Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

 "I am very interested and fascinated by how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other."

"We accept the love we think we deserve."

"It's strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book.  "
"... And in that moment, I swear we were infinite."
my pdf's cover photo
These were the lines that struck me while reading Stephen Chbosky's "Perks of Being A Wallflower". By the title itself, it's story was about one of Charlie's high school years where he had major transformations and discoveries about himself and about life simply by being a wallflower---a person who mingle with the walls, interacts to no one, accepts mediocrity and exhibits naivety.

This book was referred to me by my classmate and gave to me its pdf. After reading it in two days, I had both good and bad comments to it.
First, Charlie's storytelling to me was unique, conversational, comprehensible, making the book easy-to-read. However, his character was somewhat disturbing to me. I like his character but his mediocrity and weirdness were kind of exaggerated for me. Well, maybe because of his autism but still, i see it as an amplification and not ways to achieve sublimity.

This leads me to my realization in the end of the novel that it is not a good novel that could turn into film (which is currently what they re doing right now). It lacks denouement that's why I did not find it that gripping. I just can't stop reading it because of the mysteries slowly being resolved as the story progresses.Now that one was a good point for me.

However, I admit that I could relate to Charlie--the books he read, the genre of the songs (not the songs exactly), and the things that happened around him (the teacher-student relationship, the vices (not the drugs!), the affairs, the family stories... It is really one of the contemporary novels that teenagers must read. 

One advantage of the movie also was its quotable quotes. As in! I was carried away of his words, of his realizations.

an alternative cover of the book (which is more interesting)
One thing I want to say before I finish this blog is that, not all good books could be turned into a movie. It's very textual, lyric... Though some phantasms I had by reading it make it cinematic, the plot isn't enough. I even felt melancholic in the end because of the parting scenes... And I could say that this might just be a dragging movie.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Snow Falling On Cedars

I just finished reading Snow Falling on Cedars and watching its film adaptation. Well, for me, both had advantages in their different styles of storytelling.

Before I go into details, I would first narrate how I knew this book. Way before, when we still have cable tv, I saw the trailer of this movie on HBO and I said to myself that I'm gonna watch it. But due to "territorial disputes" in our tv, I wasn't able to. So years have passed and just last year, I saw this book in softbound at Booksale. Discovering that it got a price that is too cheap for an award-winning movie tie-in book, I bought it immediately.

But it's just 2 days ago when I finished reading it because of my long list of books to-read. So there, I finished it, and I'm telling you, it's worth the excruciating pain it gave me while reading it.

First, the book was too detailed. Too descriptive. David Guterson did not manage to overlook details about the place, the history of the place, the characters' family histories, the events during the war, and many others. So when I was reading it, It's kind of a long wait before I get to the real happenings. What I like to what he did is that, because of too much vividness and descriptiveness, I was able to understand the community. It's like, being in there already because I already knew half a century's worth of happenings in San Piedro Island.

The gory details of Carl Heine Jr.'s death was perfect. It captured my attention and interest. I also accept what the author did which was to provide the details in the beginning of the novel. So that the rest of it has no elements of such. By that way, I see that it became balanced.

I also like its way of storytelling. Everything that happened in the book was within the three-day trial of Kabuo Miyamoto. And flashbacks were given by witnesses and other main characters in the middle of their testimonies. However, the flashbacks give you a thematic arrangement of events, not a chronological one. Thus, it gives you a freedom to think critically, arrange the sequence of events, analyze each others sentiments.

Now let us talk about the movie. For me, it was a great adaptation actually.

Many omissions were done to simplify the complex, too detailed plot. What's surprising too me was the change of position of Ishmael and Hatsue love story in the sequence of events. I think they did it to emphasize Ishmael's initial refusal in helping Kabuo win the case against him. But in the book, it was not like that. Yes, he initially had second thoughts but way after the love story.

What's good also in the movie was the merging of storylines. The love story of Ishmael and Hatsue was not written in one chapter only and was not narrated in a linear way. The same goes to other storylines. I loved the bringing in to screen of the misty fog of September 15 and the freight that struck Carl jr. The production in there was good. However, the depiction of the snowstorm was bad. I didn't feel it like in the book. 

