Movies I watched recently: The Kingmaker, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Come and See

Imelda, Lucy, Florya

The Kingmaker
It would be difficult even for Hollywood filmmakers to make a biopic about Imelda Marcos, one of the most notorious first ladies who ever lived. I truly believe there is no actress chameleonic enough who can exude the delusional aura that Imelda possesses and no screenwriter talented enough who can write a script that can capture the inanity of every word that comes out of her mouth that spews twisted takes on truth, beauty, and their family’s supposedly glorious rule of the Philippines. But it would be interesting to see Natalie Portman tackle the role of Imelda fucking Marcos.

The Kingmaker is a documentary about Imelda, her pivotal role in shaping Philippine history, and her family’s audacious attempts to ascend, once again, to the highest government positions in the country. Imelda is a fascinating woman who will never cease to be a subject of films, songs, novels, and think-pieces. Also fascinating is how she willingly participates in these films and not think that she’d be portrayed in any way other than as a vicious monster who live —and will die — in a bubble. It could only be explained by her egomania. This documentary is so maddening and so well-made.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is about couple Lucy and Jake taking a road trip to meet Jake’s socially awkward parents. Lucy thinks out loud during the trip; in particular, she is thinking of ending things with Jake because she no longer wants to be with him. She’s narrating in her head, as one does while on a road trip to meet one’s partner’s parents. She’s unaware that Jake can hear her thoughts, which induces a pleasant kind of cringe.

It’s an interesting premise although one that would require paying very close attention (which is difficult to do considering this is a Netflix movie, and is therefore watched at home) to what soon unfolds when they reach their destination, Jake’s house, where his parents act all servile and weird. I would have been happier with a straightforward romantic comedy/drama in which a couple is about to separate, with one-half of the couple thinking out loud and the other hearing everything that’s not being said. I enjoy the occasional Charlie Kaufman mindfuck, but I was put off by the dream-like sequences in the school toward the end. It wasn’t quite clear if the person who was thinking of ending things, ended things. I think that is part of this movie’s allure.

Come and See
Florya, a boy barely out of his teens, is joining the village soldiers to fight against the Nazis. His mother is against it, but he does it anyway because it’s not as if there are many options for them; their entire village along with 600 others according to Wikipedia and history books are about to be razed to the ground by very bad people. Florya joins the troop only to be told to stay behind and give his good shoe to a veteran deemed more capable to fight in battle.

Nazi soldiers soon arrive, and it doesn’t take long for them to destroy the village and slaughter every man, woman, and child. Florya and those who manage to escape the first round of slaughter live through this long enough then promptly go mad. When everything you own and live for are taken away from you, it won’t take long before you lose your mind. Florya and some of the villagers are spared, not because they acted right and/or luckily escaped but because the soldiers needed an audience for their little fire show.

The barbarity of Nazi soldiers during World War 2 is well documented in history books, novels, essays, films, etc., but there’s something about its depiction in this film that gets under one’s skin. So many war stories need to be told, and movies like Come and See, about Germany’s invasion of the land formerly named Byelorussia, are an important reminder of the kind of evil humans are capable of, e.g., incinerating people like they’re kindling and doing it with maniacal glee, among many, many, many other acts of cruelty. This movie is a fever dream of atrocity after atrocity. It’s an Important Film, although one that’s very difficult to watch. Watch it.

Covid Daily – 0418

Mini tubes of toothpaste
When checking out of a hotel, I take all the things I feel I ought to take: tea bags, toothbrush sets, and the tiny tubes of toothpaste that come with them. I save these for guests at my place, while the tiny toothpaste I use for office brushing. I don’t need to save these tiny toothpaste tubes anymore because me and them are not going anywhere. The concept of offices where one goes to earn a living may be obliterated soon, so these tiny toothpaste tubes are now going to make themselves useful in my home.

Group video calls
I usually dread video calls for reasons I don’t need to provide. But it’s important to participate in them because these days, I shouldn’t be relying on my own sources of information. Friends who are priests, government employees, bankers, and accountants offer some insight into their corner of this pandemic-stricken planet. Some friends of mine have read articles and have seen videos that shed light on things that have kept me in the dark for days.

Some days, I feel incapacitated to participate in group Zooms or chats. It’s as if all the space I have left in me have been filled with dread and anxiety. But it’s not always anxiety over the thing that’s punishing us all; it’s observing how some people can still function, share funny memes, be productive, and be happy and content and feel blessed send me to the pits of hell. It’s not that I’m unhappy that there are people who manage to be in high spirits; it’s that I can’t. It’ reminds me of what Eve Babitz said about death — it’s other people having fun without you.

