blogger, Movies, The Good Stuff

Everything I Learned, I Learned from the film [500] Days of Summer

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It has always been on my annual list of 500 films. Yes, I kind of thought of the number of films to watch in a year was a coincidence, but it’s a challenge on it’s own. Though I could also write a different entry on five ways this film almost ruined me, because for three years now every time I try to manage a list for all of the films I watch, I loose them. But now let’s focus on the things I managed to learn from this film.

Whether or not this was based on an actual person named Jenny Beckman, I will never know. Though I keep tabs on every Wikipedia article on it’s cast and crew (not including boom men, make-up artists, personal assistants to the cast, it’s assistant directors, location manager, and whatever else you can think of) and of the film itself, I think the last time I read the articles about this was waay back in 2009. So, let’s get back on track.

For the benefit of anyone who hasn’t seen this flick, the reasons don’t normally show the order of scenes. And by the way, the film itself doesn’t show the films in order.

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1. Summer Finn is not a Bitch

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Summer Finn is not a bitch. Now in one scene Tom, the character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt might assume she’s a bitch, along with his friend and officemate, McKenzie would also assume the same thing because she wouldn’t give a rat’s ass on another officemate who’s hitting on her. Another scene would explain briefly as to why she sees the world as it is. This scene would be the one at the bar, during an office party where she claims she doesn’t have a boyfriend and doesn’t need to. Summer is just a woman who knows what she wants. As a woman, I find that inspiring. Empowering even.

2. Being Single is one of the most exciting experiences in the world

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Back in the old days, men and women are supposed to follow a proper social standing to be accepted in society. A woman going well into her thirties would have been married with three kids, and a man had already wed a woman and have been successful in his profession. Well, we’re way past those days and Summer states that she “doesn’t have a boyfriend because she doesn’t want one” to quote it directly and then further states that “we live in one of the most exciting cities in the world, might as well have fun” which exudes the freedom to choose whatever a woman or a man wants. No offense of course to anyone who reads this and may have found their matches early on but isn’t it fun to see a woman, a person enjoying the freedom of being single instead of wallowing at the thought that nobody else wants to love you that’s why you’re single?
I was single when I first saw this film. It exemplified the feeling to accept the fact that maybe time hasn’t come for me yet to experience what it feels like to be loved back by someone as special [as the one I have now] and enjoy things I couldn’t do had I chose a different path and went on to become someone entirely different. Being a singleton gave me the time to learn about myself, to do things I could share with other people, to undo the things I did towards my siblings in the past by spending time with them. I did all these and when I met the, possible One, I had so many things to share, a passion in life to talk about.

3. There are two kinds of people in this relationship

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At least in a relationship that won’t work. A boy named Tom whose early influences were punk rock’s The Smith’s, (whose songs have blown me and my twin away even before this film was even made) 80s romantic love songs like She’s Like the Wind, The Pixies’ Here Comes Your Man, and of course the classic film The Graduate in which the guy gets the girl in the end even if all it takes is to get her away from getting married. Then we have the girl, Summer, whose parents divorced when she was younger, and that even cutting her long black hair didn’t feel anything meant that she can get through with life without caring for anything or anyone that might have an effect on her and might inflict pain or happiness. I like the contrast between these characters. Relationship is a two way street because there’s two of you involved. It can’t just go your own way just cause. Which leads us to the next reason.

Which is 4. Everything should be clear from the beginning of a relationship

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Which did not seem clear to Tom as to what Summer wanted in the first place. I’ve had instances in my life wherein I thought the other person knew what I wanted, but he didn’t. And neither did I. So in the end it never worked out. I was a Tom at some point until I almost wanted to have a certain expectation in a relationship but it never went that way because I never did anything to let it go towards that direction. Communication is key as always. Summer asked Tom after the office party if he liked her only as a friend, and he said yes. But he had other expectations. In the end, Summer had to say that there was something she couldn’t understand between them because he never clarified what exactly did he want.

5. This is not a love story.

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Films like The Graduate actually meant something completely different for me. In the film, what it meant to Tom was that the guy always gets the girl in the end, no matter what. Although that reference was great, I didn’t expect that classic to be included. This is a film about relationships, told in a nonlinear narrative because that’s how we all look back at the relationships we used to have, or the ones we have at the moment.

6. You find people/things when you stop looking.

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I’ve discussed this over and over with my sister, and although the Deli scene was only mentioned by Summer in passing, the Deli was sort of responsible for her finding the man she married. Although it had crushed me several times in the past to know that someone somewhere has met the guy I thought would be the One and are currently spending fruitful days enjoying each other’s company, this scene would play in my memory several times as a reminder of how happy I am at the moment. I met the One at an office party, a party I wasn’t supposed to go to but I had to because my boss told me I would be tagged as Absent (and I am quite obsessed over my attendance). He was sitting outside the bar of the After party. I asked for a lighter and we talked while we smoked. Two years and six months later, I still find myself smiling at the thought of his face smiling back at me, and his hand clutching mine in his.

