Monday, March 24, 2014

Art in the Park 2014

Yesterday, I was at the Jaime Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village, Makati for this year's Art in the Park. Art in the Park is the annual gathering of the country's best galleries for an affordable art fair, capping the price for artworks at P30,000.

The art fair is set in a public park to make it more accessible to everyone. This is Art in the Park's eight run.

Most of the artworks I saw were priced way below P30,000. The ones I liked cost P5,000, P15,000, and P16,000, but I have plans of commissioning artworks from my artist friends.

The turnout this year was bigger than its previous runs in 2012 and 2013. This year, there were more than 50 booths and it extended to the parking lot of the venue. It was way more crowded this year, too, and though I hate crowds, I'm happy because it means more people are getting interested in art.

I wasn't able to take a lot of pictures because of the large crowd, but I was fortunate enough to have picked up some stuff along the way. I think 'along the way' is an accurate description of how I navigated through Art in the Park. There were parts where it was hard to appreciate the pieces because of the human traffic. Perhaps Trickie Lopa and the team are interested in getting a bigger venue?

My boyfriend and I got matching portraits done by Apol Sta. Maria. He was sharing a table with Rob Cham and theirs was one of the most high-traffic areas in the art fair. No wonder, because Apol was drawing free portraits and Rob was selling his comics.

According to Apol, he can draw you in less than three minutes. I wasn't able to confirm because Mylene Dizon appeared out of nowhere and started talking to everyone. She was absolutely charming.

I also got a copy of Apol's A Balut Ate My Luois Vuitton and Rob's Stories. The two artists have a very distinct sense of humor and style, and both comics were absolutely hilarious.

I also got some of Mano Gonzales's postcards. I've been meaning to get them from him since December, but things keep coming up. We finally met after three months of talking online. I'm also planning to have a few portraits commissioned from him because I like his style and it fits with the decor I'm planning for my room. It's taking a while because I can't decide what to have him illustrate. There are so many designs running through my head that I might just end up having him put everything in a single canvas.

My favorite artwork has to be Bale Dutung's pan de bagnet. It's slices of crispy bagnet  and KBL (kamatis, bagoong, and lasuna) on slow-toasted ciabatta bread. The bread keeps the juices in so it explodes with every bite. It was so delicious.

I've actually wanted to try Claude Tayag's pan de bagnet since I started covering Art in the Park two years ago for The Philippine Star. However, I always go right after lunch so I'm full by the time I get there. I made it a point to eat a little before going yesterday. I was so hungry by the time I got there that I started seeing slices of bagnet in every artwork I saw.

My boyfriend isn't into art, but I managed to convince him to come with me. He ended up buying some pins and magnets. This one is my favorite.

I hope more people could come next year. And I hope the organizers could get a bigger venue. Maybe Ayala Triangle?

My features on Art in the Park for The Philippine Star can be found here, here, and here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

2014 Book #6: FLAMES and Other Stories

FLAMES and Other Stories, Angelo R. Lacuesta
The sleeves of his sweater are tied around his neck. He wears a scowl to protect his eyes from the sun. The shadows of the afternoon show his high cheekbones, his sharp nose. I have just met him here, I think, and we have just sneaked a cigarette, one of many in my youth.

2014: Book #5: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
And then it filled up with people and another train came with the same roaring. And it was exactly like having flu that time because I wanted it to stop, like you can just pull the plug of a computer out of the wall if it crashes, because I wanted to go to sleep so that I wouldn’t have to think because the only thing I could think was how much it hurt because there was no room for anything else in my head, but I couldn’t go to sleep and I just had to sit there and there was nothing to do except to wait and to hurt.

Full Gallop.

I was lucky to be invited to the press preview of My Own Mann's production of Full Gallop, the one woman-play focusing on the life of famed Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. The play is written by Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton, and is set after her firing at Vogue, where she throws a dinner party in the hopes a wealthy guest will finance a magazine of her own. The inimitable Cherie Gil will take on the daunting task of portraying Vreeland.

Diana at her famous apartment, which she calls a garden in hell

The set of Full Gallop

Vreeland is one of fashion’s biggest icons, bringing a fresh and outrageous take to the industry. When she was at Harper’s Bazaar, Vreeland popularized a column called “Why Don’t You?” a list of outrageous suggestions for readers. Some famous examples are “Why don’t you turn your child into an Infanta for a fancy-dress party?” and “Why don’t you wash your blond child’s hair in dead champagne?” She took fashion so seriously that her fashion shoots were set around the world with elaborate and expensive looks.