This pandemic has effectively encouraged me to participate in conference calls. Seeing people in small frames squeezed into one main frame has become comforting. It encourages that oft repeated slogan, “We are all in this together” even though we really are not. And yet, it’s such a relief seeing people alive coping on their own as the horrors of uncertainty steadily creeps every day.

My grandparents were called to war; I am called to sit on the couch and watch Moving Parts
Moving Parts is a documentary you can watch in installments, which is how I watch most shows. It charts drag queen and folk recording artist Trixie Mattel’s semi-interesting life as an entertainer. What I love about Trixie is that she makes the most of what she’s given. She seems fully aware that Shangela should have won Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3, but did it stop her from starring in a documentary about her experiences in that season and the difficulties of what looks like a mildly successful tour? No, it did not.

Moving Parts is also a film about her friendship with the great Katya, although it only skirts around that subject. That’s probably because Katya might steal the film, which is fine because Trixie doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would mind fading in the background in a documentary about her life. I can relate with that okayness with being upstaged, but only if it’s to deserving queens like Katya.

Fun fact: Like Trixie Mattel, I, too, was called ‘Trixie’ by relatives who thought it clever to feminize Patrick as a way to torment me when I was revealed to be gay at age 7 or 8 or 9 (I can’t remember). This was in the ‘90s, a time that I like to think of as the golden age (in the history of my life) of people being homophobic and unapologetic about it. This may come as a shock, but there was a time when homophobia was as natural as disease. The feminization of my name was a result of getting caught trying on my cousin’s gown. I, too, had the makings of a drag queen. Sometimes, I think about what direction my life would have taken if, instead of being shamed for getting caught trying on my cousin’s gown, I was celebrated and motivated to dress up in girls’ clothes and championed by relatives instead of being mocked and called Trixie.

As it happens, there are many ways to feminize Patrick: Patricia, Patrixie (which was used by some of my dumb cousins and aunts and uncles), Trixie, and Tricia. This essay is a call to stop feminizing “Patrick” to torment little gay boys in Pasay and everywhere else.

My grandparents were called to war; I am called to sit on the couch…

Wanderlust

Those of us who can still afford a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscriptions are lucky not just because we still have money to pay for an incredible luxury like Netflix but because, according to some people who believe they’re clever, all we’re called upon to do is to sit on the couch and watch Netflix during this distressing time.

Watching TV is not my favorite thing to do, but I watch TV often enough — while having lunch or dinner at home and to watch the mandatory weekly movie — to not qualify as a non-TV-watcher like Jonathan Franzen who is proud to proclaim that he doesn’t watch or own a TV. Good for him, but I doubt if that’s still true.

The pull of the couch is indeed very strong in these strange times. I’d rather read, but lately I find that every other marvelous sentence of Eve Babitz’s that I read is interrupted by thoughts of buying next week’s groceries, health issues, and the bleak future. TV shows don’t demand my complete attention, so it has become, a more practical way to pass the time and forget about life for just a moment.

So, in the next few days, I’ll try to write reports of my TV-watching duties that I am being called on to do.

Wanderlust
This is an edgy British sex comedy series about a couple, a female psychiatrist (Toni Collette) and her husband, who have lost the desire to have sex with each other. Other characters include their son who babbles about Jonathan Franzen to a girl he likes at school and the couple’s respective fuck buddies.

Toni Collette’s face on the title card made me watch this, so congrats to Toni Collette for earning my view. I’m never sure if I could finish an entire TV series because there are just so many and I am drowning. Also, I’m in my mid-thirties so I already have favorite shows that I turn to again and again for comfort.

For me, Wanderlust is quite similar to the brilliant Sex Education, but with adults, front and center. I didn’t think I’d finish watching the entire episode because I thought it was trying too hard to be cringey (e.g., the Toni character getting caught JO-ing by his son) and the random quirky characters (like the son) and his friends seem random and written to up the cringe.

It started to win me over in the scene where one of the psychiatrist’s clients was very incoherently yet valiantly trying to explain why and how he and his wife have ended at the therapist’s couch. “Mop up all the semen” also made me laugh.

The episode concludes with Toni and husband confessing their acts of infidelity, leading to their mutual agreement to sleep with other people as a way to keep their marriage intact. The end.

The rest of the five episodes could be as quirk-filled and may contain some hilarious dialogue, but I think the pilot episode could stand on its own, and if I never watch another episode again, I’ll be fine. I feel it has already made a point and Toni Collette was a delight to watch, so that was time well spent.

Up next:
Born Beautiful
Darkest Hour
Moving Parts