The movie however was faithful in the book, so it's still okay. The cinematography was great, including the production of a post-war community.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning

 It's one of my Sinatra favorites (even though I love almost all his songs).  

In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning talks about a man professing his obsession about a woman. It's so romantic for me to hear someone saying that he misses a woman in the brief moments of the dawn--implying that he miss this woman greatly.

Sinatra's deep voice also gives the melodious, soft and dreamy song. It adds element of loneliness and sincerity in the song. The musical accompaniment was also perfect--making the song an excellent choice whenever you want to relax for a while after a stressful day.

The short, simple and repeating lyrics was good for me, because back then it's how songs were written. I love hearing the line:
You lie awake and think about the girl
And never ever think of counting sheep

because I kind of relate to it, and I know many of you do too. :)

This song, which title was also that of its album, was popularized in 1955, by Sinatra himself. The lyrics were written by Bob Hilliard and the music was arranged by David Mann. Since then, the song was covered by many artists, like Barbra Streisand and John Mayer.

However, even though John Mayer nicely did it, I think he kind of made the song too sleepy and made the key go higher a bit, sorry but I just don't like it. Who's good in there with him was Chris Botti and his magical trumpet.

What I am really disturbed yet sort of happy was hearing Barbra's rendition of the song, based on the version of Julie London, that she did for the movie Sleepless in Seattle (yey!). The lyrics were added with a one paragraph stanza in the beginning. It feels like it was off because the tune was really out of the song's keys (I think?) that's why I don't like it. Too bad, the lyrics was great and Barbra's voice was mystifyingly beautiful, too.

Well, no one beats Frankie :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fame (2009)

Fame 2009
If you're looking for a musical that is about dreams, school and talents, that is not that cheesy like Glee and Highschool Musical, here's Fame that will surely touch your hearts.

When  was in second year in college, I heard about the screening of Fame here in the Philippines but haven't got the chance to watch it. So just recently this year, when my thesis mates and I were having overnight cramming in Antipolo, I was able to watch a copy of Fame in my friend's computer.

Honestly, I was so amazed in the performances, especially the flash mob in the canteen. I was also teary-eyed with the characters' storylines. The movie was filled with characters who have conflicts in themselves, with others, and with the harsh realities of showbusiness. Personally, watching the film made me think back the times when I was performing in Mediartrix and in our church. Nowadays, I'm teaching theater at our church and truly rusting in my acting skills already. I miss the days when I was dreaming about myself having a career in theater. I even applied for a Theater Arts course in UP but unfortunately, didn't pass. My family also opposed my choice back then, which is pursuing such course. It's not that I feel regretful now. It's just that I miss it. I miss performing.

The movie also gave me insights how to teach acting properly. Also what other acting games could I give.
(actually, I'm very familiar with the game they played there).

However, the film was a type of film that you should watch by yourself, or else, you will focus on the short and few production numbers. The plot was good but should be taken in complete attention and with high enthusiasm or else, you would just be bored. Also, all characters have this kind of twists in their storylines by the end of the film that I think was supposedly to be the climax. However, I think that's not enough. It didn't reach a certain level that would take your breath away. It's really kind of boring on those parts.

Fame 1980
Additionally, I found out that the movie was a remake of a film in 1980 with the same title that eventually turned to a series. I found out that it had so many differences, making the 2009 film loosely based from the original. The 1980 film (though I haven't watched it) was a kind of querulous movie that complements the events of that time. Now, they made the 2009 film very child-friendly and really HSM-like. One thing that I liked in the movie compared to High School Musical is that the songs weren't the lines of the actors and just mere performances. It made the movie real. Also, the movie's ending was a blast with the tear-jerker production number. And they said that it was better than the original.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Separate Peace

"What I mean is, I love winter, and when you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love."

"Sarcasm... the protest of those who are weak."

"Everything has to evolve or else it perishes." 

