Archive of ‘shows’ category

midsomer murders mayhem

After finishing all the episodes so far of Downton Abbey, I remained enamored of Britain and looked for another series to immerse in.

Enter Midsomer Murders. Perfect. I’d loved it on TV during the ’90s, the few episodes I caught of it, and enjoyed settling down to follow the sleuthing activities of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (played by John Nettles) and  his various DI (detective inspectors) around Midsomer County.

The area in which the action takes place is a fictional county of 66 villages with quaint names like Midsomer Mallow and Eleverton-cum-Latterley. Based on the real county of Somerset and the town of Midsomer Norton, the absurdly high number of murders that occur in what seems a sleepy country location adds a sense of surrealness to the series and gives DCI Barnaby a chance to show off his skills while teaching his DIs a thing or three.

A cottage garden from season 3. Look at the vines and the lovely white wood trim on that cottage.

I loved the first four seasons, with settings ranging from lovely emerald villages to cozy cottage or imposing castle interiors and warm glowing pubs. The characters were always eating or drinking. The detectives seemed to have the perfect job of going around town interviewing people in their parlors and being offered countless cups of coffee and tea and plates of home-baked scones and biscuits.

The gardens are lovely, with lush wildflowers carefully tended. The furnishings are antiques. Everyone is polite. DCI Barnaby loves his wife Joyce and daughter Cully to bits. Now where can I find a man like that? He seems too good to be true – intelligent, resourceful, responsible, and an upright family man.

Barnaby walks with his aunt under the rose arbor at her nursing home (s3).

Well, this is fiction, after all. Sink into this world of rose arbors and crumbling church towers and meandering bike rides through picturesque woods and, at the end, always – puzzles solved.

A young Orlando Bloom plays a burglar who meets a grisly end in this 1999 episode (season 3, epi 3).

Image of John Nettles and Daniel Casey (who plays the first DI, Gavin Troy), here. Screenshots by me with an iPhone 4S, Instagram effects.

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pop goes the world: film, and life imitating

 POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  15 March 2012, Thursday

Film, and Life Imitating

“There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.” (Director Frank Capra)

Have filmmakers run out of ideas? The local movie industry has certainly been accused, many times, of rehashing worn-out narrative formulas ad nauseum.

Indie films may have the answer to the moviegoer blahs. As last holiday’s film festivals proved, a fresh way of presenting narratives will attract viewers. However, indie filmmakers will always have to battle constraints, primarily financial.

Cineastes will be happy to know that they can participate in the creation of movies themselves without being Mother Lily or other deep-pocketed capitalist. Multi-awarded indie filmmaker John Torres calls this “crowdfunding”, and it’s the way he’s chosen to finance his proposed fourth feature film, “Lukas Nino”.

Photo provided by John Torres.

Torres says the project “is a narrative from the succession of film titles and posters left behind by the late director Ishmael Bernal.” It received “a digital production grant from the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, “ and could be premiered in the Netherlands next year.

“Lukas Nino” will be Torres’s first time to shoot in film and use a team and script, rather than in his usual video, with non-actors, and unscripted. He needs P500,000 for 35mm film stock, processing, and transfer to video.

Visit to pre-order the DVDs of his earlier films – Todo Todo Teros (2006), Years When I Was a Child Outside (2008), and Refrains Happen Like Revolutions in a Song (2010). This will be the first release ever of Torres’s films and is a landmark event for collectors.

Portrait of the filmmaker. Photo provided by John Torres.

These films have been screened in international festivals in Berlin, Rotterdam, Buenos Aires, and other places, and have won many prizes – the Cinemanila and Gawad Urian locally, and the Dragons and Tigers Award at the Vancouver International Filmfest, among others.

Another filmmaker, Alex Socorro, is exploring the world of horseracing with “Largaaa!” He and his group are connected with the Philippine Motion Pictures Directors Association under the Film Academy of the Philippines. Their only source of funds is a grant.

The movie stars Yasmien Kurdi, Felix Roco, Leo Martinez, and Jeric Raval.  The actors will be guided only by a flexible script, “to maintain spontaneity”.

