Barry (TV series) reviewed

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So this week, there’s a lot of potential topics to blog about. Obviously, there’s the rugby league finals series, but I doubt many readers follow the action. I also eschew from proclaiming how great the Melbourne Storm are. There’s also another a couple of Connelly books to review, which formed my reading list together with China Rich girlfriend. Three books in less than a month. However, today I’d like to talk about this gem of a series that has won two Emmy’s, received near-universal acclaim, and has killer story lines. I’m talking about Barry, of course. 

 

Pro

In a nutshell, Barry tackles a professional hitman who soon discovers that acting is his ‘calling’. Set in present day LA, the show is a dark comedy with an original premise. People say Moonlight is unique because it intersects racism and homophobia. In terms of TV series, Barry’s plot is in unchartered territory. A hitman who stumbles on an acting class, deciding to be a thespian? Get outta here!

 

 

Shades of Mike

Bill Hader, who is both star and executive producer, reminded me of Michael C. Hall in Dexter. They both have licenses to kill, juggle two conflicting jobs, and even look alike. When I first saw Barry, the resemblance was clear. The opening scene saw Hader in latex gloves after he carried out a hit. While Hader is the sun in the Barry system, the show wouldn’t click without the work of his satellites. Henry Winkler is also uproarious as Gene, the class teacher with the strong personality who reminds me a bit of Frances McDormand. There’s Sarah Goldberg, who portrays Sally, Barry’s love interest. Theirs is a complicated relationship. Of course, Barry’s old friends from his hitman days won’t leave him alone, occasioning both laughs and cringing. While reminiscent of Dexter with the body count and guns, the show’s black comedy likewise harks shades of Burn after Reading. The first season showed how Barry creates humour out of errors and chuckles out of pain. 

 

Emmy’s 

I’ve seen a bit of Barry so far: five eps out of season 1’s eight. It is a delightful watch, and each viewing is all of thirty minutes. That duration makes for punchy, undemanding cha cha. Ironically, Barry’s ineptitude in his acting class entertains audiences. HBO is the mastermind behind this success story. You can count on them to produce some of the best TV. I was tossing up between period drama Westworld and this one. After seeing both pilots, I stuck with Bar. Anyhow, Emmy wins don’t lie. Bill Hader just won for Outstanding Lead Actor in a comedy, and was as surprised as anybody upon accepting the award. Even Winkler finally got his first Emmy after his sterling work on the programme. 

 

The road forward

After seeing the gore and frenzy of Walking Dead, or the endless battles in Game of a Thrones, the time is right for a fun filled sea change. Most series tail off after a great season or two. Remember Wayward Pines? Heroes, anybody? The road is lined with TV relics that failed to find an audience after a season or two. We’ll see if Barry can maintain this momentum. 

 

My rating: 4.8/5

 

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Christopher Robin reviewed

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Recently, my friend and I watched Christopher Robin in the luxury of gold class. We’ve been meaning to see it for some time, and it was a treat to finally witness the characters come to life. I remember viewing Winnie the Pooh on Saturday mornings when I was little. It was one of the first programmes I can recall, together with Sesame Street, Captain Planet, The Simpsons, and Madeline. The film version did not disappoint; my friend surmising that ‘It was worth it’. 

 

Goodbye, old self

Set mostly in post-war London, we see the transformation of the title character from a fun-loving boy who gets sent to boarding school. As a child, he is enamoured of his friends: Winnie, Tigger, Piglet, Rabbit, Roo, and company. They are much more than just stuffed toys; they are his companions, his world. He leaves with a heavy heart, but is gradually transformed to a hardworking student and a fine young man. He meets his future wife on a serendipitous bus ride, and works at a luggage company. Consumed with job, he neglects his family and forgets about Winnie and friends. As his daughter asks him to read her a story, he gets out a book on the Industrial Revolution. This is emblematic of the divide between father and kin.

