Art Imitates Life and Some Valentine Movies

(This was supposed to come out in my column for Goldstar. For all who prefer to celebrate Valentine’s one day late.) 

Many of us grew up in the belief that “life imitates art”. With the way things are going nowadays, however, it is art that somehow imitates life. Art has certain elements that contribute to how people perceive life. According to Oscar Wilde, “the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realize that energy.” And this is certainly true when we talk about movies. Specifically movies that dwell on relationships and the complex concept of love.

To illustrate my point, here are examples of some movies perfectly suited for Valentine’s because people going through similar situations can relate to their stories. Somehow, they see themselves in the characters. Some even believe that these movies all talk about them.

The Bridges of Madison County (Meryl Streep & Clint Eastwood)

This 1995 romantic drama was originally a book by Robert James Waller. It tells of the love story of Francesca Johnson (a war bride) and photographer Robert Kincaid. Their time together was a brief four days, but it changed a lot of things in each other’s lives. They planned to elope, but Francesca changes her mind at the last minute.

The story is told through a letter Francesca left for her children, Michael and Carolyn, who are  greatly affected by their mother’s story.

This quiet movie moved a lot of people because it talked about some things that can happen, or  may be happening, to their lives. The sadness that was evident in Francesca’s routine life. The emptiness she felt when her husband and kids were away. The excitement that a beautiful   stranger like Kincaid offered. The fleeting moments of happiness that seemed to last forever.

Love Story (Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’ Neal)

This may be a 1970 movie, but it has every ingredient that makes today’s romcoms (romantic comedies) and love stories a box office success.

Love Story is about a music student and a wealthy law student who develops feelings for each other and carry on a relationship despite the differences in their backgrounds. They get married, but the guy’s family disowns him. This doesn’t really matter to them, though; as they knew they  always had each other. Ever heard of the line “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”?           That’s the most famous line from this movie.

Love Story is the typical boy-meets-girl-and-then-they-fall-in-love-despite-family objections movie. A lot of people, especially die hard romantic Filipinos, see themselves in the story. Even our teleseryes and movies love the you-and-me-against-the-world theme so much!

This is a classic love story that anyone should experience at least once in their life.

Sleepless in Seattle (Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks)

This blockbuster came out in 1993. I believe that anyone who cares to watch romantic films is familiar with the story of the Chicago widower who moves to Seattle and a Baltimore-based  journalist. Not knowing to whom or where to pour out his grief over his wife’s death, the   widower calls in to a nationally broadcast radio show and he lets out his grief and tells the whole United States how much he yearns for his wife. The journalist falls in love with him after hearing his story.

People who believe in fate and destiny can easily identify with this movie. Some may even believe that this movie was made for them, to make them realize that someone out there is destined for them – no matter how far they are from each other.

The Notebook (Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling)

This is another poor boy-meets-rich girl type of romantic movie. Their first meeting is unexpected, but they fall in love just the same. Then they are forced to separate because of the differences in their social status. Fast forward to many years later and they meet again, trying to  recapture their love and turn it into a lasting relationship.

Again, those who are embroiled in a similar poor boy-rich girl (or vice versa) situation will see themselves in the characters of Gosling and McAdams. The world is full of hopeless romantics!

My Best Friend’s Wedding (Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett)

One of Julia Roberts’ most successful movies (commercially and critically), My Best Friend’s Wedding is global box office hit that tells of the story of two friends Julianne and Michael  (Roberts and Mulroney) and their promise to marry each other if neither of them is married at  28. Just weeks before Julianne’s birthday, though, Michael calls to tell her he’s getting married. This is when Julianne realizes she is in love with her best friend as she tries to plot out ways to stop – more like sabotage – the wedding.

I don’t know anyone – a friend or relative – who has experienced the same situation as Julianne’s, but I’m pretty sure a lot of moviegoers can relate with the falling-in-love-with-the-best friend stuff.

This is a fun movie that takes a look at romance on a different angle.

There are many other romantic movies that signify how art imitates life. We get them every year – from both local and international producers. But no matter how clichéd these movies are, we will always find ourselves lining up to watch them. We will always have tissues and handkerchiefs ready in case we find ourselves crying shamelessly.

It’s the day after Valentine’s. It’s not yet too late. Go and watch some romantic movie with your loved one!

[Runners-up: Four Weddings and A Funeral (Hugh Grant & Andie McDowell), Safe Haven (Josh Duhamel & Julianne Hough), and Love Actually (featuring an all-star cast)]

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Please don’t forget to join our campaign on awareness against violence on women and girls. Watch The Vagina Monologues at Rodelsa Hall tonight at 7. Donation tickets will be available at the venue. See you!

Cine Europa 2011 at Liceo U’s Rodelsa Hall

Today, September 23, Liceo de Cagayan University opens its doors once again as it welcomes movie buffs to the 2011 Cine Europa film festival. This is the fourth year that Rodelsa and Liceo U are hosting the Mindanao leg of the prestigious film festival. This year, 16 exceptional films from various European Union countries will be shown to Kagay-anons, for free, on a  first come-first served basis.

