fucking) from Canada succeeds where Love Actually from UK and the disastrous Valentine’s Day from the US failed by seamlessly intertwining several love stories of different characters in one great narrative. YPF is a story of five stories, all about couples, representing different romantic archetypes. How the story tells it self is reminiscent of Tarantino’s Kill Bill films. If that doesn’t make you curious enough to find this movie, I have a feeling the title in itself will.

#9. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

No need to discuss the film, very well known and probably well loved by most romantic films junkie. Why it’s in my list – other than it being a British comedy – lovable ensemble! Of course you feel for the main characters and how they eventually end up having their happy ever after without a procession in a white gown. But it was the supporting characters, how you get to know them as the story progresses, that made the viewer root for the main characters more. Also the success of the story line in this film did not only pave the way for young Hugh Grant but for British comedy of like-plots into my generation’s mainstream worldwide audience .

#8. Waitress (2007)

This jewel of a film, starring Kerri Russel, somehow found its way to incorporate southern lifestyle, adultery, romantic love, motherhood, and fabulous pies into one great big bite. This film has one of the most wonderful endings I’ve seen in romantic comedies. This is a bit uncanny since its fabulous director and writer, who also plays a female supporting role, died tragically before even seeing its release. A bit sad, yes. It would have been great if there were more chances to see films from her.

#7. Amelie (2001)

Of course Amelie is on my list, why wouldn’t it be! It’s quirky, funny, magical, and French. The mystery aspect of the plot, its idyllic essence, as well as the stand out cinematography is what I (and everyone else in the movie-seeing world) loved about Amelie. A sure classic for my generation, not watching this may actually constitute as a sin.

#6. Say Anything (1989)

I desperately wanted to include a John Hughes film, and I am still debating with myself as I place a Cameron Crowe film in the #6 spot. But “to know Lloyd Dobler is to love him”. Never, has there been a film, with such a wonderful and absolutely amazing male romantic lead. Any romantically challenged girl will wish for a Lloyd Dobbler to fall in love with her after seeing this one. The best John Cusack film for me, but of course High Fidelity is a close second.

#5. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Rob Reiner (director) plus Nora Ephron (writer) plus screen giants Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, are the main reasons why this film is phenomenal. Talents like these, when they come together, is unforgettable. Everyone seem to have a strong opinion on what this film is about for the simple reason that it is about a lot of things. It’s like one of those reflecting mirrors one often stumbles into when watching a film. Why I loved it: because it seems real – probably the most realistic of all the romantic comedy films in this list.

#4. Annie Hall (1977)

Has always been in my #3 spot, now bumped off to #4. The reasons why it’s on my list: (1) out of respect to the genius of Woody Allen, (2) my 2nd favorite female romantic lead character, probably the 1st for most critics, (3) Allen’s Alvy Singer is the epitome of the psychology of the modern man – and in my opinion, is the grandfather of all Nick Hornby male characters.

#3 My Sassy Girl (2001)

Yes, the reason for this long blog post and sleeping until 2am to finish it. There are a number of elements to love about My Sassy Girl, a Korean romantic comedy about a girl who wants to fall in love but is already desperately in love. Watching this, which bumped off Annie Hall and other Woody Allen films off my list, and seeing how charming, emotionally truthful and utterly magical romantic love can be portrayed in film made me realize that this is how romantic comedies should be enjoyed. Without too much thought, with a lot of imagination, and a hearty laugh. Delusive, yet pragmatic – a combination Korean romantic comedies have perfected with much repeated success.

#2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
How writer and genius, Charlie Kaufman, re-constructed romantic comedies with a touch of science fiction is an idea that will never cease to amaze me. Everybody has seen the film, most wants to love it but only a few really do. After seeing Kauffman’s “Being John Malcovich”, I seriously thought he won’t be able to top that, and then he wrote this, and recently made Synecdoche: New York. What I loved most about this film, other than the re-construction (which always reminds me of molecular gastronomy) – the ending. How Joel and Clementine, in her blue hair, still ends up falling in love despite everything else that has happened in between.

#1. Before Sunset (2004)
Completely biased and ridiculous, I know. Is it even a romantic comedy? Or maybe I can’t just help myself and I always automatically place this film in the #1 spot as often as I possibly can. It is a romantic comedy, because in the ten thousand times that I have seen this film, there was always a fixed smile in my face. Why I love it? Let me count the ways? I know I’m probably spoiling my top ten lists by ending it with this one, but hey – that’s just how it is. THE LIST is MY LIST anyway.  Also, Julia Delphy’s character “Celine” is who I want to be if my life was a romantic comedy. I guess that explains a lot.