 

 

Nostalgia

Attempting to wiggle out of a tight spot at work, who else would turn up but Winnie? At first he is surprised, but becomes annoyed and angry as the latter constantly distracts him from his toiling. This reminded me a bit of The Cat in the hat with Mike Meyers. The picture was very lighthearted, a veritable family flick. The characters were well developed and the action, easy to follow. The film strikes a chord to viewers: it’s a ‘nostalgic thrill ride’ that conjures up the good bits of our childhood. Christopher’s adventures highlight the importance of family and living a balanced life. Though he has changed, Robin still protects Winnie and the gang from so-called heffalumps and woozles as a returning, bona fide adult. Touching.

 

Lighthearted 

Everyone could potentially feel the movie’s magic. I’m sure many of us could relate to a blissful childhood and daunting school years. Films like this remind us not to take things too seriously, while standing up for something. Anyhow, I saw Crazy Rich with another friend three weeks ago. That production was groundbreaking, funny, and different. This one, while not pioneering, sure had its light moments, was breezy, and good fun. This was also a time machine, with old black cabs, dated trains, retro coats and terraces. What’s more: there is real change among characters in the film. It’s not just fun and games, but true maturity. In that respect, it is at least on par with other above-average G-rated movies, if not better. Indeed, Winnie reminded me of Lotso from Toy Story, huggable and charming. My longtime friend noted though that the two have very different personalities: Lotso was in truth aggressive and two-faced. Who would have thought that a trip to Hundred Acre Wood was all Christopher needed to find his meaning of life?

 

 

Conclusion

My pal thought it was a lovely movie, but was kinda one-dimensional. When asked for his rating, he said it’s 3.5 out of 5. That’s right where this sits with critics, hovering near seventy percent. However, I liked the visuals, childhood magic, and cute storyline.

Rating: 3.75 (out of 5) 

 

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9/11: an artefact

 

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This is a letter I penned to then-US President George W. Bush as part of a class activity ages ago. 9/11 had just shocked the world, and the terrorists braced for the full might of the US military. Back then, Bush was a popular world leader. This was my solicited in-class response to the burgeoning War on Terror, presented here as we near another anniversary. We were given an hour’s time to pen our reaction. I remember this exercise like it happened yesterday since this was one of my all time favourite classes. Writing activities like this gave me a chance to grow, and it was a lovely treat to salvage this item from my old stuff.

 

George W. Bush

Washington D.C.

U.S.A.

 

Dear Mr. President,

The world has been shocked about your country’s counter attack on the Afghan land. We all know that this will be another cause for a great incoming destruction. But we also know that this is your country’s revenge on the September 11 terrorist attacks. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City caused great death and left the city and your country’s economy in damage and destruction. Your people had just experienced the worst terrorist attacks in their land. But we don’t exactly know the main reason behind this. It can maybe be the result of our unfaithfulness or God’s sign to us to become more religious. As devoted Christians, we should use the more peaceful and Christian ways in order to achieve justice and peace. This is the ways we should use because it could not make situations worse. The Philippines, one of your country’s longtime allies could help you in this means. The Philippines could help you peacefully by not harming any Afghan civilian but yet achieving justice. The country is praying to God to stop the terrorists from doing wrong and enlighten their minds with (sic) pittiness and love. I hope you should read and understand the main theme of this letter, for peace and moderation, not war and not revenge.

A concerned student,

Christopher O.

 

(un-edited)

Marker’s comments: ’10/10. Comprehensively done’

 

(As a side note, my aunt and uncle were able to visit the Towers on the Saturday before the attacks. Lucky couple. Note: this bit is not part of the original, handwritten letter) 

 

 

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Father’s Day 2018

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Different countries, different celebrations for Dads. In some countries, including the U.S. and Philippines, this falls on the third Sunday of June. In parts of Oceania, including Australia and New Zealand, Father’s Day this year falls on the first Sunday of September. Spring has started: the plants are in full bloom; the air, just the right humidity. I saw on the news that trailblazer Dick Smith has just been named Father of the Year. In other news, dead eye Steph Curry spoke out about the need for gender equality. These are extreme instances of famous dads who seek to make the world a better place, but what about your old man?

 

 

Relationships

Smith has said that gender roles are now more blurred than ever. Whereas before the husband was the bread winner and his spouse, the homemaker, these are increasingly subverted. I remember one story from back home where a man recalls how his father taught him a lesson about stuffed buns as they ate. To this day, whenever he removes the wrapper underneath the bao, he thinks of his dad (since deceased). In this day, having both parents together while growing up is a blessing. In the west, the lifeline of divorce has splintered more families than necessary. People are simply becoming too impatient to prolong familial relationships. I salute the Philippines for being a rarity in outlawing divorce. I find it admirable that they would not cave in despite others falling like dominoes. 