Vreeland with Richard Avedon, with whom she would bring to Vogue after her stint at Harper's Bazaar. At her wake, Avedon said, "I went back to Carmel Snow and said ‘I can't work with that woman. She calls me Aberdeen.' And Carmel Snow said, 'You're going to work with her.' And I did, to my enormous benefit, for almost 40 years."

At Vogue, she educated readers through travel, using her lavish editorials set in Tahiti, Bali, and other exotic locales. She was fired in 1971, presumably because her shoots were expensive, one of which was estimated to have cost $1 million.

Vreeland at work

Vreeland discussing a project with Truman Capote

And Vreeland is a character. Her razor wit and penchant for storytelling is inspiring, especially so because her stories are peppered with her travels, odd experiences (like seeing a car with gorillas in tailored suits), and thoughts on color, shade, and beauty. Despite being a fashion icon, Diana doesn't seem to be obsessed with the field. Instead, she talks much about living life. She once quipped, "It's not about the dress you wear, but it's about the life you lead in the dress."

Cherie Gil as Diana Vreeland

Cherie Gil lends herself well as Vreeland. She tastefully portrays the Vogue editor without resorting to caricature. Gil said so herself, after the preview, that she wanted to capture the essence of Vreeland rather than mimic her.

Gil gives a breathtaking performance, and at times touching. Only Gil could successfully bring to life a woman known for her vivacity, then switch to poignancy, and then haughty humor.

Full Gallop only has a limited run, and will be having its last two performances this week. I really hope people could go out and support Gil's marvelous performance as "the one and only fashion editor." Full Gallop will be staged at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza. Tickets may be bought at Ticketworld.

Here is my complete review on When In Manila.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

2014 Book #4: Imperial Bedrooms

Imperial Bedrooms is the 2010 sequel to Bret Easton Ellis's runaway hit and first book, Less Than Zero. In Imperial Bedrooms, we follow the lives of Clay, Julian, Blair, and their friends as Clay comes back to LA after spending time in New York as a screenwriter. The nihilistic teenage misfits of Less Than Zero are back as middle-aged, married savages. Unfortunately, it does not live up to the brilliance of its source, and Imperial Bedrooms can sometimes feel tedious and pointless. And not in the good Bret Easton Ellis kind of way.

"They had made a movie about us. The movie was based on a book written by someone we knew. The book was a simple thing about four weeks in the city we grew up in and for the most part was an accurate portrayal. It was labeled fiction but only a few details had been altered and our names weren't changed and there was nothing in it that hadn't happened."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Repertory Philippines' August: Osage County

I recently got to catch Repertory Philippines' production of August: Osage County. It's a local run of the hit play that started in Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago in 2007. By the end of the year, it was staged on Broadway for two years, closing its run with 648 performances and 18 previews. It received many nominations from prestigious theater organizations, winning five Tony awards, three Drama Desk awards, and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for playwright Tracy Letts.

Last year, it was adapted to the big screen by John Well, with the script written by Letts himself. It stars Meryl Streep, who I'm sure rocked her role as Violet Weston. The film was nominated for two Oscars: Best Actress for Streep and Best Supporting Actress for Julia Roberts.

The controversial Weston girls

August: Osage County is the story of the Westons, whose patriarch, Beverly Weston mysteriously disappears. The family gathers together at their farmhouse in Oklahoma hoping for news, and while waiting, dig up family drama that would put any dysfunctional family to shame. Because of its intricate plot and family issues, I made a cheat sheet of the major characters and their personal issues for my feature in When In Manila:

  • Violet Weston: the imperial grand dame of the family. A loud, brash, and aggressive woman who is addicted to painkillers. Suffers from what her husband called the joke’s punchline: oral cancer.
  • Barbara Fordham: the eldest daughter of Beverly and Violet. She is a caring yet controlling woman whose marriage is slowly disintegrating. Her husband Bill is having an affair with one of his students, but he is there to support his wife. Their daughter Jean is an adolescent with growing pains (and a predilection for pot).
  • Ivy Weston: the Westons’ middle child. She is the cool, calm, and collected type, often interrogated for still being single at 44. She is, in fact, in a secret relationship, with someone she shouldn’t be having a relationship with.
  • Karen Weston: the youngest Weston child. She is carefree and hedonistic, and is engaged to a sleazy man named Steve who has his own predilections.
  • Mattie Fae Aiken: Violet’s sister. Is as loud and brash as her sister. Constantly antagonizes her husband Charlie and their son Little Charlie, who they call a “screw-up.”
  • Johnna Monevata: the Cheyenne woman Beverly hires to watch over Violet and the household. May be the only sane soul in the Weston farmhouse.