The first shooting day is March 24 at Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite. There will be unscripted interviews with trainers, jockeys, and other racetrack folk. To donate to their cause, check out the “Largaaa” page on Facebook.

* * * * *

 And in other news, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s front page yesterday showing a four-photo montage of impeachment trial witness Demetrio Vicente’s face unleashed a barrage of angry reactions from the public.

Image here.

 Via Twitter, Facebook, and other Internet platforms, commenters called PDI’s move “insensitive” and “cruel”, among other things.

As a subscriber, I received a version of the paper without the Vicente montage on the front. Instead, a photo in that same space was of Rep. Toby Tiangco conferring with Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

The provincial edition I received as a subscriber (although we’re located in Metro Manila). 

A PDI insider who lives up north confirms that the edition I received was the provincial, which was also the one he also got. Provincial and subscriber editions are released before the city edition. So this was the first print run of the front page. The offensive Vicente photo series was placed on an inside page.

In PDI’s  provincial edition, the Vicente series was inside.  

PDI therefore made a second print run putting the Vicente photos on the front page. They also used this version for their online edition.

Now why go through all that trouble to redo the layout and stop-restart the presses again? What motive could PDI have for deliberately ridiculing the facial expressions of Vicente, a stroke victim?

Whatever their reasons for doing so, it backfired on PDI. Despite their issuance of an online apology and yanking the offensive image from their website, the damage has been done. PDI violated several Filipino cultural norms: support for the underdog, respect for the elderly, sympathy for the sick, no disparaging of personal appearance, and not kicking a man when he’s down.

PDI touts itself as the number one bestselling newspaper in the country and doesn’t miss a chance to trumpet this every so often with charts and ratings on their front page. With this one stupid decision to mock a man, its credibility has plummeted. Sales might not be far behind.

It could be a movie. Capra would have approved. As real life, it sucks. *** 

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downton abbey mania

It’s escapist melodrama that does not hesitate to employ the cliched tropes of the genre, but there’s something about it that is fascinating and compelling. I spent the past week watching all the episodes – two seasons and a Christmas special – and can’t wait for the release in the fall of the third season, which will begin filming early this year.

“Downton Abbey” is a hit British TV series that has run two seasons, broken viewership records in the UK and the US, and reaped awards and nominations.

Promotional still showing the cast. Image here.

The action is set in a world long vanished, the world of the English aristocracy and the labor class that served them. It is familiar to those who read fiction set in that era, notably the works of detective fiction author Agatha Christie, who herself came from the privileged class and wrote what she knew, setting her books in the drawing rooms and conservatories of grand houses, her characters in a milieu of elegance and wealth enjoying a lifestyle that ended with World War I, which changed the economy and society.

Sometimes we need to escape into a different world, if only to recharge our spirits with something entirely removed from our own reality. This world’s as good as any to visit, if not better than most. The accents and the language alone are fascinating, and there are the fashion and interiors as well, mixed up with history lessons.

Watch it. Learn something. Prime your pump of creativity with something new, something out of the ordinary.

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pop goes the world: rizal films in filipino sign language

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 7 July 2011, Thursday

Rizal Films in Filipino Sign Language

Did you know that films are being made in Filipino Sign Language (FSL)?

The development of FSL has its roots in American Sign Language and Signing Exact English. Among the filmmakers who have used FSL in their works is Mirana Medina, who advocates for autism and deafness causes. She studied FSL at the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies.

I “met” her via my column about Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary last month, after she had emailed me her comments. Her interest in Rizal stems from her having been the researcher and film editor of “Rizal sa Dapitan”, a film produced more than ten years ago. Combining this interest and her advocacies, she produced a Rizal-themed film in FSL – “Mi Ultimo Adios”, which was launched last June 21 at DLS-CSB.

Mirana says: “Mi Ultimo Adios” in FSL is the first real translation or interpretation of Rizal’s poems in FSL. It wasn’t a literal interpretation at all. It was poetic in treatment. [University of the Philippines professor and poet] Vim [Nadera] helped us out [with that].