‘Setting a good example for your kids’, this is fatherhood in a nutshell. Smith would know: he juggled family life while being a maverick entrepreneur. His daughters may have kids of their own, but he gave them a solid foundation. Some keys to model parenting: teaching kids the right language, instilling good values, promoting independence, and highlighting the importance of a quality education. Whether you’re a dad at nineteen or thirty nine, whatever your job title may be, if you make your family smile, you’re a hero. 

 

Imprints

All dads, if they’re around, would leave some kind of imprint behind. I would be shocked if you lived with him for years and he has no influence whatsoever. From a young age, good fathers would show their affection for his kids. This means not buying every toy, but rewarding his offspring when they do good. This includes not bolstering their ego, but correcting their mistakes so they’ll learn next time. This entails not making the house a pit stop, but sharing meals as a family. This involves not encouraging his children to spend with a vengeance, but teaching them to save for tomorrow. A fine dad would have no gap between his ‘constituents’ and would welcome them with open hearts. They could talk freely and he would support them, ‘from dusk til dawn’. Communication these days in the family is so underrated, with the influx of wizard technology. We have become strangers in our own homes. As we eat and spend quality time together, we respect one another. 

 

 

Lessons from Dad

You might be wondering why I know all this. No, apart from being a cool cat, I know this because those are things my Dad taught me. They shape us into the persons we are, so that we could do likewise in the future. They fought our battles so we could fight on our own. Since then, I have learned more and more on my own. I remember before how I didn’t see it, but my dad inculcated upon me to choose my friends carefully. Later on, years after, I saw his point. Sometimes it might not be crystal clear, but Dad saves the day. 

You might not be Dick Smith or Steph Curry, but from Mot Juste: a Happy Father’s Day to all !

 

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Crazy Rich Asians book review

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Hailed as an exercise in inclusion, the movie counterpart of Crazy Rich is winning over critics and audiences alike. With an all-Asian cast, this hadn’t happened in decades of Hollywood productions. Despite the film’s relevance, I am going to focus on the 2013 novel which is the basis for the picture. I bought the book with the intent of devouring the bestseller before checking out the film version. I had just over a week to go through the 403-page paperback. Challenge accepted.

 

Easy read

In all fairness, it is quite an easy read. One of my friends heard that ‘It was a romp’. There is usually a healthy balance of dialogue, plot, and description. Foreign words of Cantonese, Hokkien, and Malay origin add colour. A lot of highfaluting words likewise pepper the text, which made me consult an online dictionary quite often. Kwan makes it his point though to overindulge in dainty prose. At many instances, readers will tire of the ornate flowers, golden chicken wings, and brand names that seem out of this world. I had already borrowed another Connelly when I prioritised this read. 

What’s more: the book has a good helping of wit. We see this in how an ageing patriarch snaps out of a coma after ten years. His subsequent miserly ways make his daughter, Nadine, rid herself of all jewellery and makeup. So when Eleanor sees her friend, she mistakes her for one of the maids, and promptly orders a glass of iced tea. Meanwhile, a smorgasbord of cuisines and cultural peculiarities gives life to this text.

 

 

Culture shock

If you are motivated, one week is already too long. Completing it within five or six days is certainly doable. In fact, one critic has labelled it ‘the perfect weekend beach read’. The characters, which centre around Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young, are so relatable. The book incorporates many themes: the love between the crazy rich Nick and his partner, Rachel; Rachel’s culture shock; the enviable friendship between Rachel and Peik Lin; the bond of Eleanor and her well off social circle; the struggles of marrying into wealthy families; the pampered lives of the Asian jet set; the close ties between extended Asian families, and the backstabbing, sucking up, and jockeying in the wedding of the year, which is why Rachel went to Singapore in the first place.