Sheila Francisco and Pinky Amador were the highlights of August: Osage County

Rep's August: Osage County was a brilliant production. The acting was top-notch, especially Sheila Francisco and Pinky Amador. Sheila is originally cast as Mattie Fae, and you really appreciate the depth of her acting when you consider she has to play two different roles, sometimes in one day. She intensely conveys a complex range of emotions from pain to anger, condescension, and resignation. Pinky is brilliant as  Barbara, perfectly balancing a struggling demeanor and wild abandon. My favorite scenes were the ones where both Sheila and Pinky completely lose it.

The Westons reunite after the disappearance of family patriarch Beverly

However, the story is the true gem of the production. The story revolves around the disappearance of Beverly, but sometimes this is overshadowed by the personal issues and drama of the Weston family. Each has their own story that at first it can be hard to follow. I often found myself thinking, “Oh, this girl is the one that his this problem, while this guy is the one who did this, and that guy is this.” But once you get the hang of the story and really pay attention, you’ll find how everything connects and appreciate how they can still stick to each other even if their lives are so different.

The cast of August: Osage County

The cast is rounded out by Tami Monsod (Ivy Weston), Liesl Batucan (Karen Weston), Leo Rialp (Beverly Weston), Kenneth Moraleda (Bill Fordham), Thea Gloria (Jean Fordham), Richard Cunanan (Charlie Aiken), Hans Eckstein (Steve Heidebrecht), Noel Rayos (Little Charles Aiken), Angeli Bayani (Johnna Monevata, understudy is Naths Everett), and Arnel Carrion (Sheriff Deon Gilbeau).

August: Osage County is directed by Chris Millado, a well-respected theater veteran and currently the Vice-President and Artistic Director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Sadly, the play is having its last week this week. Tickets are available at TicketWorld. August: Osage County is staged at Onstage, Greenbelt 1.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

PETA's Rak of Aegis

I was invited to the press night of Rak of Aegis, the closing production of PETA's 46th season. A few weeks prior, I got to watch the preview, a 20-minute sneak peek of what to expect on the actual run. During the preview, I was already impressed with the vocal prowess of the three leads - Aicelle Santos, Isay Alvarez-Seña, and Robert Seña. But I wasn't prepared for the brilliance of the actual play.

Rak of Aegis' curtain call

I was already expecting the electrifying performances of Santos and the Señas, but I got to experience the extent of their vocal range in full that night. I was especially blown away by Robert, whose powerful tenor voice literally gave me the chills. His nuanced performance as Kiel was amazing. At times, Santos was overpowered by Robert and Isay, but their voices are otherworldly so it's forgivable.

Rak of Aegis is set in Villa Venizia (referencing Venice), a town recovering from a flood. The town is still submerged and local businesses are floundering, but the locals are getting by with the world-famous Filipino spirit. Aileen (Santos) wants to change all that by uploading a video of herself singing, hoping Ellen would discover her and give her money. She instantly becomes a YouTube sensation, and the town capitalizes her singing prowess amidst the tragedy.

It might be poverty porn, but it has bite. It's mixed with humor, many of which was delivered by Phi Palmos as Jewel (or Joel) and Jerald Napoles as Tolits. Their comic relief was one of the highlights of Rak of Aegis.

My only issue was that it was a little too long.

Because the press night coincided with the opening performance, Aegis was there as special guests. As the cast took their curtain call, the band suddenly appeared on stage, making a dramatic entrance on the boat that was used as one of the props. The set designer actually put a flooded area on the stage to make it look realistic, and boy was it realistic - the water didn't look clean.

And they broke into song. It was crazy, everybody went crazy. Even the guys who came in blazers went ballistic and sang along to Halik, Basang Basa Sa Ulan, and Luha. Aegis may be masa, but every Filipino knows at least one Aegis song, no matter their socioeconomic status. They have this universal appeal that makes them a guilty pleasure of everyone - bakya or sosyal. As proof, my brother knows Halik and Ulan even though he's part of the latter group.

The cast of Rak of Aegis

Me with Aicelle Santos and the girls of Aegis

I got to meet the band after! I also found out that my friend's parents are Aegis' managers.

I've been meaning to write about this for the longest time but I've been so busy with things. But you can still catch Rak of Aegis because it will be staged until March 9 at the PETA Theater in Quezon City.

Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Book #3: O Kaligayahang Walang Hanggan, Yeh!

I'm late to the Kikomachine party, but as they say, better late than never. I found this copy of Manix Abrera's Kikomachine Komix 4: O Kaligayahang Walang Hanggan, Yeh! in Recto while I was having some portraits framed.