“I know deaf people who are capable of expressing themselves beyond the “usual” signing, [so] I made it a point that sessions between a hearing poet – Vim – and my deaf FSL consultant Raphy Domingo were arranged. We were lucky that Dr. Marie Therese Bustos of UP Special Education Area [an authority on FSL] helped us…the time we met to hold a deaf audition, she was there to interpret.”

To view the film trailer, search for “Mi Ultimo Adios in FSL” on

Mirana plans to produce four other Rizal-themed films in FSL – she says these are “”La Juventud Filipina”, which has already been shot but needs additional images; “A Las Flores de Heidelberg”; “Canto de Maria Clara”; and the [other] one will [be called] either “ Mi Primera Inspiracion” or “Mi Piden Versos”.”

July being National Disability Month, arrangements are being made to screen “Mi UItimo Adios” in Mandaluyong City on the 22nd. On the 16th, her film on autism – “Alyana” – will be shown at the Benitez Theater in UP-Diliman.

Mirana is now busy editing the film “Asiong Salonga”, directed by Tikoy Aguiluz.

To learn more about Mirana and her advocacies, visit her blog at

* *  * * *

Jose Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, in the English translation by Harold Augenbraum and published by Penguin Classics, are now available at Fully Booked. I picked up what the salesclerks told me was the last copy of the Noli last weekend, but there are still many copies of the Fili left.

The books are also available in a Kindle edition at for $11.99 each. No affiliation with either merchant, I just wanted to let fellow Rizal-philes know about this particular translation.

The only other English translation I’ve read is Leon Maria Guerrero’s, which is fantastic, and iconic to generations of students. I’ve read several chapters of the Augenbraum, and so far I’m happy.

* *  * * *

I received several questions in response to my column last week on e-book publishing. Here’s more on the matter from Flipside Digital Content chief executive officer Anthony de Luna, on the origins and services of Flipside:

“Incessant prodding from authors in the academic and trade publishing communities made us decide early in the year to remove local barriers to the newly-paved e-book avenue that leads to international distribution and readership. Having serviced only foreign clients as a business process outsourcing company specializing in the publishing vertical in our 12 years of operations in various configurations, Flipside reluctantly offered e-publishing on the digital rights management-secure and economically viable platforms of Amazon Kindle, iBooks (iPad), and Barnes & Noble Nook to local authors and publishers.

“Flipside’s goals going in were first, to educate, and second, to enable those who would like to take advantage of technology’s contribution to solving the insurmountable international distribution challenge for Filipino content. It was a pleasant surprise to find a few local companies that already had their feet wet in e-ink–Vee Press of Vibal Foundation for general publishing, Bronze Age Media for comic books, and Salt & Light Ventures for the Christian publishing community.“

Can authors publish DRM-secure books on their own?

“Yes,” says Anthony, “Amazon has Kindle Direct Publishing, Apple has iTunes Connect, and B&N has PubIt! Whether you are an author with one essay or a publisher with a 2,000-title backlist, stop reading now, leave Facebook for a few minutes and sign up with them.”

Do you approach publishers or authors?

“We approach publishers first in an effort to achieve the information waterfall-and-echo effect. We let them know that they can expand distribution and increase revenue from their frontlist (active titles), and bring their backlist (out of print, out of distribution titles) back from the revenue grave without cost.

“We approach individual authors of note, as part of our goal to educate, to generate interest from and stimulate fact-finding by the publisher and author communities at large. In addition, we also reach out to deserving self-published and unpublished authors. Unsolicited submissions are subject to review for editorial quality and international commercial or academic value.”

Anthony answers other questions on the “Flipside Digital Content” Page on Facebook, which you can visit to find out more.

E-books are the present and the future of book publishing. Through this channel, Jose Rizal’s works from the late 1800s are made accessible to a new generation of Filipinos and to the rest of the world. This should give encouragement to local authors who have despaired of getting published the traditional, ink-and-paper, way. ***

Image of Mirana Medina here. Slide of Mi Ultimo Adios here

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pop goes the world: the kawazakan of poetry

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 26 May 2011, Thursday

The Kawazakan of Poetry

Words that sound, echo, scream in your head and heart, words that burn and soothe and quench and turn you inside out, words that tell a story or evoke a gamut of emotions in a few phrases – only a poem gives the writer the form with which to play with words.

