Man Of Mars (August 8, 2003 – December 31, 2007)

March 1, 2007

March 2007

Filed under: films,music,personal — drei @ 12:00 am

Remastered Blue album of Joni Mitchell
Tue, 06 Mar 2007 03:42:00 GMT

joni mitchell

Today marks the first day of sale of the remastered version of Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue, hailed as one of the greatest records of all time.  TIME magazine even included it in their list of 100 best albums of all timeJoni is considered to be one of the most influential female singers in the past four decades, and many artists regardless of gender consider Joni a great influence.  The Lilith Fair ladies alone show hints of Joni Mitchell every once in a while – the storytelling poetry of Lisa Loeb, the shaking voice of Jewel, the emotions of my favorite female singer Sarah McLachlan, etc.

I first heard of Joni Mitchell in my favorite comedy series FRIENDS, where a remixed version of Big Yellow Taxi was used in the soundtrack.  Then I heard the song sampled in Janet’s Got ‘Til It’s Gone from the really great pop CD Velvet Rope (which I bought on sale), then later revived by The Counting Crows and Vanessa Carlton for a romantic comedy movie.  Then I got a ripped copy of the album Clouds through my friend Skeeter, and then later on got more albums through friend, former officemate, and the new Soluziona basketball star Shelley. (Peace Shelley!)
I am not familiar with all of Mitchell’s works, but these are the three tracks I consider her best:

“A Case of You” from the album Blue (1971)
A Case of You tells a sad story of infatuation, and is one of those really lonely ballads that make you emotional during tipsy moments.  Diana Krall’s version of this song was highly praised by Joni herself.  Other favorites from the album are My Old Man, Carey, and All I Want.  Next to Big Yellow Taxi, I think Carey is the second most notable upbeat Joni Mitchell song.  Joni sings: I could drink a case of you darlin’ and still be on my feet.

“Both Sides Now” from the album Clouds (1969)
This song was recently in the mainstream music scene because of the film Love Actually.  Who would forget the tearjerker montage of Ms. Emma Thompson when she discovered the infidelity of husband played by the versatile Alan Rickman?  The lyrics of the song take us to a profound perspective on life and love, and carry a very moving melody accompanying the theme.  This may sound morbid, but my good friend Lye actually considers Both Sides Now her funeral song (mine would be Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen, hehe).  The song was updated to a more solemn and soulful version in Joni’s 2000 orchestra album.  Chelsea Morning, another track from the album Clouds, is also a favorite.  Joni sings:  It’s life’s illusions that I recall; I really don’t know life at all.

“Cherokee Louise” from the album Night Ride Home (1991)
Cherokee Louise is my ultimate favorite Joni Mitchell song – a relaxing acoustic tune I can always associate with long travels at night, just as the album title says.  (Most of my favorite songs give that same effect; the instant example I can think of is REM’s E-bow the Letter).  The lyrics however tells a sad tale of a character who lives in a tunnel, with lots of hidden meanings in between.  I also personally think that the album Night Ride Home is equally great as the critically applauded Blue.  This 90’s work is one of her later albums infused with jazz and the modern sound, which actually fits more to the taste of the younger generation, which I suppose includes myself.  Other favorites from the album are the tracks Night Ride Home and Passion PlayJoni sings:  Cherokee Louise is hiding in this tunnel in the Broadway bridge.

Joni Mitchell is one unique artist whose talent ranges from painting to songwriting, and whose genre goes from folk to jazz.  I’m planning to buy the remastered Blue album as a Birthday present to myself, along with my “plan” to quit smoking (again).
War Movies
Fri, 09 Mar 2007 02:43:00 GMT

Recently I was able to watch three war movies on big screen – wars between musical divas, between ancient civilizations, and between desperate women.  All three films are based on previous works.

battle of american idol and destiny's child alumnae

Dreamgirls is a singing drama based on a stage musical, which was very loosely based on the biographical story of the pop group The Supremes.  If you simply love any form of musical, then there’s no reason you wouldn’t appreciate this movie.  The production may not be as grand as Chicago, and the story may not be as magical as Moulin Rouge, but it still was one enjoyable experience.  Jennifer Hudson truly deserves her win in the supporting Oscar award, with her convincing acting and really powerful voice (though I was rooting for personal favorite Cate Blanchett).  I don’t think that Jamie Foxx was forgettable in the film as some critics claim, when in fact I thought he had so much presence in the movie, and the story would not be that compelling without his fine acting.  Eddie Murphy was great as the junkie pop star, and Beyonce had her few moments as well.

