Feb 23, 2015

Kasal, a must-see film


If you have the time, do go and watch Kasal, a Cinemalaya 2014 film that started its commercial screening last Wednesday, February 18. I was able to watch it during its Cinemalaya run last August thanks to a friend's post on Facebook, and I was not disappointed. I didn't watch any of the other Cinemalaya films back then so I can't say if Kasal deserved its Best Film Award under the Director's Showcase category, but it's pretty good.

The film was co-written and directed by Joselito Altarejos, the filmmaker whose gay-themed films are among the best I've seen from the local fare. Of his previous films, I really liked Ang Laro sa Buhay ni Juan (see my review) and Ang Lihim ni Antonio, though I was quite disappointed with Little Boy, Big Boy. Good thing Kasal was as good as the former.

Kasal tells the story of Paolo and Sherwin, a gay couple played by Oliver Aquino and Arnold Reyes respectively. As stated in the film's synopsis, the couple contemplate the future of their relationship even as they attend the wedding of Sherwin's younger sister in the province. Paolo, a director, wants to take their relationship to the next step while Sherwin, a closeted lawyer, is not quite open to the idea. He even introduces Paolo to his family as just a good friend in-charge of the wedding videography.

What I liked about the film is its slightly subtle political message. Kasal juxtaposes the struggle for legal recognition of gay marriage with the notions of “traditional” marriage. As you might have guessed, Sherwin’s younger sister is getting married because she got pregnant with her boyfriend even though both are not yet prepared to raise a family. Later on, we see a commitment ceremony between two men who are both clearly love each other but whose union is not accorded legal benefits. Even more interesting is the fact that Arnold specializes as an annulment lawyer. He gets first-hand look at how the lack of divorce in the Philippines leads to a lot of unhappiness (and that may have colored his noncommittal behavior).

Political message aside, I also liked how the film depicts Sherwin and Paolo’s relationship as realistic and relatable as possible. Much praise should be given to the two lead actors, especially perennial indie actor Reyes, though relative newcomer Aquino did a superb job as well.

If there is only one thing that I have to nitpick, then it would be the long sex scene near the beginning. While it was done quite realistically and tastefully at the same time (and my eyes definitely appreciated it), I didn't quite see the point. It was done in one long take of about 10 minutes when it could have been shortened without detracting from the story.

Overall, the film does justice to gay relationships and I would consider it a must-see. The acting is great, the story is moving, and it takes a nice jab at the state of the institution of marriage in our country.

Apr 9, 2014

Would you have sex with Paul Rudd?


In the video above, Billy Eichner runs around the streets of New York with Paul Rudd asking random strangers if they would have sex with Paul for a dollar.

Well, I’d do it for free! :-) Even if he just turned 45 last April 6, he still looks mighty fine. I’ve had a crush on Paul Rudd ever since I saw him in the 1995 film Clueless where he played Josh, the cute, dorky stepbrother of Cher, Alicia Silverstone’s character.

How about you? Would you have sex with Paul Rudd?

Mar 31, 2014

“More happiness!!”


“More happiness!!” That’s what two people said when asked what marriage equality meant for them as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into force in England and Wales last Saturday after being passed into law last year. And I agree. The fact that the state recognizes that two people are in love and confers them benefits regardless of their gender is surely a joyous thing.

To celebrate the occasion, Buzzfeed has posted 52 very heartwarming photos of the first day of marriage equality in the United Kingdom, including the photo above. I especially liked photo #14 which shows a Muslim woman at a ceremony, and photos #20 to #24 featuring Andrew and Neil, showing that it’s never too late to get married.

This historic milestone comes less than two months after Scotland also passed their marriage equality bill last February 4. This leaves Northern Ireland as the only major territory in the United Kingdom where same-sex marriage is illegal. Unfortunately, the religious Northern Irish are not looking to follow England, Wales, and Scotland anytime soon.

But still, this milestone is very welcome news. More happiness? Indeed.

Mar 10, 2014

On defying gravity

1 comment.

As some of you may know, yesterday was the last day of the local staging of the Australian production of the Broadway musical Wicked. If you’ve been wanting to see this play but haven’t done so, then you missed out on a really wonderful experience. I managed to watch the play late last month and I have to agree with what rudeboy said: it’s wicked good!