My copy of the book
when you feel like reading a novel that has sense to it, a considered modern classic, and one that will take you on the edge of your seat, it's A Separate Peace by John Knowles.
I enjoyed this book very much despite the characters' shallow problems and frustrations. I enjoyed it because of Gene and Finny's untarnished friendship and respect to each other. I also liked the creation of Leper's character because it spoke for in behalf of the young teenage boys who joined the war. I enjoyed Finny's imagination and his extraordinary talent in inventing new games and impossible reasons to everything.

My favorite part in the novel was the part where Gene instead of heading to Devon, he made his way to Finny's mansion. That part where the two spoke to each other after the tree accident made me both feel "kilig" and sad. Kilig because the book looks like a gay-oriented novel, seriously. At first I thought they were going to fall in love to each other. Also because of what they said to each other, the assurance of one that he does not feel bad or mad to the other makes me feel uber kiligness. However, I feel sad, too because Gene feels so guilty of what had happened and I don't know how but reading Knowles' words make you feel what the characters are feeling. The novel was too compelling, vivid, and emotional for me.

the copy that Nat'l Bookstore has
I bought this book in booksale after reading Perks of Being A Wallflower, where it was mentioned there. It's funny because I have so many books in my hand already and then, I saw it--under the shelves, at the back of other paperbacks. Actually, for so many years I've been staring the re-printed version of this in National Bookstore. But it's so expensive there, But I really want to buy it even though I only know that it's author has won a Pulitzer Prize and just died in 2003 and that  it's about a lonesome feeling feeling boy studying in a war-spared dormitory school during WWII.Looking at the cover, It makes me already feel sad, but then, it just ends there. 

AND finally, finding a booksale very cheap copy of the book (when it was first released in the 1960s) made me to buy it without second thought.

Wonder Boys

For my first book/movie review, I give you, the 1995 novel, Wonder Boys, written by Michael Chabon.

the mo

vie poster that is also the my book's cover

So I was able to read this book back in grade 6? 1st yr? sometime like that... when I was starting to appreciate reading books. I saw this in my sister's dusty bookshelf and found it ULTIMATELY off for me because of its complexity, vocabulary, collegiate grammar,and theme. I found it difficult to comprehend. Then... when I entered my Second year in high school I think, I read it all over again (together with some other books I read before yet I didn't understood that much. There, finally... I liked it.

You see. It was so long ago. That only the striking parts did remain in my mind. The flying off of 2611 pages of manuscript, the death of a dog by a gun, the jacket of marilyn monroe, the dungeon-like bedroom of James Leer, the greenhouse.... those remained in my memory for quite some time until I managed to finally watch the film just last month. (thanks to the pirates) And I'm telling you, I THINK it was a close adaptation.
Simply because they retained the parts that I remember do I claim that the movie starring Michael Douglas was really excellent in adapting the wonderfully plotted novel. BUT of course. I think that's inaccurate also because of the fact that I don't remember that much already.

Now let's criticize the film. First, I am so proud with the actors. Katie Holmes, Michael Douglas, Robert Downey, Jr., Frances McDommand were excellent. And of course.... the one who really in my opinion did the greatest job in the film was Toby Maguire. Seriously. Not because of his looks, but because of his stoned childish weird dark comic portrayal of James Leer. 

Next is the production. For me, the movie was able to capture the simplicity of the settings in the novel juxtaposed to the incredible happenings round it. Pittsburgh, the location of the story in the novel, was also the location of the film. By saying "production" I include the chancellor's house, the auditorium and Professor Tripp's apartment were truly captivated.
To conclude, I really do enjoyed the film. as well as my reading of the novel. Hope you read it or watch it sometime :)

Friday, September 9, 2011


Aids. Homosexuality. Friendship. Life. LOVE.

When I saw Rent's trailer included in my vcd of Memoirs of A Geisha, I felt anxious to buy a vcd of it. Obviously, I haven't watched the original Broadway show but watching the original Broadway actors in the film gave me somehow a Broadway feeling (whatever that is :))

The movie was good for me because of the transition of scenes. I found out that the sequence of the scenes and the number of songs were edited, but for me, Christopher Colombus did a great job. The songs were great. (thanks to Jonathan Larson who writes music better than Andrew Lloyd Webber). The production also of slums in New York was cool also for me and really convincing. The community was really captured both by the actors and the sets. It was really an awesome movie and I can't speak any negative comments to it.

