Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How to Make a Movie in Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

What makes a great movie?  Does it need a great story?  Special effects?  Great actors?  Let this film show you how to cram great screenwriting in two days!  Paris When It Sizzles stars William Holden as scriptwriter Richard Benson who is struggling with his script, and Audrey Hepburn as Gabrielle Simpson, a mysterious woman who helps him overcome his writer's block.  Together, they guide us to the complex and nonsense intricacies of making an international thriller/romance movie called "The Woman Who Stole the Eiffel Tower".


This movie serves as a good respite from "remakes" and "film adaptations" that currently dominate the silver screen.  Because this film follows what Richard Benson calls "Serendipity":

Richard Benson explains Serendipity to Gab. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFtLkKdWglc

And I think it's a beautiful explanation.  In Benson's words (0:24), "It is to find excitement and happiness in anything that occurs, no matter how unexpected".  You can make a story impromptu by just having fun.  Wow! 

I don't always watch movies about making a movie.  But I really enjoy this film.  When Benson and Gab progress from one scene to another, they do not really know what to write at first.  Sometimes they added vampires and spies and thieves to add more flavor to the script.  If they make mistakes, they edit it out and they move along.  And we the audience forgive them for that because of the beautiful chemistry between Holden and Hepburn.  In the film, we see them play as spy vs. femme fatale, or girl versus vampire.  They even cast themselves in the role of extras as they scold each other on the elements of screenplay.  Benson's film boss appears in "The Girl..." and you would notice how this balding middle aged man giggled like a girl.  Oh!  It was actually Gab (Hepburn) herself acting out the script.

People say that Comedy is a difficult art form to pull off.  But I think it's because people are more conditioned that Realism is said to be dark, gritty, and miserable, and full of misfortune.  This is partly true.  Today's audiences believe that a film should be "realistic" to be considered beautiful.  So war movies often earn a nod at the Oscars.  But we know that life is also joyful and fun, and full of unexpected surprises.  And Paris When It Sizzles shows us that you don't have to torture yourself to create a marvelous work of art.

A positive person will find beauty in everything he senses, whether he is an artist or a critic.  Rules are secondary. When you find yourself playing instead of working, everything you touch seems to be a work of art.




Monday, August 19, 2013

SMART TRUST by Stephen M.R. Covey



SMART TRUST
Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World
Stephen M.R. Covey
Copyright 2012 by Coveylink, LLC


Stephen Covey is no doubt the king of self-help books.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold 25 million copies around the world.  The book’s easy reading and well-organized materials have offered practical advice in reconciling marriage, work, and family.

But Smart Trust tackles corporate management and it boldly steps into global politics.  Its message is simple.  With Covey’s evangelistic tone, he asserts that to trust is the key for nations, corporations, and grassroots movement to move into a better future.  He calls it “the new currency” because “it is the basis on which many people do business – or don’t.” (page 13)  He is fully aware of the risk in blind trust.  But this book exposes that suspicion delivers as much – sometimes greater damage – as being gullible and how we must replace this mindset with Smart Trust.  In a nutshell is to extend trust and to exercise vigilance against those who abuse it.  How much trust should we give?  To answer this question, Covey shares the words of Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, “the foundation of our business runs with a belief that most people are good.”  This idea is not new.  In the classic Management book The One Minute Manager, one of the action points is to catch people (your employees) doing something right.  By giving trust, you give them self-worth and it motivates them to work harder.  But Smart Trust urges you to trust 95% of the people you work with.  It’s bad statistics, as terrible as Jesus telling us to forgive seventy times seven times.  Nonetheless, it’s a paradigm shift.  We can be very trustful but also careful at the same time. 

Yet many of us will find Smart Trust difficult to accept.  Most people are good?  When you read this, especially if you’re a Filipino, you’d find this unpalatable.  Corrupt officials, unruly drivers, scam artists, snatchers, holduppers, take advantage of us even in broad daylight.  You would say yes, this is true in highly developed countries, but not possible in highly corrupt and poverty-stricken countries—especially ours! 

But some of Covey’s examples are set in Third World Nations such as Bangladesh and Colombia to show Smart Trust at work.  At the first chapter, he shared an amazing story of Muhamad Yunus and how his bank managed to save millions of people from poverty by offering loans without any conditions of collateral and interest.  And he gets paid back 98% of the time, which dispels the myth that poor people are not credit worthy.  Oh yes, Covey also mentioned the famous Honesty Coffee Shop in Batanes (page 224), where buyers can take the goods they need and leave their payment without anyone collecting it!

