Mahjong at Nengkoy’s & The Crazy Rich Asian Movie Scene

Mahjong is my family’s game played in Nengkoy’s house very Friday night.  The shuffling sound of mahjong tiles reverberating inside my mother’s living room area every Friday night is literally a weekly occurrence.  Every child of Nengkoy (including me) does in fact know how to play this old and traditional Asian game.

And every member of my family seated to play this game would in some way transform into someone different.  We would be more focused, more fierce, somewhat smart and strategic as if in a funny attack mode.  This is especially true with Nengkoy.  She would be so engrossed, she would not mind a word you say if you try asking her what she has done all day or what food has she prepared for dinner.

With our being so well versed with Mahjong, it was easy for us to process and easily understood the mahjong scene representations made by the director of the movie Crazy Rich Asians when my whole family watched this groundbreaking movie last Saturday.

strategize….
nengkoy! pong!
rachel chu playing mahjong scene in crazy rich asian

In that mahjong scene between the characters of Rachel Chu (the NY-based Asian-American) and Eleanor (the overbearing matriarch and fearsome mother of Rachel’s boyfriend), we right away understood that Rachelle did the ultimate sacrifice when she let Eleanor win the mahjong game.  Rachelle gave up her love, would-be wealth and basically her future with Eleanor’s son.  She picked the needed 8-sticks tile to win the game yet she threw and discard it away so that Eleanor could win.

My whole family laughed when we heard Eleanor (played by Michelle Yeoh) uttered “Pong!”  The scene would have actually been better if the characters can do the “sinasalat” act.  It is a classic mahjong act in which players would be able to determine the tile they picked without looking at it but by merely using the sense of touch, i.e. by sliding the tile’s character through the player’s finger tips.

If in other Asian movies the fight scene can be so literal – in the form of Karate, Judo or other martial arts – I consider the mahjong scene in Crazy Rich Asian as the ultimate fight scene between the protagonist and the antagonist of the story.  This scene actually unleashes the dragon in Rachel and ultimately tamed the bitchiness of Eleanor.

channeling the eleanor young in me

I was seated beside Nengkoy inside the movie house when Rachelle picked her “puro” (the needed tile to win).  I heard Nengkoy say, Todas na Sya! Bunot Pa! (Translation: she wins! and with a higher pay).

And since mahjong is played by my family every Friday night, the mahjong scene in Crazy Rich Asian even made me further love this delightful film.  The movie was definitely a Todas! Bunot! All-Up! and Syete Pares!

Todas!

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So Much Reasons To See Crazy Rich Asians

I have to admit, the major reason why I wanted to watch the movie Crazy Rich Asian was because I wanted to see Kris Aquino, my country’s mega queen of media.  But since the lavish movie was so engaging, I almost forgot the reason why I wanted to see it.  Until she appeared in her beautiful yellow gown playing the role of the ultra-rich and toffee-nosed character of Princess Intan. 

kris aquino with constance wu

Crazy Rich Asian is such a heartwarming movie.  I was actually teary-eyed in some of the scenes because it featured cultural elements that seem so close to my being.  Also, I was so happy to see this delightful movie because at last Asian characters are on the lead (not mere sidekicks) and Asian actors are not performing the gag-worthy Hollywood martial arts scenes.  I am actually considering this film an Asian celebration!

I may not be crazy rich (because I am a crazy reject Asian) but I nevertheless saw bits and pieces of me in numerous characters of the movie, the gutsy-ness of Rachel Chu, the being-a-friend-to-depend-on of Peik Lin, the softheartedness of Nick Young and of course the bitchiness of Eleanor Sung-Young. 

I was at awe when Kris Aquino appeared and was glad to know how pivotal her role was.  But the movie’s characters and its message made me further love this film.  I laughed with the characters, I cried with the characters and I fell in love with the characters!  The movie clearly screams that though there would be headaches and hurdles, you can chase your own happiness even without sacrificing your values and tradition.

Ang Yaman!