Good thing I watched Dreamgirls with fresh-from-MBA Che, since she was a member of the UP Singing Ambassadors during her undergraduate days, and definitely knows how to appreciate good music.  (We used to watch a lot of horror movies and go on impulsive food trips until she got so busy with MBA.  Good thing she’s back!)  I also think my mother would enjoy this movie since she’s a fan of Diana Ross and The Supremes.  All music lovers familiar with the era of The Supremes, Lionel Richie, the Jacksons, and all those old school Motown sound will enjoy this movie.

androgynous Rodrigo Santoro versus Phantom of the Opera's Gerard Butler

300 is a revolutionary action movie based on a graphic novel, which was loosely based on the historical Battle of Thermopylae, the Spartan war against Persian forces.  The movie is so great that it reminded me of so many great moments in recent filmmaking.  I just love everything about 300 – the choreography, the colors, the music, everything.  In the middle of the movie I was already thinking of buying the original DVD when it comes out.

For a moment I was wondering if Hans Zimmer did the musical score of the movie.  Good thing he didn’t, and the filmmakers wouldn’t be accused of doing a Ridley Scott.  In fact, a lot of the scenes reminded me of Scott’s 2000 epic Gladiator, especially the scenes with the yellow fields, with the queen and her son in the foreground.  Incidentally, those specific moments were said to be the only parts of the movie that weren’t taken from Frank Miller’s images.  In addition, 300 took advantage of a March release, to lead the blockbuster season and avoid the summer competition.  Gladiator used that same technique (so did the first Matrix), which I think is reasonable, since franchise sequels usually own the summer playdates, and there “might” be a chance that good films like Gladiator and 300 wouldn’t earn as much.

If Troy showed us three barenaked men in lousy battle scenes, this one gives us a hundredfold more with creatively choreographed and cinematically captured stunts.  Fight scenes were simply massive and breathtaking, the best since The Two Towers.  And only in the first Matrix and 300 was I amazed with the visual techniques of capturing fast action scenes.  The only minor downside for me was the macro shots of the movie, which was difficult to appreciate because of the texture.  Nothing still compares to the work of cinematographer Christopher Doyle in Hero.  But like Hero, almost every scene in 300 is a masterpiece.

My college friends and I were so excited for 300 that we had to watch it during its first day of release.  And what a great moment 300 was for cinema in this generation.  It even entered IMDB’s Top 250 list of best movies of all time during its first week, and got a standing ovation in its world premiere in Berlin.  This is one movie no cinephile should miss.

Australia versus Britian in Notes on a Scandal

Notes on a Scandal is a suspense drama based on a best-selling novel.  The movie lasted only an hour and a half, but seemed so long because of the gripping suspense and really topnotch acting.  British Judi Dench and Australian Cate Blanchett play high school teachers in London who both lead desperate lives full of foul secrets.  The dirty laundry of all women in Desperate Housewives combined is no match to the psychological thrill of this very dark drama.  Tragedy and secrets unfold one after another, and the desperation of the main characters just gets into your face scene after scene.  Notes on a Scandal is simply a fine work of intelligent writing, well developed characters, and superb acting.

I watched Notes on a Scandal alone since I was certain it will only run for a week, and it’s hard to drag people in this relatively unknown movie (especially that it’s only shown in Greenbelt).  I’m really glad I caught the movie on big screen, though I must say it’s not the perfect film to de-stress with after a long day’s work.

Good thing it’s already the weekend.  Happy weekend everyone!

Thu, 15 Mar 2007 15:59:00 GMT

click image for details

American Idol Season 6 had its Diana Ross episode, and sadly I think the current batch is a little weak.  My top bet would be Melinda, though physically she doesn’t have the star appeal.  She has one of the best voice quality and most powerful range, and she is the most humble contestant in the batch.  Next personal bet would be Stephanie, who has this Toni Braxton and Beyonce thing going on.  Among the males, there’s no extraordinary candidate, but my quick favorites would be Chris and Blake.  During this week’s episode, some girl butchered the lyrics of Missing You, which I consider Diana Ross’s best hit.