And one poet who does this admirably is Allan Pastrana, whose poetry collection Body Haul was launched last May 16 at Ride n’ Roll Diner in Quezon City (also the venue for the “Happy Mondays” poetry reading/music performing event every first and third Monday of the month.)

Allan Pastrana. Photo from .MOV.

Arranged by filmmaker Khavn de la Cruz, a Gawad Urian nominee this year for best director and screenplay, the launch featured writers, musicians, and word lovers of all sorts coming together to read, eat, play music and sing, and buy Allan’s book.

Allan teaches at the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music, where he graduated with Music Literature and Piano Performance degrees. He is finishing his master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines – Diliman.

A Fellow for poetry at the UP and Silliman University national writers workshops, he was a two-time Thomasian Poet of the Year, recipient of the UST Rector’s Literary Award, third placer in the Palanca Awards for essay in 2007, and winner of the grand prize in the English Division of the Maningning Miclat Award for Poetry in 2005. He occasionally writes music reviews for publications.

Here’s an excerpt from Allan’s “Altitude”, that he asked me to read at his book launch: “Four, five a.m. and everything packed/ a kind of immediacy; the velocity/ of each going became so foreign / it got trapped inside my throat./ That day, the phone kept on ringing/ like an insistent, hourly code— /a man’s voice on the other end/ on the line, always shifting timbres. Or, it could be that I /mistook a Bach aria theme, drifting/ like a dry memory, for his dark/ speech. Nothing was spoken/ here that didn’t belong to a/ wreckage—the rest of the variations/ slipping into more erasures…”

Among those who read Allan’s poems at the launch were horror writer and Palanca Award winner Yvette Tan, novelist Clarissa Militante (whose Different Countries was long-listed for the 2009 Man Asia literary prize), poet and professor Genevieve Asenjo, filmmaker John Torres, and activist/poet Axel Pinpin who delivered a spell-binding performance, translating a poem of Allan’s from English to Filipino on-the-spot: his impromptu pagsasalin was not only accurate but also literary in quality. Wazak!

Axel Pinpin. Photo by Gen Asenjo.

Allan says: “The book covers around five years worth of poetry. I chose to represent the different writing styles I adapted, from the time I thought telling stories was simply the whole point of literature, to a more recent and growing predilection for the instability of language (which I believe is what we have at our disposal, almost entirely, as writers), and the joy and rapture that comes with that instability, both painful and liberating in more ways than one.”

What is the relevance of poetry to daily living? Apart from the sheer joy of words that many of us enjoy, a poem captures in a series of phrases or sentences the totality of a human experience for us to derive meaning from.

Says UP literature professor Gemino Abad in the introduction to his poetry collection Care of Light (Anvil, 2010): “The real is the poem. Hence, for the poet…to write is to get real. The real is what we call “our world”. But our world is only our experience of it….What we call reality is only, and forever, a human reality; what we are able to perceive….

“But working our language – soil and fallow of all human thought and feeling, our only ground – we invest our words with a power to evoke, to call forth, to our mind and imagination a meaningfulness that we seem to have grasped in that human event or experience…And in that finished weave of words – the very text – our aim is to apprehend, to understand, the living of it, the full consciousness of the event or experience: its very sensation.”

Allan Pastrana’s Body Haul is available at UST Publishing House and bookstores.

For the poets reading this, Khavn has sent out a call for entries: “There isn’t enough chamomile tea in the world to quell the rage in your heart. Or the poetry in your veins. Send in your most wazak poem for possible inclusion in a Philippine poetry anthology that will be launched this September 2 during the 4th .MOV International Film, Music, & Literature Festival.

Khavn, Yvette, and Genevieve. Image from .MOV.

“There are no hard and fast rules on what’s wazak or what’s a poem. Send in your left foot if you think that qualifies. Please provide the English translation of any poem that is written in Filipino or other Philippine language. Open to all Filipinos in the archipelago or beyond.

“Email your works (maximum of three poems per author) to, subject heading “anthology” by or before June 1.

“In the name of the revolution.”  ***

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hugh laurie writes!