Mama Mia 2: A Luis Movie Treat

I just have to chronicle this delightful experience! Me, Nengkoy and a couple of my beautiful relatives were treated to a delightful movie all paid for by my nephew Luis. I just have to blog post this event because this is actually the first time that Luis paid for all our movie tickets. And the treat was not just in any other ordinary movie house it was in an affluent and more luxurious venue, the Director’s Club in SM Aura Premier Mall.

The comfortable mechanized la-z-boy seat and the complimentary bowl of buttery popcorn added up to the pleasurable delight of the movie we chose to watch. It was the Mama Mia 2. Like the first version, Mama Mia 2 again made me tap my feet and sing along with the popular tunes of Abba. Some of the songs included in the movie were semi-hit in the Philippines yet I felt silly that I was able to sing along when these semi-popular songs reached the chorus. 

 

(l-r) nephew luis, me and nephew denden
nengkoy and I (inside director’s club movie house)
happy nengkoy

Delightful would be the best word to describe Mama Mia 2: Here We Go Again. Though the movie was not as fun and as merry if compared to the first version, which included more popular tunes and more comical scenes, the treat by that of my nephew Luis made this movie unforgettable!

Naka libre din! Sa wakas!

A Movie Whose Title I Did Know Until I Finished Watching It

Yesterday was my first time to watch a movie in which until the end of it I never knew of its title.  Prior to getting to the mall, the only thing I know about the movie which me, Nengkoy and my whole family is gonna watch is that it stars hunky actor Gerald Anderson and pretty Ms. Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach.  And that it is a romantic comedy film directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina.

You may wonder how come I did not saw the title when it was flashed at the first parts of the movie.  Yes, I did not saw or notice it.  Maybe it’s because I was too busy opening all the lids of all the huge tubs of popcorn my family brought along inside the cinema.

Only when I and my family were heading out of the cinema did I realize that I don’t know the title of the Filipino movie that we’ve just seen.

At the first half of the film, viewers will be treated with tacky plot of a story, bad acting, and cheesy dialogues.  It especially became garish, loud and shoddy when the character of Wurtzbach appeared.  There was nothing new and special about the film.  And before the movie reaches its second half, I have already accepted the fate of us viewers that we have to endure watching such a trashy and second-rate film. 

It was so disappointing that I have concluded that the director has gone worse as compared to the cool and heartwarming Filipino romantic-comedy films she has done in the past. And that the only saving glory of the film was the pleasure of seeing and appreciating the good looks of both Anderson and Wurtzbach.  I have even resolved within me that it was good that I did not even know the title of such a trashy movie.  Who would want to know anyway!

But when the film reached its second half, all these disappointments and frustrations were suddenly erased!  The story, the plot and even the acting suddenly bloomed and became so fetching.  In fact, when the second half of the film was running, I wanted to steal an Oscar trophy from the imaginary cabinets of acting awards of Meryl Streep and hand it over to Anderson!

When the twist of the story was revealed, each minute of the movie surprisingly becomes so intriguing to the point of being so engaging.  It was so fantastic, I thought myself to be so stupid for not knowing the title of the film we were watching.  I actually wanted to go out and read the movie poster but I don’t want to leave for I may miss an important scene of the movie.

The magnificent twist of the film’s story justified the reason why the first half was cheesy, shoddy and corny with an overly-filtered cinematography.  The twist in the story was so clever it seem to trigger the deep-seated schizophrenia in me!

Very few Filipino films in the past made me cry.  This one elicited a tsunami of tears from my usually dehydrated weeping ducts!  I don’t wanna reveal the twist, neither do I wanna be a spoiler.  Oh, by the way, the title of the movie is My Perfect You.

Kaaliw! Nagoyo ako nung una ang ganda pala!

Saw It Twice: The Greatest Showman

It has always been my personal stance that it will take an exceptionally brilliant movie for me to watch it again for the second time in a movie house.  The two movies that I can recall watching twice during its regular run in the theaters were David Cameron’s Titanic and Pixar’s Inside Out.

