Sunday, July 25, 2010

Movie Magic

I saw this interesting article where writers and filmmakers were asked to write about the most memorable movie going experience they had.

As the article had stated, chances are that the movie experience you had didn't exactly involve Oscar-winning movies. The memories were made because of the company you had with you, the reaction of the audience to the movie, the unintended reaction that the movie produced, or the circumstances that lead you to the movie house or the events afterwards.

In relation to my work, there is one that stands out in particular, so allow me to join in on this experiment, even though I'm not exactly a film expert. (Though I will tell any movie expert that no matter how many awards they got, "Titanic" and "Avatar" are loads of crap.)


"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls", 2008
Theater unknown, Ankara, Turkey

So a Filipino, a Thai, an Indonesian, and a Serbian walk into a bar. Okay, that may sound like an opening line to a joke, but that was also how you would describe me and my friends when we went around town two years ago.

I'm a comic book fanboy. Comics featuring guys and gals dressed in costumes punching evil people and saving the world is my biggest hobby/ interest. Unfortunately, among the members of the diplomatic circle that I have met these past years, I have yet to see someone who shares my love of comic books. That hasn't stopped me from talking about this form of art (yes, it is art, as both literature and graphic art).

When it was time for the "Iron Man" movie to be shown in theaters, I was in Turkey for a training program. While I don't buy Marvel books, I still had to see it, knowing director Jon Favreau and actor Robert Downey, Jr. would do an awesome job. Of course, I wanted my new friends to share my geekiness with me. They seemed to have found it odd why I was so excited about seeing this movie. It must have looked "kiddie" to them. I mean, this was a guy wearing a metal armor and firing repulsor rays from his hands. They probably never met a fanboy before.

The weekend finally came and the group discussed early morning what we could do that day. After succeeding in convincing them how awesome the movie... Okay... After telling them I will pay for their tickets, we headed to a mall where we were told we can see the movie. We had no idea where the mall was so we set off knowing only the name of the place. We thought we'll just figure out how to get there along the way.

The talk of football didn't bother me so much as I was going to see Iron Man. Okay, I know the movie I'm supposed to be talking about is "Indiana Jones 4." I'll get to that. We ate first at McDonald's and KFC before heading out to buy movie tickets. After chugging down my milkshake (I just love milkshakes), I set off to buy our tickets.

"4 tickets please to Iron Man," I happily said to the ticket vendor.

The vendor, looking at my Asian features, said "Movie is in Turkish."

"In Turkish?" I asked, thinking I didn't hear what I just heard. "Yes. Turkish only. No English," he further said.

My jaw dropped. After a few seconds of being warped out of my senses due to the shock, I beat a hasty retreat and told my friends the bad news. We discussed what we would do now. I was in movie mode so I decided that we watch another movie that was shown in English. There it was, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls." Good old Indy, with his hat and whip, ready to save our day.

The cinema was structured in a way that everyone entered through one hallway to a circular area where the doors to all the movies where. This means for the price of one ticket, I could watch all the movies. There was no guard, purely an honesty system was in place. In the Philippines, lugi ang may-ari kung ganito ang sistema. And in another surprise for me, the movie houses there have intermissions.

As for the movie itself, it was okay. Indy and aliens (extraterrestrials, not foreigners) don't really mix well. Han Solo and Chewie do. But it was fun in some bits. And we spent most of the time yucking it up over the stereotypes Hollywood portrays, even though we know director Steven Spielberg handled the characters in a tongue-in-cheek manner. We indulged in sophomoric humor over things like the way the Russians were portrayed. It was doubly funny as we had a colleague from a former Soviet state who reminded us of "Ivan Drago" and whom we affectionately refer to as "KGB." (There goes political correctness...)

But this movie experience was really more about the journey, not the destination. The movie wasn't as important as the fun day we had.

Here we were in Turkey, three Asians and a European, watching a Hollywood flick. Not just an American movie but starring one of the most famous movie characters of all time.

Before that, there was the Filipino, yours truly, trying to sell to foreigners the beauty of an art that is an American creation, the comic book. Flash fact: Comic books are part of Philippine culture, introduced during the period of American occupation. The Philippines is a source of many comic book artists working for DC and Marvel Comics.

Here were four aliens who went off in search of a place they had no knowledge of, like explorers of old. Okay, we weren't exactly Magellan or Columbus, just a bunch of guys who walked along so many streets and had to make sure they made the right train changes. But it was fun.

Here were four people who just showed the power and reach of globalization, as we knew exactly what to order from a McDo and KFC we've never been to before. Christianity around the world can be varied, but a Big Mac is a Big Mac. Do not doubt the power of the Clown and the Colonel.

Here was a movie, set in the background of the Cold War period. And here were four young diplomats laughing at such a scenario, feeling embarrassed about it like a picture of their parents dressed like hippies. McCarthyism. Russian spies. ROTFL. It really is a brave new world out there. A Hollywood movie showed us that. That's movie magic for you.

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