Just like his previous books, Covey uses charts and diagrams to illustrate his points.  But one letdown though is he does not offer tricks to detect whether a person is trustworthy or not.  In 7 Habits for example, Covey teaches you how to speak and react when your child insists on following a bad decision.  Yes, he offers guidelines on areas such as managing risk but to apply them requires a bit more creativity and less spoon feeding.  He admits that it is more of an art than science.  Although top managers have lauded this book such as Indra Nooyi the CEO of PepsiCo (and she wrote the book’s foreword), Smart Trust serves more as an inspirational book rather than a How-to which 7 Habits readers are more accustomed to.  

How much do we need Smart Trust?  Pinoys may have a bigger problem with being gullible.  They fall victim to illegal recruiters and pyramid scams that even doctors and lawyers fall into.   They keep voting on politicians who enrich themselves and steal taxpayers’ money.  But on the other side of the spectrum, there are Pinoys online who contest the current positive outlook of our economy from ADB, Bloomberg, and other international institutions rather than take advantage of the situation by investing in stocks or run a business.  They say that the 60/40 Filipino ownership law only serves the interests of the oligarchs.  Perhaps that’s true, yet had they caught an entrepreneurial zeal, they could have used the rule to make their lives better.  They insist on 100% foreign ownership.  Fine, there may be some benefits.  But they blame the Chinese and to some extent, the Koreans too, as among the oligarchs who are depriving them of wealth and happiness. 

When people are negative and fearful, they blame everyone but themselves.  Perhaps it’s time now that we should look into a more refreshing positive lifestyle.  As of this writing, a huge torrential rain has just stopped.  Perhaps it is time for us to go out and enjoy the sunshine.

SMART TRUST





SMART TRUST
Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World
Stephen M.R. Covey
Copyright 2012 by Coveylink, LLC


Stephen Covey is no doubt the king of self-help books.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold 25 million copies around the world.  The book’s easy reading and well-organized materials have offered practical advice in reconciling marriage, work, and family.

But Smart Trust tackles corporate management and it boldly steps into global politics.  Its message is simple.  With Covey’s evangelistic tone, he asserts that to trust is the key for nations, corporations, and grassroots movement to move into a better future.  He calls it “the new currency” because “it is the basis on which many people do business – or don’t.” (page 13)  He is fully aware of the risk in blind trust.  But this book exposes that suspicion delivers as much – sometimes greater damage – as being gullible and how we must replace this mindset with Smart Trust.  In a nutshell is to extend trust and to exercise vigilance against those who abuse it.  How much trust should we give?  To answer this question, Covey shares the words of Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, “the foundation of our business runs with a belief that most people are good.”  This idea is not new.  In the classic Management book The One Minute Manager, one of the action points is to catch people (your employees) doing something right.  By giving trust, you give them self-worth and it motivates them to work harder.  But Smart Trust urges you to trust 95% of the people you work with.  It’s bad statistics, as terrible as Jesus telling us to forgive seventy times seven times.  Nonetheless, it’s a paradigm shift.  We can be very trustful but also careful at the same time. 

Yet many of us will find Smart Trust difficult to accept.  Most people are good?  When you read this, especially if you’re a Filipino, you’d find this unpalatable.  Corrupt officials, unruly drivers, scam artists, snatchers, holduppers, take advantage of us even in broad daylight.  You would say yes, this is true in highly developed countries, but not possible in highly corrupt and poverty-stricken countries—especially ours! 

But some of Covey’s examples are set in Third World Nations such as Bangladesh and Colombia to show Smart Trust at work.  At the first chapter, he shared an amazing story of Muhamad Yunus and how his bank managed to save millions of people from poverty by offering loans without any conditions of collateral and interest.  And he gets paid back 98% of the time, which dispels the myth that poor people are not credit worthy.  Oh yes, Covey also mentioned the famous Honesty Coffee Shop in Batanes (page 224), where buyers can take the goods they need and leave their payment without anyone collecting it!