Some of the films to watch out for include Austria’s The Little Robbers (Friday, Sept. 23, 7pm), Sweden’s Mammoth (Friday, Sept, 23, 10pm), Bulgaria’s Letter to America (Saturday, Sept. 24, 10pm) and Spain’s Intact, which will be shown on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 3pm.

The 2011 Cine Europa film festival kicked off with the showing of 19 films at Shang Cinema, Mandaluyong City for the Manila leg of the tour. European Union films are also currently being shown in Cebu City.

Last year, my friends and I were given tickets to a number of extraordinarily good films at the 13th Cine Europa. Those that left the best impressions on us include Spain’s Mad Love (which tells the story of Queen Juana), Belgium’s The Barons (an excellent – and funny – film about laziness and how it can turn one’s life around) and Czech Republic’s Empties ( a poignant tale about finding the meaning of love and life past retirement age).

This year’s line up of films is interesting and we’re raring to feel the thrill again of that Cine Europa experience. So if you love the movies and would like to be transported to different worlds, join us at the 14th Cine Europa at Rodelsa. Again, tickets are free and on a first come, first served basis; so you should go early to get the best seats. To view the complete film schedule for the 3-day film festival, click this link.

See you at the movies, fellow Kagay-anons!

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist: My New Heroes

I’ve seen all three original Swedish films of Stieg Larsson’s The Millennium series. I’ve read the first book  (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and started reading the second one (The Girl Who Played With Fire) two days ago. And now I can’t wait for the American film version of  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo! So, it’s pretty obvious — I can’t get enough of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist!

For those who are not familiar with Stieg Larsson and his books, here’s a brief backgrounder.

Stieg Larsson was (and still is!) one of Sweden’s (and the world’s) best selling authors. According to Wikipedia, Larsson was a witness to a gang rape incident when he was still a teenager. This dark moment in his life left a bad mark on him, which also led to his hatred for violence and abuse against women. The Millennium series, which was published posthumously (he died in 2004)  from 2008 to 2009, is a clear indication of that hatred.

In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, originally titled “Men Who Hate Women”, we meet Lisbeth Salander and get to know her story. Lisbeth’s life is nothing extraordinary, but it’s also full of marked moments – those moments you want to forget but simply cannot because they were too painful. We then become witness to Lisbeth’s transformation from a secretly oppressed individual to somebody women haters would love to hate.

And then we are introduced to Mikael Blomkvist, investigative journalist extraordinaire and part owner of the Millennium publication. His magazine is the perfect venue for exposing financial fraud and other shady activities involving public personalities, like Hans-Erik Wennerström, a Swedish industrialist. The Dragon Tattoo actually begins with Blomkvist losing a libel case filed by Wennerström against him. Blomkvist and Lisbeth eventually meet when he is hired by the wealthy Henrik Vanger to find answers to a cold case involving Vanger’s niece, Harriet.  And so starts a simple plot that turns into a complicated game anchored by men who hate women. Blomkvist and Lisbeth work together to solve the case – with style, with awesome action, with great minds, and with Lisbeth’s cool gadgets!

A screen shot from The Girl Who Played With Fire

The second book in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire, continues the story of Lisbeth and Blomkvist. This time, Blomkvist is using Millennium to clear Lisbeth’s name by coming out with a story about her. A lot of the characters in the first installment of the book make a comeback in this story.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (or “The Air Castle That Was Blown Up) tells the story of how Lisbeth exacts her revenge on all the people who “raped and oppressed” her. Blomkvist continues to help Lisbeth. This time, though, he gets help from Erika Berger, co-owner of Millennium. Many of the characters who figured prominently in the first two books are also in this third story. In fact, a number of them play important roles in Lisbeth’s revenge plot.

Larsson’s storytelling is detailed and vivid. All the characters are played out well, and all the situations are practically real life-based. There’s no denying how many Lisbeth Salanders and Mikael Blomkvists there are in the world. It’s not difficult to empathize with them.

I can’t really pinpoint a specific reason why I love Larsson’s books, and Lisbeth and Blomkvist. They just make a great impact on me.  After I finish reading a chapter or two, everything stays with me for days. Sometimes, I wonder about what I’d do if I were in Lisbeth or Blomkvist’s shoes. And, oh, the fact that Lisbeth is supposed to be suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome but still manages to kick a** is another thrilling fascination for me!

If you haven’t read any of the books, or if you’ve never seen any of the original Swedish film versions, now is the best time to do so. I guarantee you, you’ll love the experience! For more information about Larsson and The Millennium series, check out this link. You may also want to click this link. For those of you who want a sneak peek of the American remake, click this link.

Happy reading and viewing, everyone!