7. To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.

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I’m actually talking about the Soundtrack. Who knew Carla Bruni could sing back in 2009? This film introduced me to the indie bittersweet song Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap which was smoothly played during the time Summer and Tom were on their way to Millie’s wedding. Plus we got to see another singing episode of both Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt during the office party scene. My favorite acts like The Smiths (which was always blissful to listen to), The Pixies, Feist and The Black Kids were included. Also, that moment where Tom is left startled in the elevator after Summer sings a line from The Smith’s song to die by your side/is such a heavenly way to die has happened to most of us.

8. Friends and (your sister) is all you need to get through a [messy] break-up

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Well if you don’t have a sister, then a brother or someone whose close enough to a sibling helps. Other heads are better than one and friends and family help us get through life. Tom’s friends were always there for him even before, within, and after his relationship with Summer ended. This helped me realize that as stubborn as I was when I really wanted someone at some point in my life, I got through it with so much help from them. If my sister hadn’t told me how foolish I looked like to be chasing after a failing dream, I wouldn’t believe how foolish I did look.

9. Expectations vs Reality

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Admit it. You always wanted to stay on that other side of life. The Expectations part of life. Filled by daydream, illusions, and fantasy. The Reality part is always too scary to look at but that scene where Expectations vs Reality was phenomenal for me. Especially when they really had to literally push the Expectations part out of the screen was genius. Heartbreaking, but really genius.

10. Intense Passion can be Inspiring and Destructive

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When Tom and Summer were in the good times of their relationship, they were both benefiting from it. Sexually fulfilling and inspiring for both of them. The wisdom Summer gained from Tom’s hopeless romantic mood had encouraged her to realize that not all relationships would fail much like her parents’. Plus, she gained a friend in Tom. Tom was inspired to do well at work, and realize that he should pursue his passion as an architect and that being a card writer wasn’t all he was good at. It became destructive to both of them along the way, but in the end letting go of the other had at least taught them a few things as a couple and as friends.

11. Lessons from a Fallen Love

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It had to end, at some point or the other. They both became people for the things they learned about each other that they wouldn’t have learned had they still kept their relationship. For me, it’s okay to look back and the things I learned were beneficial to who I am. It’s not who I am completely but the experience I had from a Fallen love is interesting. Like Tom there were times when I’d remember and be bitter about it. But mostly these days I’m not. But without overcoming it, I probably wouldn’t have met my guy from the office party, just like Tom meeting Autumn while going for an interview for an architecture firm and knowing what he wants for the better. And Summer ending up married to the guy who changed her mind about how relationships should be but staying firm on what she really wants in life. Happiness.

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The Confidence of Fear

You captured me,
By your words
And evident fear.
Your name I hear
And the sound
A clear whisper
‘Jump’ you said
With confidence that I’d fear

The stillness of the sight
Nervousness in the wind
I look for you
But I can’t find you
Where were you
when I heard those words
You had me by those words

This will be nothing
It will pass, I said
For every uneven sorrow
Masked by shallow joy
I cannot enjoy the pleasure
Of you hanging on this hope

One day you will
Never have me
This cannot be a fantasy
But somehow it is.
I cannot let you
Satisfy each pleasure
That one day you think
You might have me.

blogger, The Good Stuff

Being Chris Fajardo

I first met Chris in my imagination. That may sound ridiculous but allow me to explain.

It all started about my twin sister’s stories about a tranchemate/officemate she had at work who lent us copies of foreign films. When I say foreign, I don’t mean easy to pick up at the videostore Hollywood movies (with the exception of some Hollywood films which are surprisingly available in local videostores). These were all interesting, well-thought foreign films my twin and I only knew from film books we secretly read at the bookstore. From the great Fellinni to Akira Kurosawa, whose works we only heard of by characters from other foreign films we’ve seen on cable. I always imagined him as this skinny guy with glasses (though my sister corrected me several times that he never wore glasses), with messy hair. It’s not usual that you’d meet a guy who was interested in the same stuff you did. So I asked her “gwapo ba?” (is he handsome?) And my sister replied “well, kind of. But I’m just not sure he’s interested in me in that aspect.” Since I, we, were both single at the time my hopes of nabbing someone who had the same interest, as in built-in interest in these kinds of movies, just died then and there. But I was still interested in meeting him in person.

Apparently he made the first move of talking to my twin during their training at work. My sister was reading Orson Welles’ biography and she says this guy just came up to him, the expression on his face was a mix of excitement and amazement and wonder at her, a girl who looked too young but too serious to be working in this business and to intent at learning more about Orson Welles, the genius whose passion towards films were just as mad as his great masterpiece, Citizen Kane.
So they chatted and they began exchanging conversations about films. The next day he brought her about five films for her to share with her film buddy, me.
The first film I ever saw from that pack was Fellinni’s Amarcord.. And I told myself that if it was possible to love a man, without all the romance, only for gratitude… Well, damn I love this Chris guy! Of whom I haven’t met, yet.
And so each week, there were several others he lent us, a few others we lent him back. I admit since I’m such a couch potato I just relied on HBO, Cinemax, WOWOW, PBO, and the two african channels MM1 and MM2 (which served as doors for developing my interest in classic Hollywood films, silent films, and french films), the ones we had at home consisted of Marlon Brando’s and Jimmy Stewart’s films, Hitchcock, a slew of other foreign films he’d already watched, and rom-coms which were necessary for the three of us siblings (the times after highschool got pretty depressing for us), and a couple of classic horror films. We lent him some, he lent us some more. And everything just went deep after that.