Just like his previous books, Covey uses charts and diagrams to illustrate his points.  But one letdown though is he does not offer tricks to detect whether a person is trustworthy or not.  In 7 Habits for example, Covey teaches you how to speak and react when your child insists on following a bad decision.  Yes, he offers guidelines on areas such as managing risk but to apply them requires a bit more creativity and less spoon feeding.  He admits that it is more of an art than science.  Although top managers have lauded this book such as Indra Nooyi the CEO of PepsiCo (and she wrote the book’s foreword), Smart Trust serves more as an inspirational book rather than a How-to which 7 Habits readers are more accustomed to.  

How much do we need Smart Trust?  Pinoys may have a bigger problem with being gullible.  They fall victim to illegal recruiters and pyramid scams that even doctors and lawyers fall into.   They keep voting on politicians who enrich themselves and steal taxpayers’ money.  But on the other side of the spectrum, there are Pinoys online who contest the current positive outlook of our economy from ADB, Bloomberg, and other international institutions rather than take advantage of the situation by investing in stocks or run a business.  They say that the 60/40 Filipino ownership law only serves the interests of the oligarchs.  Perhaps that’s true, yet had they caught an entrepreneurial zeal, they could have used the rule to make their lives better.  They insist on 100% foreign ownership.  Fine, there may be some benefits.  But they blame the Chinese and to some extent, the Koreans too, as among the oligarchs who are depriving them of wealth and happiness. 

When people are negative and fearful, they blame everyone but themselves.  Perhaps it’s time now that we should look into a more refreshing positive lifestyle.  As of this writing, a huge torrential rain has just stopped.  Perhaps it is time for us to go out and enjoy the sunshine.

Monday, August 12, 2013

5 Reasons why Man of Steel is the Best Superman Movie

I recently watched ComicBookGirl19's review and she referred to fellow critics to "reflect" the critics' -- ahem -- the public perception of Man of Steel.  And the usual complaints are, boring action scenes, bland, lacks character development (*shakes head*) and Superman is so.....so.......


.......different?


That's right!  Man of Steel has a very different Superman.  We are used to the Christopher Reeve Superman in 1976: the ideal Superman.  He is a God in his world.  And some fans are probably uncomfortable that Man of Steel reveals a very human side of Clark Kent (played by Henry Cavill).  But I love it.  This is not really a "dark" or "gritty" Superman.  People assume that it is so because Christopher Nolan had produced it.  But it's not so campy either which makes the movie enjoyable for me.  It's more like a "Thin Red Line"-driven film, where motion speaks as much as an actual dialogue.  Here are my five major reasons why Man of Steel is the best Superman movie to date.

1.  Man of Steel unravels the Messiah nobody ever knew or even wanted.

In the Bible, the first chapter of John mentioned about a Messiah who came into the world, though not of this world, and people do not recognize him.  Yes, we can compare Jesus Christ and Superman in this film.  Interesting to note that Clark Kent started out as a laborer in a heavy industry rather than being a clumsy reporter.  And he jumped from one job to another as if he wished to conceal himself.  When Lois Lane interviewed those people he had encountered, he was not seen as a hero.  He was a vagabond, a troublemaker, a nobody who had strange supernatural powers.  Both Christ and Clark Kent went through several obstacles for them to understand what is going on with their lives.  They both have a destiny that they would someday become a Savior of this World. 

2.  Father's Love

Very very few movies could depict a Father's love to his son.  In television, a father is either a loveable fool like Homer Simpson, a distant authoritarian figure, or a loud coach.  But in the film, you cannot fit Superman's fathers' love in a box.  You could feel the love from Jor-El (Russel Crowe), which leaves a powerful mark for me.  Jor-El, not only saved his son's life from Krypton's total destruction.  But even in death Jor-El has revealed Superman's true identity to his own son! 

And Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), his earthly father, had raised him from childhood Clark despite being an outsider.  He tried his best for his son to live as normally as he could.  Because he knew that society would hate him for who he is.  And it's kind of frustrating because he raised Clark to have a strong moral compass but in many instances, the son has to reveal his identity in order to do what is righteous.  That is what I find Superman impressive in this movie.  He faced difficult human dilemmas.  Is it more righteous to save others in expense of yourself, or the other way around?  You might see that more clearly when Clark is about to save his father in a tornado.  Should he reveal his identity or let his father die?  Even after watching the film, I have no definite answer to that.  And that's the beauty of Father's love in Man of Steel.

3.  A Unique Perspective in Superman's Weakness

I used to joke that Man of Steel without Lex Luthor is a mistake.  But the film has challenged me to look deeper.  I often saw the poster with Superman in handcuffs.  That's silly.  He could yank it anytime he wanted.  But he keeps his chains.  Why?