Everything is made of gold, from the toilet soap dispensers, to the dragonflies. Every sweet delicacy is an exotic pastry you never knew existed, and thrust into this is unwitting Rachel. She sees Nick initially as a different person. As said in the book, nowhere is there more concentration of millionaires than in Singapore. Rachel gets invited to her friend’s house, a rarity on the island as there are flats everywhere. She gets to see the house of Nick’s grandma, a rolling estate with guards that appears nowhere on Google Earth. The whole family is indeed like a myth, with Peik Lin never having heard of them. 

 

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Wrong crowd

Beneath all these cash, stocks and properties, there is a lot of scheming going on. Upon going on the hen’s night, Rachel realised that this is not her crowd. The girls are busy comparing outfits and their designer goods, bickering over who’s dated who. Every lover is either not cute enough or has inadequate wealth. While many despise or envy Rachel, a few chaps are kind. Even Nick acknowledges that she just has to be herself and the support will surprise her. Rachel questions her identity, and she learns more about herself than in decades living with her Mum in the U.S. You will be torn: love or family? A special someone or one family’s fortune? Each page is as captivating as the last.

 

For the relief of El Cheapo 

Kwan has produced two more novels since Crazy Rich, thus concluding his trilogy. From modest beginnings, his work has morphed into a multi-platform cash cow. Of course I would’ve loved to see the film. It is very highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes and has people watching, and talking about it. But I’m just glad that I had the chance to read the book. After contending with a cheapie earlier in the week, it’s nice to escape to Samsara. 

Rating: 4.75/5

 

 

 

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‘The Bubble Boy’

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Why is it that I feel like the bubble boy sometimes? So many don’ts, I actually feel as though duct tape holds me together. However, if you think that I’ll give you a shopping list of everything I cannot have, then you’re wrong. This is not a post about my shortcomings, but about just one in particular. That’s junk food.

 

Doughnut boy

I’ve been consuming junk since I was a boy. I always loved my Macca’s and KFC, Pizza Hut and doughnuts. This became Jollibee and Chowking and Greenwich and Dunkin’ Donuts. It was the perfect way to unwind after a long day at school. Don’t get me wrong. I did not eat junk every school day, but I sure had my share. Even until a few weeks ago, I was still consuming my burgers and chips. Who would say no to a Big Mac, right?

I was seeing though the detrimental effects junk was having on me. These were the foods I had to avoid. If you were to weigh the pros and cons, it was a no-brainer. I’ve heard many a story of the negative impact of those burgers and fried chooks. Nobody seemed to care that their premium chickens were raised bumper to bumper on the barn. Nobody bothered to ask where these ‘ethically sourced’ angus beef came from. No one gave a rats about how their burgers weren’t even pure beef patties. Next time you go to a burger joint, ask yourself: where is this sumptuous dinner coming from?

 

 

Art and life

All you have to know about the perils of junk food is one look at Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me. The doco chronicles how Spurlock, a perfectly healthy man, went from having average weight and enviable blood test results, to being overweight and dangerously unhealthy. This was after one month of eating purely junk food, and supersizing his Macca’s meals whenever he was asked at the counter. It was a dark look at the health crisis in America, although this could be the case in any Western country. While these TV shows and films are a captivating watch, we should not just treat them as generic public announcements, but as springboards to healthier lifestyles.

 

Goodbye, chips

As it stands, I have totally eradicated hot and other processed chips from my diet. This has done wonders to my overall well being. Even if I’m tempted to munch on a chip, I manage to stop short of crunching it. Life without chips sure is boring, but it is one I’d rather have right now. I know people would agree that it satisfies cravings, but the pitfalls of chips is well documented. From being deep fried to being totally lacking in any health benefits, now you should think twice before devouring those potato thins. 

 

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I’m halfway there

As for other junk, I’ve done a nice job of limiting my consumption. I’m not going to list em one by one but I’ve made giant strides. Guess what? The junk food detox has helped me in many ways. I can never be a vegetarian, but being anti junk is a ‘Great Leap Forward’. Obviously, hot chips would be nice together with whoppers and iced cola. I’ve enjoyed that life for decades so it is high time to live healthier. As I avoided the sugar and the fats, I’ve had a clearer head. At first, it was impossibly difficult, but now it just comes naturally. I couldn’t stand the first few weeks, it was a nightmare. But guess what? Now I don’t long for a chip, and the soft drink bingeing is a thing of the past. Here at Mot Juste, we value healthy living.  

