Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Craziness of January

Hello blog.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks - January's been crazy in general - and yet, in retrospect, the craziness hasn't been much of the academic type. We're officially down to our second to the last module for the school year and are busying ourselves with vaginas and uteri and all that stuff that happens after sex. Which actually got me thinking last week: Why don't - or why can't our teachers say the word 'sex' in class? They always go for copulation or sexual intercourse or mating (no, they don't actually usually go for that third one). Don't give me that shiz about professionalism because there isn't anything more professional than saying 'sex' in a class of medical students with full confidence that no one will take it maliciously, me thinks. If it's indeed about that professionalism stuff, then that's just lousy. Maybe it's just me, but I'm pretty certain it's not just me. See for yourselves and you'll know what I'm talking about. They just... hesitate whenever the time comes for them to say it. There's always a shiver, however minute, or a-millimeter-of-a-step backward. It's crazy.

Speaking of crazy, I did finally get to finish a book after last semestral break's The Joy Luck Club. Behold!

I am now officially a devotee. Sorry if it took me like a million years to get hold of this... this majestic, classic piece of art. If there is a more compelling, straightforward, soulful, and honest memoir, then hand it over because I don't know if there exists such a thing. Patti, you're my woman now. Case in point: I downloaded a couple of months ago the newest Anything Goes cast recording with Sutton Foster. Last Saturday, I ended up downloading Patti's 1987 cast recording and now it's this one that's in the pod. 

In this book, you see how Topol is such a disgusting man; how The Baker's Wife is a mess and Meadowlark, a gold bar in the wrong mine; how destructive to the being Evita is in its original form performed eight times a week; how Andrew Lloyd Webber has a twisted darker side to his genius; how Glenn Close is a vocally so-so Norma Desmond, etc. More than anything, the book is juicy, but I suspect it's just the icing on top of a very delicious cake. Another book, Patti!

And as for my favorite hobby, Oscars movie-viewing, I've so far seen twenty-four. That includes Brad Pitt's sensational turn in Moneyball, the ingenious and utterly romantic Midnight in Paris (one of the best so far), Viola Davis's and Octavia Spencer's SAG-winning performances in The Help, that WEIRD hodgepodge of artsy shots called The Tree of Life (with otherwise fine acting), actress of the year Jessica Chastain times three (The Tree of Life, The Help, and the thrilling but overly under-appreciated The Debt), Bridesmaids (the best comedy film of the season, certainly one of the decade's finest), Horrible Bosses (the second funniest comedy of the season), two masterful foreigners (A Separation - "Liar, liar, pants on fire" - and Certified Copy), John C. Reilly times two (this year's Precious - Terri - and the unexpectedly brilliant Cedar Rapids), and the alien film of the season: Attack the Block.   

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Hunt for Jeremy Renner

The following is an account of what transpired last Wednesday, January 11.

 Scene of the crime. 

Midway through the morning's incredibly long Special Senses lecture, our professor broke his momentum and uttered the most unexpected of thoughts.

"You're wondering why traffic was so bad earlier? They're shooting a couple of blocks from here."

Emphasis - and for many, a question mark - on the word they're. Of course, as I follow Jessica Zafra online, I knew what he was talking about. Academy Award-nominated Hollywood star Jeremy Renner was in town to shoot some scenes for The Bourne Legacy, that fourth installment of the film series previously topbilled by Matt Damon. His leading lady: Rachel Weisz, whom a few out there might still remember from The Mummy films with Brendan Fraser.

Not, of course, that film shootings are that big a deal. Local companies doing their shoots are not an uncommon sight along the Pasig River-Binondo area which is basically next to home. It just so happened that this one - with two Oscar denizens at that - were shooting three, maybe four blocks away from where we were seated in a lecture hall.

Days before, I had already contemplated on making my way to the Manila Peninsula where Renner was staying and just finding some random, unthinkable trick of having my picture taken with him. I'd later find out, based on Zafra's blog chronicles, that he doesn't do pictures because 'it causes a stir'.

But even without that input, I'd have still dismissed the idea as ludicrous, impractical, and chosen instead, as I would given such situations as a choice, to get on with my mundane existence. The class, it seemed, thought just that. Seemed - because I later found out only a tiny fraction actually knew who Renner was. And from that fraction, an even smaller number who admired him as an actor (yours truly in the lead, of course). I guess most everybody was busy with an exam or something nerdy when The Hurt Locker or The Town (the more deserving one of an Oscar in my opinion) came out.

Sad, I know. Which is why I chose to have lunch after class with one of my great friends whom we shall call Cassius (in case he reads this). 

"Can you imagine they're actually shooting a few blocks away from here?" I said as we lined up at the counter of some fast food chain (it was 12:30 and the next class was in thirty minutes, so forgive us, health buffs).