The original Broadway musical was finished in 1993 by Jonathan Larson, including the music and the lyrics, but was produced all over the world since 1996, because of delays after Larson died. The movie was written by Stephen Chbosky (who wrote Perks of Being A Wallflower). And both was a modernization of the Giacomo Puccini's opera, La Boheme (too bad I failed to watch Teatro Tomasino's production of it).

What's good and unique in this musical is that the songs are rock. Not the Singin' in the Rain dancing but ROCK, man! So when I was watching it, I was really hooked up. It's good to watch it, no doubt, and defintely, a play that has sense in it.

Why? because of the inclusion of themes of poverty, drugs, prostitution and homosexuality. This musical took the courage in tackling such taboo subjects (okay, I'm writing in the Filipino conservative perspective) and was excellent in conveying messages of acceptance, friendship, fidelity, and love.

Learnin' the Blues

When you at home alone
The blues will taunt you constantly, yessuh
Ba dit dit deet
And when you're out in a crowd
The Blues will haunt your memories
Bah da doh doh zet

 These lines from the song "Learnin' the Blues" (Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong version) made me realize what the blue songs really mean after so many years of letting me believe that I know what blues songs are.

This song was written by Dolores Vicki Silvers in 1955. A demo of the song was recorded by some Valino man and was passed to Frank Sinatra for him to record. Then in 1957, Ella and Louis (that is for me, the greatest duet ever) made their rendition of the song.

From the original, it surely is different. Because there are two singers, the lyrics were edited for each, to match with their genders. And a technique was used (for the singer having no part at the moment not to be bored maybe), and that is the Bah da doh doh zet/ Ba dit dit deet parts.

What is beautiful in this rendition is that its a duet. A not your ordinary duet. Because here, they communicate. They actually has that magical connection. It sounds like they're just to folks chatting in a bar, speaking for themselves but not actually declaring that it's them they're talking about.

The nights when you don't sleep
The whole night you're cryin'
But you can't forget him
Soon you even stop tryin'

Man, it's the beginnin'
Just one of those cluessssss
You've had your first lesson, Whoa, yes
In learnin' the Blues

They really tweaked the original, even though the lyrics are just the same. The fast beat of Sinatra was for me really off. But Ella and Louis' wonderful saxophone music background really makes the song a blue song.

Maybe someday, I'll be reviewing other awesome duets of the two... so thanks for reading! and please,,,  THE GOOD MUSIC IS IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011


so loooooong personal blogs!

Yes, as you can see, I've renovated my blogspot because I want it to have a theme from now on. And of course, I don't want anymore to talk about my personal life here. If ever I want to rant on someone or something, I would might as well rant it on Twitter or Facebook. Hehe. So. Welcome to the new inFOCUS.

Here, you will see my reviews about the books I've read, how and where I bought them (or downloaded them.. shhh!), and how I felt when I was reading them. You see, this isn't a review column actually, rather a collection of personal entries about my books. :) Oh, and I will show you also the bookstores I've been to.

Next is the part where you could read my reviews on movies. MUSICAL (high-pitched) movies I'm soooo in love with. If ever I could have the chance to watch live Musical plays, I would definitely put it also here.

Speaking of movies,  I will include movie tie-in books... those awesome books turned to lousy movies (Ok fine, just kidding). I'll give you comparisons, deleted/revised scenes parts (whatever!) and of course, review. And speaking of musicals, I will also devote here a part where I would review my favorite (and not-so-favorite) standard songs.

*in case you do not know standard songs, they are the jazz/ballad/big band songs that stood the tests of time after gaining popularity in the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, and were covered by so many song artists and remains a favorite until today.*

So there you go. Brace yourselves (AND GOD! GIVE ME PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE AND DILIGENCE TO DO THIS IN SPITE OF ALL MY SCHOOL AND CHURCH WORKS) as I bring you to my book shelves, playlist, and dvd/vcd collections... :)