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Buwan ng Wika

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Agosto. Para sa mga mag-aaral sa Pinas, nagaganap na ngayon an Buwan ng Wika. Kahit matagal din akong nakisali doon, hindi ko ito napusoan. Nainis ako sa walang tigil na praktis para maging numero uno sa pasiklaban. Hindi sapat ang maging first section, kailangan durugin ang kalaban. Dapat laging nakasabay ang mga ngalan ng kaklase ko. ‘Lagi na lang, lagi na lang’. 

 

Volume!

Kailangan VOLUME ang boses mo para sa mga engot. Kahit sumisigaw ka na, ‘Hindi kita marinig’. Talo pa nito ang ROTC. At least doon alam mo anong oras matatapos. Ito, di mo mahulaan Kung kailan makokontento ang mga buwaya. It’s like Allen Iverson, crossing over Ty in the NBA Finals. Ty was so clueless. Ganyan ang pakiramdam pag nasa croc pit ka. Kahit pa naghahanga ako sa determinasyon ng mga kaklase ko, di ko matanggal sa isip ko ang overkill. 

 

 

Shades

‘Bilanggo, bilanggo’. Naalala ko tuloy. Pagdating sa paligsahan, alam Mong May ibubuga ang iba. Alam mo na maraming Oras ang ginugol upang tumayo sa entablado. Malakas ang palakpakan, bilib na bilib ang mga guro. ‘Dapat iwasan ang sing song!’ Naalala ko isang beses gumanap ako bilang isa sa mga kontrabida. May dala akong armas pero natutok ko tuloy sa kapwa kong kalaban. Hindi dumating yung siga. Naka shades pa nang tumayo sa May labas. Nabanggit ko yun sa kaibigan ko, si Francois. Sabi niya May black eye daw yun, kaya tinakpan ang mata. Bakit? Binugbog sarado ko. Eh bat di siya gumanti? Ang bilis daw ng suntok niya di nakita nung maton.

 

Kutsero at pochero 

Noong nasa HS na ako, bihira na lang ako sumulat sa Pilipino. Di Gaya ng elementarya Kung Saan nasanay akong gumawa ng mga tula. Pero andito na ako. Taon2x panibagong gawain ang aming tinatalakay sa Klase. 1st year Ibong Adarna. 2nd year Florante at Laura. 3rd year Noli. 4th year, El Fili. Isang beses nag-ulat  ang kaklase ko tungkol sa kutsero, isang kapitulo ng El Fili. ‘Anong nangyari sa pochero?’ Natawa ang katabi ko, si Annie. KUTSERO, Hindi pochero! Anak ng pating, nabistado ako. 

 

 

Ibang liga 

Ibang klase ang guro namin. Nagging guro ko siya 1st at 4th yr. Mahilig siyang maglarawan sa blackboard, kahit hindi gaanong kagandahan ang mga imahen niya. Biglang liko, sabi niya, sabay guhit sa B.B. Ang mga theme songs sa mass demo dati ay yung sa Edsa. Kadalasan pare pareho ang mga Kanta. Minsan may nakahanda ng skit mula sa aklat, pero May pagkakataon na orihinal na komposisyon ang aming ginagamit. Minsan dubbed, minsan sumisigaw kami sa stage. 

 

Huling hirit

Parating inuulit ang mga salita ni Gat Jose Rizal. ‘Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika, ay higit ang Amoy sa mabahong isda.’ Nagging Bahagi na ang kataga sa buwan. Matagal na nang huli akong sumigaw nung buwan ng wika.  Hindi ko mamimiss yung mga praktis. Ang karanasan ko sa nasabing buwan ay May Halong saya at inis. Marahil ay nagtataka ang iba Kung ano ang saysay ng buwan ng wika. Bakit kailangan magsiaway ang mga mag aaral upang makamit lang ang unang premyo. Simple lang ang sagot: Kung seryoso ka bilang Filipino, makakalimutan mo ang lahat ng consomisyon at oras. Hindi araw2x dumarating ang chansang masigaw ang katapatan mo sa buhay-Pinas.

 

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