Wicked is basically “the untold story of the witches of Oz.” And that’s Oz, as in 1939 film The Wizard of Oz (starring Judy Garland) and the original children’s book by L. Frank Baum. Loosely based on a 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked provides an alternate backstory to the Wicked Witch of the East (dubbed Elphaba, in honor of L. Frank Baum) and Glinda the Good Witch of the North imagining them as best friends before the arrival of Dorothy from Kansas.

Wicked was a smash hit on Broadway and songs like “Popular” (which has been sampled in Mika’s “Popular Song” featuring Ariana Grande), “For Good”, and “Defying Gravity” are now part of pop culture. The musical has also won numerous Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards and has broken several theater-related box office records.

I was also able to see the local staging of The Phantom of the Opera. And while Phantom’s production design was utterly top-notch (the chandelier!), I have to say that I enjoyed Wicked more. The characters were more relatable, the story was more grounded despite the fantasy setting, and the themes of being different, of striving to do good, of unrequited love, and especially of friendship I think resonated with the audience more. The play is funny and emotional, and ultimately, it provided a satisfyingly feel-good experience. I’m familiar with several Wicked songs before I saw the play and it was quite a treat to finally see and appreciate the songs in their proper context. If there was one contrary thing I would say, I wish it was Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, the original Broadway actors, that portrayed Elphaba and Glinda, but I think Jemma Rix and Suzie Mathers did justice to the roles.

Interestingly, Oz is quite big in the gay community. The 1939 Oz film started with Kansas in black and white before proceeding with technicolor goodness once Dorothy arrives in Oz. This has been compared with the desire of LGBT people to escape the stifling small-town atmosphere to a place where they can show their true colors and be accepted (cue in the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”). Consequently, Judy Garland became a huge gay icon and the phrase “friend of Dorothy” became slang for a gay person.

Wicked is no less embraced by the gay community as well. For one thing, Wicked novel author Gregory Maguire is, in fact, gay and he lives with his husband in Massachusetts (the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage). For another thing, many LGBT people could relate to Elphaba. The future witch was born different by having green skin and this caused her to be ostracized by peers and her father to be ashamed of her. Elphaba’s signature song “Defying Gravity” can also be considered as an anthem for gay people tired of “playing by the rules of someone else’s game” and declaring to their detractors: “you won’t bring me down.” In fact, Kurt, the gay character from Glee, sang this song during that TV series’ first season.

You don’t have to take Wicked’s gay leanings from me. You can read Gregory’s article where he shared how he injected his version of Oz with gay characters and themes. Or this musical review of the play in the context of gay bullying.

In short, if you’re gay, you ought to have seen Wicked, simply because it is good, and because it celebrates diversity.

Feb 18, 2014

When did you choose to be straight?


“When did you choose to be straight?” This is actually a question that I keep in reserve in case somebody learns about my sexual orientation and reacts negatively by saying that being gay is a choice. Thankfully, I have never had the chance to use this question. So it was pretty awesome seeing the video above where this question was thrown back at people who believe that homosexuality is a choice. The video shows that you can actually disarm people by making them see your point of view.

Of course human psychology being what it is, I do think that for some people, being gay may have indeed been a conscious decision. But as you readers have long realized, sexual attraction is involuntary—you don’t have any say at all on whether you get physically attracted to men or women or both. Thus, I believe that for the vast majority of gay people, they’re born that way. Simply put, why on earth would many rational gay people choose to be gay when being gay would subject oneself to discrimination, bullying, and being ostracized? It makes no sense at all. Unfortunately, some bigots lack sense.

If there is any conscious decision, it is the one on self-acceptance. I had an inkling I was gay back in Grade 6 when I started becoming attracted to some of my male schoolmates. But it was only in my Junior year in high school that I finally accepted the fact that I was gay and that there was nothing I can do about it.

Another conscious decision is acting on our homosexual nature. Catholic teaching does acknowledge that gay people may be gay by nature, but the Church exhorts gay people to live a celibate life. I don’t think that makes any sense too. If you’re naturally gay, why suppress it? As long as you live a positive live and don’t hurt anyone, why does it matter that you kiss, enter into relationships, and marry people of the same sex?

So, when did you choose to be accept that you are gay?