From my Kindle: The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie, 1996 (e-book format).

When not starring as Dr. Gregory House in the TV comedy “House MD”, winning Golden Globe awards, and being the highest paid actor in a US drama series, Hugh Laurie writes.

His first novel, The Gun Seller, was published in 1996. Wary of being perceived as just another celebrity writer wanna-be, Laurie submitted his manuscript under a pseudonym and only revealed his identity to the public after it was published. It went to the top of the bestsellers lists. The Gun Seller has been translated into French and also topped sales in the France.

He is due to come out with another novel, The Paper Soldier (Paper Soldiers in the UK), release date unknown.

The Gun Seller is like Ian Fleming meets PG Wodehouse. Imagine a more intelligent Bertie Wooster as James Bond. Laurie is a hilarious writer and his first novel is a campy foray into spy thrillers laced with heavily ironic British humor.

From Chapter One:

Imagine that you have to break someone’s arm.

Right or left, doesn’t matter. The point is that you have to break it, because if you don’t…well, that doesn’t matter either. Let’s just say bad things will happen if you don’t.

Now, my question goes like this: do you break the arm quickly – snap, whoops, sorry, here let me help you with that improvised splint – or do you drag the whole business out for a good eight minutes, every now and then increasing the pressure in the tiniest of increments, until the pain becomes pink and green and hot and cold and altogether howlingly unbearable?

Well exactly. Of course. The right thing to do, the only thing to do, is to get it over with as quickly as possible. Break the arm, ply the brandy, be a good citizen. There can be no other answer.


Unless unless unless.

What if you were to hate the person on the other end of the arm? I mean really, really hate them.


Rayner, I estimated, was ten years older than me. Which was fine. Nothing wrong with that. I have good, warm, non-arm-breaking relationships with plenty of people who are ten years older than me…But Rayner was also three inches taller than me, four stones heavier, and at least eight however-you-measure-violence units more violent. He was uglier than a car park, with a big, hairless skull that dipped and bulged like a balloon full of spanners, and his flattened, fighter’s nose, apparently drawn on his face by someone using their left hand, or perhaps even their left foot, spread out in a meandering, lopsided delta under the rough slab of his forehead.

And God Almighty, what a forehead. Bricks, knives, bottles, and reasoned arguments had, in their time, bounced harmlessly off this massive frontal plane, leaving only the feeblest indentations between its deep, widely-spaced pores.

Image of the extremely good looking and talented Mr. Laurie found here.

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carrie fisher wants to lose…

..not the Slave Leia outfit. Rather, thirty pounds so she can get back in it.

Last Wednesday the actress launched her partnership with the Jenny Craig weight loss company, not only to lose weight but also to change the way she “interacts with food as a whole.”

Fisher played Princess Leia Organa in the ’70s Star Wars trilogy, and one of her most memorable costumes is the ‘metal’ bikini she wore while a captive of the repulsive and villainous slug Jabba the Hutt.

In her blog post on the topic she writes:

I wish I still had the body I had when I was attached to that giant slug wearing that metal bikini… You know, I swear when I was shooting those films I never realized I was signing an invisible contract to stay looking the exact same way for the rest of my existence… Must have been in the small print.

So anyway, this is where my friends, at Jenny Craig come into the picture. The truth is I’ve been unhappy with my weight for a long time now, & so when the world takes a snapshot of you like that and you get locked forever into it, it doesn’t make it any easier.

I adored her in the Star Wars movies, but for me she is Leia only on the screen; I admire her as the strong person that she is, actress and writer and human being, whatever she looks like. Fisher portrayed Leia; she is not Leia.

But most people tend to judge celebrities more harshly than they would ordinary people. They are held to higher standards. Fame comes with a price.

Yet she is doing this not only to regain her looks, but also to become healthier. Her positive steps towards wellness are an inspiration to all of us struggling with weight issues.

Slave Leia image here. Carrie Fisher image here.

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hiromi in manila

My friend Adelle’s holiday gift to me this year was a very special night spent with her, her musician son Josh, and jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara.