Suddenly I felt like this was the world I wanted to be in. The world of complex characters or predictable ones, in black and white or in the Silent Film era, in talkies, in Propagandistic films, in all the rom-coms, campiness of local drama, and the smoking ways of the Parisians during the 40s to 70s, I wanted a tragedy as written by Woody Allen or a youthful resilience as told by the folks at Studio Giblhi.

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When I was younger I wanted to be so many things because my parents allowed me to choose. I wanted to be a veterinarian, a Broadway [super]star, an impersonator, a singer, an actress, a writer, a lawyer, an archaeologist, a philanthropist, a psychologist, a playwright. But when I lost my mom to cancer in Christmas of ’06, the hopes of achieving anything became minimal. As luck would have it, I became optimistic when I had learnt that I passed this Science and Tech scholarship. Which meant I could go to good schools. But my dying wish to go to UP and all of a sudden I couldn’t afford to go there either. And I suddenly added “Systems Administrator” and “Computer Engineer” to the things I wanted to be.

I took up IT in college because it was also known as Instant Trabaho or the most in demand job out there. I realized through the subjects I had which were all about computers, and it wasn’t something for me. I realized that I had myself stuck in a situation that’s never gonna work out for me. So, I left school early and decided to work early. I had to drop out of my scholarship, and work at 17.

I wrote this two page review for the movie Serendipity in high school and I never thought that my teacher would be impressed. I had forgotten all about that. I knew I should have went to college and pursued something I really, truly wanted which was to study film. To be a part of it all. It was BA Film all along. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

The first time I finally met Chris was at this monthly film screening in Cubao. The group had a tribute to (komiks guy, Susan Roces and Eddie Garcia flick) and I didn’t know that the place was a bit religious. Well, my twin mentioned it but I thought it wasn’t that religious. So we wore dresses and stockings.. And our faces were filled with make-up, sixties style! Our hair was all over the place as usual. So when he met us at the gate, there was that smile that one would know when they’d seen an old friend. His smile was that warm. He laughed when I told him the nuns gave us a look of disapproval as we walked in.

The thing about living in San Jose del Monte was that it was in the middle of the urban and the rural. So when film festivals started popping up here and there, the travel time my twin and I needed was at a minimum of two hours. Hence, whenever Chris would invite us to festivals or film screenings, we’d always be an hour late. Plus, we worked in call centers and most film screenings occur by the time we’re asleep or in the middle of our shifts. And yes I do feel like I’ve been making up excuses my whole life.

For some awesome luck of time management, Chris was always, almost always present during these festivities. Especially one Saturday each month in Cubao. I haven’t met anyone else (apart from Queen and my boyfriend) whom I can talk to about every character, every detail about the film but Chris. He was just as enthusiastic. And he listened and he shared everything he knew about films.

He introduced Queen and I to this “underground” film society formed by these guys from UP and PUP and Titus Brandsma. This society was formed in Facebook of all places. There were about a hundred when he added us up. And it was interesting in many ways. Forums bored me to death but conversations that took place in Cinephiles were entertaining, educational, and sometimes emotional (why the fuck post a spoiler filled review?!?!). I owe Chris the opportunity to meet these people. To be included in that group.

The very last time I saw Chris I told him about Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. I didn’t have that Spring Breakahs forevah vibe with me but I tried my best not to be a pussy in front of him. He’d lost so much weight from the cancer. The Big C yet again. I was several hours late though Joseph had texted me to come ASAP several hours before because Chris was in critical condition. I had the same terrible feeling when I lost my mother. My fake optimism kicked in just the same although I understood what critical condition was. When he was gone I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t care less if I didn’t have enough sleep, if I cried the whole day even while at work, if I spent at least a portion of my day during his wake. But I guess he appreciated anything. He did. He really did.

It’s been months my dear friend since I last saw you. I promise to finish watching all the films I borrowed from you. I’ll tell you all about it soon. I told you once how I was so glad to have met such a wonderful person like you. Because you are. You truly are…

Christopher Fajardo’s love for films were as strong as the heroines his most favorite actress, Catherine Denouve, has portrayed through the years. He was a film programmer though his day job was as a telephone banker. He passed away on February 8, 2014 and his ashes are interred at the Manila North Cemetery Green Park, a few meters away from where FPJ, the King of Philippine Cinema rests along with former Presidents, Boy Scouts and other heroes of this generation, and of course my mom.