"What? Who's shooting what where?" he said, apparently lost.

"Jeremy Renner," I said, blankly.

"You're kidding me. Who's shooting where?" he replied.

"Weren't you listening earlier?"

"No. I was asleep." (That's the other classroom activity in med school, if listening is one.)

"But don't you know?" I asked, already confused.

"No - what is it?"

"Jeremy Renner is shooting The Bourne Legacy here in Malate. Come on, you're kidding, right?!"

And he wasn't. Which meant that upon realizing that I also wasn't, he went into a semi-berserk state. Which spelled a good thing, I think.

"THEY'RE HERE? Like a few blocks away? Let's go there! We have to see it!" he matter-of-factly declared.

I knew the decision was already made even before I gave my overt agreement. And so there we were - two guys in white uniforms, looking slightly and ineptly young to be med school students, making our way to the San Andres Market area, potentially wasting the Filipino people's money by risking being late for the next class. (Yes, I know I'm risking getting attacked online with that last bit.)

After ten minutes and asking a couple of policemen for directions, we found ourselves in a crowd. It was difficult to tell who was just an overly eager spectator and who was an extra for the film (they'd put out an announcement the week before for three hundred extras who looked class B, C, D). 

"If I'd known earlier, I'd have auditioned," Cassius said. He played a beggar in a video project last year, and was quite convincing, we all agreed.

The place, for lack of a better term, was a market - literally and figuratively. People of all shapes and ages were present: working men, vendors, bread store employees, tricycle drivers, loud-mouthed and gossipy neighbors, high school students, rowdy Hobbit-sized kids. Everyone was saying something to someone else or to no one in particular, as is common practice for our culture (you know, say something and everybody gets a laugh). It was straight out of those Pinoy flicks where the onlookers are as interesting as, maybe even more interesting than the main stars.

But the attention was all at one spot: A narrow alleyway where several White men (sorry for my temporary inability to evade sounding racist) were fixing the set. Along the main road where everyone was, trucks were parked - dressing rooms, we were told. I suggested just banging straight at the doors.

For the most part, we were just standing around and looking around and waiting for something cinematic to happen. We had found three other classmates at the site - one of them, we shall call the Chinese in honor of his most dominant features. He had his DSLR camera, which was a far cry from the huge, mounted ones of the big TV companies around to take footage for the evening news. (Possible headline: Mga estudyante ng UP, nahuling hindi pumasok sa shooting ng The Bourne Legacy - UP students caught absent from class at the shooting of The Bourne Legacy - yep, the Tagalog version is quite misleading.)

After much waiting, the attention shifted to the adjacent alleyway. Finally, some action! They were doing test shoots for the stunt scenes. The stuntman clambered out of a second-floor window, over the ledge, onto the roof. Bravo! He did that about three times - the director's instructions, I surmised.

But that was just about the action that we saw. And celebrity blondes? Some of the crew were stationed along the main road, some would go in and out the set; they were the closest giddy photo-hungry onlookers could have for glamorous Tinseltown superstars. Meanwhile, the crew from the second floor of the set took their pictures of the wide-eyed hundreds - something to show off to their friends back home.

It was 1:45PM. We had strayed long enough. We decided it was time to leave. Cassius and I resigned ourselves to the fact that it wasn't just time yet to meet Renner. 

And then, it happened. As I walked, already a considerable distance from the site, a blonde-haired figure crossed the periphery of my eye. He had a baseball cap and sunglasses on, and he was walking slowly at the opposite side of the road. His companion, most probably an assistant, walked just as quietly by his side. I knew I had to make the move.

"JEREMY RENNER!" I hollered.

He spun around, saw my exasperated face running up to him, and I swear he broke into a sort of smile, probably amazed at the effort.

"Hi. May I just say, I'm a huuuuge fan!" I forced out, starstruck.

"Thanks." he said.

"I know you don't take pictures, but I'd kill myself if I don't leave this place without proof that I've met the best thing that ever happened to The Town." 

That made him chuckle. And then, he motioned for me to follow him between two parked cars. There, he removed his sunglasses.

"Just... be silent with this. I'm no fan of fanfare," he half-whispered.

So I took out my camera, and the shot was made. Cassius, having followed us to the cranny, had his as well.

"Thank you for this! We're eternally grateful. You're awesome!" was all I could say.

"No problem," he said cooly.

He put his glasses back on, and with his assistant, having stood guard and as cover earlier, headed silently for the crowd.

I guess Rachel will have to wait some other time. 

But as is often the case with literature, none of that happened. Renner was never there, and the photos were never taken. We only walked back to school, spirits not the least bit dampened; in fact, we walked back knowing we cut class for one of the best possible reasons. The hunt is still on.

As captured by the media.