Adelle got us tickets to Hiromi’s one-night only concert at Sofitel Philippine Plaza, held at a tent by the waters of Manila Bay. It was too cold inside the tent but the seats were soft and Hiromi was magic. Her fingers flew over the piano, releasing cascades of sound, light tinkling followed by deep crashing in complicated layers.

I enjoyed her “Choux a la Creme”, an original composition based on her experience of eating a cream puff; her jazzy rendition of one of my favorite classical pieces, Pachelbel’s “Canon”; and her “Viva Vegas” suite – “Showgirl, Show City”, “Daytime in Vegas”, and “The Gambler”.

An amazing performer, Hiromi is gifted, her talent indisputable. She has mastered her instrument of choice to such a level, using it in imaginative ways like reaching in to manipulate the strings inside to mute the lower octaves to sound like a bass guitar.

Her personal style is fun and playful, from her hair and dresses to the color-coordinated sneakers on her feet. Her fingers are pale and strong and dance nimbly over the keyboard. She is a joy to watch and hear.

Here’s her ‘cream puff song’, a rollicking happy gem of a tune.

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harry potter and the never-ending camping trip

I had waited for it for years. Being satisfied with the first through sixth films in the franchise, I expected “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” to be as riveting. Unfortunately, the film’s producers seem to have misplaced their riveter this time.

Getting down to nuts and bolts, this interpretation is lackluster and slow-paced for two-thirds of the film, but after that redeems itself with a selfless death and other advances to the story.

To be fair, the book was the longest of the seven in the series and really, it was nearly all about a long and interminable camping trip. After upheavals in the Ministry of Magic, and more skullduggery by He Who Must…okay, Voldemort and his henchmen, the lives of Harry, Ron, and Hermione are forever transformed by having to flee their homes and go into hiding. In the woods. In a tent that emerges from Hermione’s tiny beaded bag that seems to extend into another dimension and thus possesses infinite space within. Now that bag is cool.

Harry is still on a mission from Dumbledore to find the other horcruxes and destroy them before Voldemort gets to them first. No spoilers here, but if you read the book (if you haven’t, I highly recommend you do so), you’ll know how it all turns out.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) and her beaded bag that extends into a parallel dimension – I WANT ONE. Image from here.

What’s to like about the movie? It captures the bleakness of Harry’s soul, the internal suffering that he carries from his unloved boyhood into his late adolescence when people around him are getting hurt or dying to help him on his quest.

At first Harry thinks it’s all about him, and the guilt gets to be too much to bear so he attempts to strike out on his own, but Ron tells him, it isn’t all about you, it never was. Harry then realizes that though he is somehow central to the events, in the end he is just an element in the greater scheme of things and he must play his part.

But it’s not easy for Harry, it’s not just a matter of waving wands about and exercising limitless magical power. It’s still about the old-fashioned heroic values – belief in good over evil, perseverance, determination, self-sacrifice, friendship, and love. The film delivers that message, and it may be that the slow pace set the tone for that.

On the visual side, the settings for their tent-in-exile were magnificently desolate – lonely woods, a barren rocky hilltop, salt flats. The tent got larger and grander until by the end of the movie it was a multi-room affair complete with sleeping bags, the omnipresent veddy veddy British teakettle, a dining-cum-conference table, and spoons and forks in a mug.

Harry and Hermione sport clothing of somber colors, in keeping with the landscape. I WANT HER CLOTHES. Especially that peacoat. Image here.

Since many of us have read the entire Harry Potter canon by JK Rowling anyway, I won’t go into deeper analysis except to say that it belongs to the fantasy/magical genre that British authors have developed to the highest point. No one does it as well as they do – among them Tolkien, CS Lewis, Carroll, and Conan Doyle along with the other Victorians who collected and wrote fairy tales – and now Rowling is carrying on the tradition.