The book is a series of untitled comic strips, featuring nameless people, going through the daily life of being a student, and it is hilarious. Granted, I haven't experienced many of the situations, such as passing late reports, living in a dormitory, and finding innovative ways to eat lunch, but many of the story arcs also have socio-political commentary that anyone can relate to. I hope I can find other copies when I have my other prints framed!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

2014 Film #6: Frozen

Despite being set in the medieval age, Frozen is refreshingly very modern. It thumbs its nose at Disney conventions and does away with finding true love instantly after a long period of solitude or slumber.

Elsa, the Snow Queen, sets the tone of the animated feature after telling her sister Anna "You can't marry a man you just met." Clearly, Elsa is modern Disney royalty, and she bulldozes through this by being a queen instead of a princess, and not relying on a man to help her rule Arendelle. 

It is this message that makes Frozen a groundbreaking Disney film. After being saturated with classics where a princess is woken up by true love's kiss, often from a man who she hasn't met, or even seen, we see Frozen as a reflection of the time we live in. And it's nice that Disney is growing with the progress of equality and girl power. Here, we don't see damsels-in-distress. We see strong women capable of handling themselves, even the sweet and innocent Princess Anna has skills that would put Snow White to shame.

Frozen also revolutionizes Disney's concept of true love, by showing that true love can come in any form, and not necessarily in the form of a man. The film announces that women can run kingdoms on their own without Prince Charming and if he does arrive, it's going to take more than pretty eyelashes to make her sing A Whole New World.

It's obvious that Frozen is set to become a modern classic (there are already plans for a sing-along version and a Broadway musical), and to break every relationship rule it created. With this in mind, Let It Go has earned another meaning, another layer that is set to thaw our old beliefs.

Friday, January 24, 2014

2014 Book #2: Starck

We all know Philippe Starck as that guy who created the iconic Ghost chair. Its simple, transparent design was lauded as his attempt to democratize furniture and available for all, and for all I mean those who can afford to shell out $410 (or P17,000) for a single piece.

The iconic Ghost Chair

Beyond that, we have no idea what else Starck did. At least I didn't. I always thought he was simply a furniture designer, but this book by Taschen showed that he was so much more. Starck is a collection of his major projects in a career spanning three decades. The book reveals that beyond chairs, Starck designed houses, buildings, appliances, clothes, and even vehicles!

Starck began designing consumer goods when he realized that the items of his day had no "humor, love, or fancy." He identified the kind of things the people he would like to have as a friend to own and use. "Not necessarily beautiful objects, but good objects," he said. Good objects he called non-products for non-consumers, or people who are "alert and wary, but also open, creative, enthusiastic, and finally extremely upstream and modern."

A couch with a DVD player, projector, and speakers 

I wish I had a teddy bear like this!

Philippe Starck-designed office supplies would motivate me to go back to work 

Modern watches 

A partnership with Monnaie de Paris, the L'Ultimate Franc

What results is an amazing collection of items from French coins, Olympic torches, children's toys, and those beautiful, beautiful chairs.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 Films #4, #5: Carrie (1976), Carrie (2013)

When you have an adaptation as perfect as Brian De Palma's Carrie, it's hard to think of a reason why Hollywood needs to reboot it. But that's what Kimberly Peirce did last year, taking the iconic story of Stephen King's first novel Carrie and putting a modern spin to it. I'm sorry to say I did not like it.

Carrie was the first King book I read and sparked my love for the author. Seeing it on film for the first time was a great experience, made even greater by De Palma's masterful execution. Sissy Spacek as the titular character was so terrifying that it was as if the role was created just for her. Spacek's dedication to the role was so much that she insisted on actually being buried at the final scene, when Sue Snell paid her respects at the White house.

When news broke that a remake was set, I had my doubts. The first film was fantastic as it was, and there is little to improve. Still, I was excited because the book had a special place in my heart. I got around to watching it, and I was disappointed. First, it was casting Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie. I like her, she's charming, but she doesn't quite capture Spacek's vulnerability, and later, anger. Her acting was controlled, unlike Spacek who was not afraid to get down, dirty, and ugly.

The Carrie remake was also not subtle, blatantly pointing out that Carrie is telekinetic. I guess it's the audience's lack of patience, but I appreciate how De Palma was understated, often implying to the lead's powers instead of shoving it in the viewer's faces. Those unfamiliar with the premise may wonder if she really is telekinetic.

What I do like about the remake is the compelling acting of Julianne Moore as Margaret White, Carrie's mother. Piper Laurie was scary but Moore gave a fresh take to the role of overzealous mother, and she clearly outshone Moretz. Sadly, this does not save the movie.

On its own, I think Peirce's version of Carrie is your typical blockbuster movie. But they did a great job for trying.
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