Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Give Up Tomorrow

October 9, 2012



Before watching this movie, I was actually apprehensive. It was an unusual feeling for someone who watches movies frequently. "Give Up Tomorrow" is not a film of fiction, you see. It is a documentary about a notorious convicted rapist and murderer, involved in a sensationally gruesome crime story. This film, produced by someone in this person's extended family, will try to convince us that this guy, Paco Larranaga, was actually an innocent man, and is now unjustly behind bars for the rest of his productive life.

What I know of this case was what I gathered while skimming the newspapers or what I hear on the news over the years. Paco's physical appearance, that of a hefty, brusque, seemingly arrogant rich young man, certainly did not help his image in the public. The case resurfaced recently when the Spanish government sought to intervene in the fate of this Spanish citizen. This perceived foreign interference in our justice system also did not sit very well with the Filipino people. The Larranaga family really had everything going against them.

Of course, before going in, I had already expected this film to try to convince its viewers that all of what the general public knows from the news headlines was NOT the whole story. Important conflicting evidences were presented from the first few minutes.. As expected too, the uneven police investigation, the questionable star witness and the irregular court behavior of the presiding judge were also shown. They also showed how the Spain government got involved in the case. All of these important information had been previously unheard of, as far as I, an uninvolved outsider, was concerned.

The most controversial points of this film were those that seemed to turn the tables on the parents of the victims themselves. Are Dionisio and Susan Chiong really the just the unfortunate, devastated parents of poor Jackie and Marijoy? This film seeks to shatter that commonly-held public perception. The film tells us about previously unknown connections to Malacanang and other shady dealings. How did the filmmakers get that ironic statement of Mrs. Chiong at the end on film? How the Chiongs were presented here was far from unbiased.

This is certainly an eye-opening film. Everyone suspects that the local justice system may be murky, but here was a story told from the inside by a family who seemed to have experienced the worse end of the stick. The argument as presented by the film is truly well-organized and convincing. Having respected multi-media journalist Solita Monsod there on their side lends further credence to their position.  But again, we have to keep in mind that we are again only hearing from one side. The producer discloses in the film's publicity and at the end of the film that he is related to the Larranagas. Whether the audience believes what this film is trying to say is still up to them. People who like to think and discuss after watching films should watch this one. Should we now think twice about all of these stories we hear in the news?



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

October 2, 2012




"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" brings us back to the early 1990s, telling us the story of a smart but problematic high school freshman, Charlie (Logan Lerman). His spends his days simply avoiding everyone else, until he was accepted by seniors/half-siblings, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) into their circle of oddball friends.

With them, Charlie is drawn into the teen experience and actually gets to do things which up to then he had only been a viewer from the sidelines. With Sam, Charlie experiences his first love, but of course, as films like this go, it will not be as simple as that.

Logan Lerman does a redux of his role as Percy Jackson, a troubled teenager. However, this time he is a normal human being, not a son of Poseidon. This guy can really turn on the angst. He reminded me of a young John Cusack of the 80s or Paul Rudd of the 90s. In fact, since Paul Rudd plays Charlie's favorite teacher, their conversations looked like Paul talking to his younger self. Being some sort of a teenage wallflower myself back in the day, I can feel his pain. This is one very sensitive actor, and I look forward to more movies of this guy.

Emma Watson, we were all excited to see graduate from her days as Hermione Granger. And she certainly does here, playing a girl who had been taken advantage of by men and boys with she had relationships in the past and even the present. You can really feel why Charlie got attracted to her free spirit, yet unable to express how he really feels for her. Emma fulfills the promise she had as an actress who grew up in front of all of us. She will be a force to reckon with in awards seasons to come.

Watching this as an adult and a parent now, I wonder how the experience will be for my kids growing up into their own teen years. Watching Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh play Charlie's parents, not knowing why their precious son behaved that way he did. It gives us pause to know our own kids more, and hope that they do not keep major life-altering secrets from us. 

More than the scenes at school, I enjoyed the scenes about their togetherness as a family. I liked the scenes where siblings took time to talk and relate to each other, knowing when one needed help. There are many tiny lessons here and there in this film which viewers can get life lessons from. I can imagine so many people identify with this movie on various levels. The glorious 1980s soundtrack really helps the audience connect. Kudos to director and author Stephen Chbosky! I will definitely seek out and read the book as well.