On a lighter note, a dozen things I liked:

1. Emma Watson’s clothes. I love that blue peacoat!

2. Hermione’s beaded bag that holds everything in the world.

3. Dobby’s self-sacrifice. He died Apparating the good guys from a villainous stronghold.

4. Bellatrix Lestrange’s rat’s-nest hair and dagger-flinging accuracy.

5. Severus Snape’s billowing black robes that proclaim “I am a serious, traditional, magic-using academic”. I WANT ONE.

6. Dolores Umbridge’s pink kitten-head scarf. Meow!

7. The Godric’s Hollow set – a typical, storybook hamlet. I’d like to live in one of the cottages there. Yes, even with that creepy old lady Bathilda Bagshot for a neighbor, it would be magical.

8. Bathilda Bagshot’s creepiness. The ultimate in old-lady oddity! Remind me to be like her when I become aged and decrepit. It would be fun freaking everyone out.

9. The dirigible plums at the Lovegood’s – that was a whimsical touch.

10. Patchwork everywhere – on nearly all the beds and throw pillows in the movie, the curtains and tablecloths in the Weasley home, and Xenophilius Lovegood’s shirt.

11. Bill and Fleur’s wedding – sigh. So romantic. My next wedding will be like that, I swear, in a tent with all my most eccentric friends and family in attendance.

12. How much Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint’s acting have improved. Emma Watson was fantastic from the beginning of the series and has developed into an actor with solid talent.

Overall: you must see this if you enjoyed the book and watched the previous films in the series, if only to get one more step closer to closure. Though the producers could have cut much of the camping trip out and reduced the running time from three hours to two-and-a-half or even less without sacrificing important narrative elements, it’s still worth watching.


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hitman: david foster and friends at araneta coliseum

I don’t go to concerts. It’s enough for me to hear music on my headphones without the distractions of having to go to a venue, be with other people, and not be able to see or hear as well as I could with my home audio setup.

But when given the chance to watch “Hitman: David Foster and Friends” at the Araneta Coliseum tonight, I grabbed a couple of tickets in my grubby little paw and hid them in the recesses of my wallet for safekeeping until concert night.

This was the lineup: famed songwriter David Foster and singers Natalie Cole, Charice, Peter Cetera, The Canadian Tenors, and Ruben Studdard. Now doesn’t that send frissons of delight up your spine? Not too long ago I had seen The Canadian Tenors’ performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and was captivated. I would have given anything to hear them sing live – and here the chance was, dumped into my lap not a couple of months later.

One of my closest friends, Adelle Chua, went with me. We didn’t know quite what to expect, not being regular concert-goers. We were disappointed by our first experience – forced baggage check.

There was a long line of people outside trying to get into the venue, and there was a delay because the show’s Manila producer, Ultimate Productions, had not informed the public beforehand that umbrellas and cameras would not be allowed inside the arena and had to be left at a counter beside the gate. They did not have enough people at the items counter, and the few people there did not have any idea how to check things properly and consequently chaos resulted. People were angry and worried that their valuable cameras would be lost. There was a lot of shoving and pushing and waving of tickets in people’s faces as everyone tried to hurry and get in. It was horrible and the producer deserves to be spanked. Hard. Many many times.

Once inside the venue, we were glad that there was powerful airconditioning and that we seated fourteen rows from the stage with a good view of everything. David Foster’s piano-playing was sublime, his patter engaging. “Music is everywhere in Manila,” he said. “It’s in the streets, in the hotels – and here.” He seemed overwhelmed by the audience reaction. “It’s true what they said, people sing along to the songs here,” he marveled. “I’ve never had an entire arena do that before.”

The Canadian Tenors came on and performed three songs. One of them was “Hallelujah” and I was lifted up on wings of sound. They were fantastic. I could have gone home happy at that point, they were magnificent.

Natalie Cole came out next, and she was incomparable. Her voice is silvery light, so sweet, so beautiful. She sang “Unforgettable” along with a recording of her father Nat “King” Cole’s voice, their voices blending together in a magical duet. A smile is perpetually on her face; she beams, her face shining as if it were lit up by the sun, the voice soaring effortlessly higher and ever higher.

At the end of the show, the performers all came out and sang a song David Foster wrote for Michael Jackson – “The Earth Song”. From left, The Canadian Tenors (four of them), Natalie Cole, Charice, Ruben Studdard, Peter Cetera.