Well, Titanic and Inside Out now has been equaled by the outstanding and admirable musical drama movie by Michael Gracey, The Greatest Showman.  I first saw The Greatest Showman with friends and officemates last Friday.  And as soon as the credits rolled at the end of the movie, I just knew that I have to see and enjoy it again in the big screen. 

saw it first with colleagues and officemates

Well tonight, I saw it again.  This time I am with Nengkoy, my sisters and nephew Luis.  Here’s the five reasons why I decided to see it again tonight (Sunday, February 4, 2018):

One: The Music

I think I have fallen in love with the music of the movie.  Each song in the movie are so superb.  The melody in the whole selection are so brilliantly easy to the ear.  The songs in this musical are so infectious and addicting you just want to listen to it again and again and again. And the lyrics especially in five of my favorite numbers (A Million Dreams, Never Enough, This Is Me, Rewrite The Stars and Tightrope) are so powerful it cuts through deep into my being.  It would be hard to listen to the songs and not get emotional.

Two: The Story

It’s one movie that is so light yet magically entertaining.  You need not have a big brain to bring inside the movie house to comprehend and understand the undemanding plot of the movie.  And since the storyline is clear-cut, easy and light audience ends up loving every character in the film.  And most importantly the story is positive. 

Punctuated with memorable songs, The Greatest Showman is a feel-good movie, I ended up flashing a relaxed smile and with a happy heart (in both occasions) as I walked walk out of the theater.

Three: The Message

An unabashed piece of pure entertainment movie would often end up without a substance.  But The Greatest Showman is something rare and different.  It is one of those highly enjoyable film that exudes the message of courage and acceptance. 

The message of being yourself, issues on body image and embracing what makes you unique are well within the highlights of this brilliant movie.

Another rare feat for this movie is that (though it is not a cartoon or digital animated movie) there was no sex nor swearing in the whole length of the film!  That itself is something extraordinary in this time and age of movies.

Four: Nengkoy

After seeing and enjoying it the first time.  I promised myself that I will have to bring Nengkoy to the movie house for her see, hear and experience the joy, the dazzle and the spectacle that The Greatest Showman bestows.

Fifth: It’s a Celebration of Humanity

And lastly, as stated by one of the theatre critics in the movie, The Greatest Showman is one good representation of a “Celebration of Humanity”

second time with nengkoy and family
nengkoy posing with anne wheeler, phillip carlyle and p.t. barnum (talents at the cinema). i was a little disappointed because i was looking for the bearded lady talent but there was none.

Ang galing!

Ma’Rosa: A Film about the Current Philippine State

It is supposed to be the time of the year when I would write about Cinemalaya, an annual indie-film festival here in Manila.  I would usually write about the movie entry that I enjoyed or touched me to the core.  However, I opted not to write any of the movies I saw because it seem that the quality of films featured this year seem not worth it.

Instead, let me feature the film I saw over the last weekend.  It was shown in movie houses a year ago and in the comforts of my home that I got to see Ma’Rosa, a film by the brilliant Brillante Mendoza.

MAROSA poster
unexpected! surprisingly brilliant!

Ma’Rosa is the official Philippine entry in last year’s Oscars Foreign Film category.  This movie however failed to make it to the final cut of finalists.  Nevertheless, this is the same movie that was an entry in last year’s Cannes Film Festival in which the lead actress Jacklyn Jose was adjudged as the Best Actress.

The story, the representation, the set and acting seem so real, it felt like I was actually groping into the lives of a poor Filipino family who only have few options of endure life’s challenges.  Jacklyn Jose was so outstanding now I know why she won.

After seeing the movie, I was actually not surprised why the Film Academy of the Philippines chose this movie as last year’s entry to Oscars.  It is because the elements, the texture and the narrative are all Filipino in nature in its present sorry state.  The movie effectively showed and represent how it is to be poor in the Philippines.

I was also not surprised why this movie did not make it to Oscars, maybe it is because the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences of America felt that this Brillante movie was too fictional to the point of being too exaggerated.  But let me oppose that.  I would be one of those Filipinos who was born and raised here, who would dissent at this type of notion.  Ma’Rosa is nothing but real, genuine and existent in this side of the planet.

It was a superb Filipino movie.  It may not have reached the Oscars level but Ma’Rosa is one brilliant Filipino film.  And I hope next year’s Cinemalaya entries would be as exceptional as this one.

Brilyant!