We know that Superman's weakness is a piece of rock called Kryptonite which comes from his planet.  But in this movie, it is not his true weakness at all.  In fact, he manages to destroy a terra-forming machine that is build out of.....Kryptonite.  Just like Christ, Superman's true weakness is his Love for Humanity.  But Society does not see that.  When General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his minions threaten to destroy planet Earth, society quickly give in to their demands.  They never bother to ask who Superman really is, or what he is capable of.  They just let their fear decide on appeasing these villains with no guarantee of enforcing the agreement.  They act like Pontius Pilate.  They don't want to get involved, not knowing that they're about to be wiped out of the face of the earth. 

The story leaves a lesson for us.  We seem to know little of what we are capable of.  Do we say we are weak because society say so?  Hmmm....Think it over.

4.  A Smart Lois Lane.

How come Lois Lane in the earlier films and comics do not seem to recognize Clark Kent and Superman as one person?  Reporters should be sharp, analytical and always on their toes for the latest scoop.  And this Lois Lane (Amy Adams) fits the role perfectly.  She quickly picks up leads and recognize Superman earlier than the rest of the world does.  Granted, the chemistry between her and Clark Kent is not fully developed yet. I don't fault the movie though because this is after all, an origins story.  Superman is still at odds with his identity, and we cannot assume Lois Lane would be all over for him at once.  And this brings us to the fifth reason.....

5.  It Reveals a Promising Sequel

At the later parts of the film, Clark Kent decides to work at The Daily Planet.  And that reveals a very promising Part 2.  It makes sense that he works as a news reporter so he would know where he would be needed as Superman.  But as for Lois, how would she treat Clark now that she's aware that he's Superman?  Would she treat him just like everyone else?  Would she be forced to reveal his identity?  Suppose there is a Lex Luthor in part 2, would she compromise or be able to secure Clark's identity?  A lot of things can happen.  Part 2 gives more room for Lois and Clark chemistry to develop.  And we know that Christopher Nolan loves sequels. And I personally believe that its sequel would be better than this movie.  I heard rumors that this sequel would include Batman but.....I just don't think it's necessary.  There are many things to resolve yet.  Oh.  We are not even sure if General Zod is dead or not.  And if he is dead, who will be able to use his body to unlock the secrets of Krypton? 

I agree with ComicBookGirl19 that Man of Steel is the most polarizing Superman film of all time.  And she does not appear to like it.  But if we look closer into the film, it shows a very different Superman that probably make the fans uncomfortable with the movie.  And I do agree with the critics that the action scenes were not anything special.  Those fights were alright but I like them the least in the film.  Nonetheless, Man of Steel is a film with good substance, a great story that I could never get tired of telling, and makes me anticipate for a promising sequel. 

You can watch ComicBookGirl19's Youtube review here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKixEh0541k

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What is a Positive Critic?

Most people think that a critic is a person who looks at the negative side of things.  And sadly, many critics feel that way.  They think highly of themselves for being a bullshit detector rather than a person who simply enjoys art.  And that kind of lifestyle is straining you from enjoying the finer things in life.  Should it make more sense to ignore something that doesn't appeal to you, instead of whining about it again and again -- especially online?

You see, being negative gives you some sort of power.  That you are better than the artist.  And rarely would he challenge you or call your bluff because after all, it's just your opinion.  Okay.  That's an opinion.  And I suppose that it should be valuable because it's negative?  This quackery sounds hilarious but I read somewhere that blog owners and Public Relation companies are offering positive opinions to restaurant owners in exchange of a fee.  If they refuse, they would attack his establishment with a string of criticisms. My friends, that is blackmail.  But you can imagine how worse could it get if this is done in movies, in books, in pieces of art?   

True criticism is to search for beauty.  And then you share it to others through writing, speech or any medium you are most comfortable with.  Sometimes, you would dive into a pile of rubbish to snatch a piece of diamond.  And it would fill you with so much joy that you forget yourself as you share this treasure to others.  You uplift the artist, and make more friends.  Why not be more positive?

To become a positive critic -- which I am an apprentice of, one needs exposure, an attention to feelings and details, and the value of sharing.  Because of the Internet, everyone can now go up the Ivory Tower. 

What would you like to share, my dear Reader?