My current favorite album is Undiscovered by James Morisson, which I recently discovered, thanks to recommendations by Dianne, Eugene, and Ferdz.  The album is a collection of mostly upbeat alternative tracks, and James’s sound reminds me of Gavin Degraw and some Maroon 5, with a jazzy voice quality similar to Jamie Cullum.  The first track alone is not to miss, Under the Influence, with its strong violin melody and happy tune, while the album track Undiscovered uses a vocal choir adding an excellent dramatic feel to the sound and lyrics.  Personal favorites are You Give Me Something, Wonderful World, This Boy, and The Pieces Don’t Fit AnymoreUndiscovered is one must have album.
My Birthday Week: from A to Ziggy
Wed, 28 Mar 2007 10:39:00 GMT

My birthday week started with a mini picnic with close friends at the UP sunken garden, and ended with a whole day affair with Ziggy Marley.  Unlike last year when there was pressure to celebrate because of the quarter mark, hehe (I had a mini pasta party the weekend before, and climbed Luzon’s highest peak the weekend after), this time I had to slow it down.  Or so I thought.

Two nights were spent on my “new” sport, ultimate Frisbee, thanks to good friend Roselle who gave me a great beginner’s training. The midnight before my birthday was celebrated with former officemates (and now Frisbee buddies hehe) Van and Shelwin, having dinner in our favorite Mr. Kebab, and finishing beer in Quatro.  During the day itself, my best buddies at work Aisen and Oliver invited for lunch at SOMS Noodle House, the affordable Thai kitchen and one of my great food discoveries in 2006, and as a treat Oliver paid for the bill.  Former officemates also invited for dinner, to this place I’ve been advertising to them since last year – SOMS!  Since they were willing to go all the way to Makati from Ortigas during rush hour, I didn’t mind having my 2nd SOMS meal on my birthday.  Shelwin and Abi brought me a new Frisbee disc, and Jimelle paid for the bill.  I was so lucky not having to spend on meals on my birthday!  Late at night, I was meeting the end of the day with Lye and Skeeter, spending a nightcap in Ziggurat, finishing Indian food and watching the rain in front of us.  It felt great starting and ending my day with great friends.

By Friday, I got two surprise cakes from officemates (the latter was not actually a surprise since it’s part of our department’s tradition, but I’m still glad especially that they gave me a new issue of this great photography magazine).  And by Saturday, I spent the entire day with Nana, for the press conference of Ziggy Marley, and for his live performance in the Philippine Plaza.  In between the two events we spent the entire afternoon pigging out and window shopping, and by concert time more friends joined us, euphoric and alive because the son of the reggae legend was actually dancing and singing in front of our eyes.  Skeeter, who used to work for MTV, gave me VIP passes as a birthday gift, and Nana, as Chalk’s associate editor, got me Press passes.  It’s just the perfect time when birthdays and connections do matter.  Hehe!

press conference at mojito bay performance at the philippine plaza poolside
Click here for more pictures

Instead of resting on Sunday, I had to wake up before lunch since I had a Calculus tutorial session in the afternoon.  This part-time job (and quasi-hobby) started in college, and until today I still get occasional invites for lectures and tutorials.  I’m glad I accepted this one, since the parents of my tutee were two of the nicest people I’ve met, and they remind me so much of my mom.  Aside from age, they have the same values and almost the same admirable treatment towards their kids.  In fact after the tutorial session, the three of us were still chatting over her homemade pansit and refrigerator cake, talking about universities, the corporate world, and parenting.  Meeting one such nice and humble couple was one great way to end the week.

By Sunday night, the stress of the entire week has consumed my entire body, and made me really sick.  I took two days off from work; good thing my brother Doms kept bringing me food every time he went home and would even text me if I wanted anything, and my brother Oliver who’s graduating in med school in a few months kept checking on me, and was my acting doctor.  For two days I did nothing but sleep on the couch, eat, listen to Elliot Yamin’s new album (sent by Ferdz as a birthday gift!), and watch tons of episodes of The Simpsons.

I’m honestly glad I got sick since I got to rest for two straight days.  Now it’s back to the real world, and back to work, with one year added to my age.  But then, I don’t think birthdays are all about changing a digit (or digits to some hehe) to one’s age, but it’s the way for the universe to tell us that we have another year to celebrate life.  And I really think it should be celebrated well.  Cliche as this may sound, here’s to more years of fun travels, great photographs, good music, excellent movies, and wonderful friendships!


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