Ruben Studdard, said Foster, “fills a gap in genres”, as he does the crooner-type and R&B songs. His voice is deep, rich, sonorous in the tradition of Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross. He has another talent – making up songs on the spot from a line or two given to him. He did admirably with “so many years” from a lady named George (Georgina – the name raised Foster’s eyebrow and gave him a chance to say, “Hi, George, I’m Debbie”), and also with the rather unimaginative “I’ll always be there for you” from a woman also named George (Georgia). By this time Foster thought some collective leg-pulling was going on, and he chuckled.

Foster had another gimmick – going up to people in the audience and having them sing for thirty seconds. A couple were ordinary folks with talent; there were three teenagers who sang a cappella; but then there were professional singers Pilita Corrales (of course she sang “Dahil Sa Iyo”), Randy Santiago (he did “Wildflower”), and Arnel Pineda.

Pilita, our very own diva, still has her vaunted beauty, style, and voice and it was a tremendous pleasure to see and hear her. Randy combined a terrific rendition of one of Foster’s own songs with humor – “I’m so nervous!” he said onstage, as if he were not one of the “concert kings” of the land, and in the last line of the song interjected, “Can I kiss you?” to a piano-playing Foster who laughed and pointed to his cheek. And yes, Randy did lean down to peck the maestro’s cheek, and hugged him before he left the stage.

I’m not sure David knew Pilita and Randy were professionals, but he did recognize Arnel in the audience and convinced him to sing a few lines from the Chicago hit, “Hard Habit to Break” (a song that has painful associations for me, but that’s another story).

Which made a great entrance for Peter Cetera, former lead vocalist of Chicago. Arnel said, “You guys are freakin’ me out!” Being with both his ‘heroes’ on stage was obviously a huge experience for him – he actually knelt in front of Cetera till the latter pulled him up, laughing but clearly flattered.

Cetera’s voice was not in excellent form, but he made up for it with soul and showmanship, singing some of his most popular hits. One of them was “Glory of Love” from the Karate Kid 2 soundtrack, that had everyone singing along.

The show ended with Charice, the petite Pinay powerhouse who is being mentored by Foster and who has improved vastly under his tutelage. Think of it as he being Freddy Roach to her Manny Pacquiao – it’s a mighty combination. She belted out several songs and had the audience on their feet in a standing ovation, cheering themselves hoarse. She did several songs made popular by Celine Dion, one of them “Power of Love”. Charice also did a fantastic rendition of her own hit “Pyramid”.

Foster said Filipinos should be proud “of your little one”, as he clearly was, saying she was in the league of all the women singers he had worked with – Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton. It was a moment of pure elation.

The music was superb, the show was spectacular, the energy was high high high and we left the arena wowed by the performances  of the evening.

Once outside, though, I had to get my camera back and the experience was even more dreadful than before. More pushing! More shoving! With more screaming from disgruntled patrons! There still weren’t enough people behind the counter and they had not lined up the umbrellas and the cameras by number or done anything else to arrange the items during the three hours that the concert lasted. They did nothing at all. I was one of the first in line and it still took  fifteen minutes before I was given my camera back.

When I finally managed to disengage myself from the melee with much elbowing and leaning and apologizing, my shirt was hanging off my shoulders and my carefully pinned-up hair was a tangled  mess.  Adelle said, “You look like you’ve been through a war.” And that is indeed how I felt. The people behind Ultimate Productions deserve to be scolded and spanked. Hard, as I mentioned. Many many times, as I said.

The check-in incident was terrible and an ugly start and end to an otherwise wonderful show. It needn’t have happened – there were people who had somehow smuggled in their cameras anyway, as flashes kept popping, and cellphones with cameras were not taken. There was no announcement made at any time before, during, or after the concert that photography or video were forbidden. So why take cameras? And umbrellas? They weren’t wet – it rained during the concert, not before. I asked several people with the events group who the producers were, but they all refused to say. Why? Because they knew this aspect of the event they staged was mucho fail?

That being said, I look forward to another edition of the concert. Foster said that they haven’t left Manila yet but are already planning their return – for Valentine’s Day 2011. Fans of David and Friends, both old and new, can look forward to more music, surprises, and romance from this talented team in just a few more months.

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