Happy Christmas, Happy Festival to all

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In keeping with tradition, as we celebrated Christmas Day yesterday, we also opened the 39th Metro Manila Film Festival.

The festival runs from December 25 to the first week of January, when it concludes with the presentation of the festival awards for high achievement in film production, acting and other distinctions in the business of filmmaking.

It’s impressive that the festival has been sustained for 39 years now, since it was first established in 1975, during the heyday of martial law and the New Society.

For the information of foreign residents and visitors, during the festival, no foreign films are shown all over the Philippines (except in 3D theaters and IMAX theaters). Only Filipino films approved by the festival jurors and organizers are shown.

The curtain-raiser of the festival was the parade of floats during its opening. The floats, each one representing a film entry in the festival, paraded down Roxas Boulevard, with the respective stars for the represented films on board.

Through the years, the MFF has reflected the glories, struggles, and transitions of Philippine cinema. It has marked the emergence of new stars in its firmament, and the passing of older celebrities. It has also highlighted the rise of Filipino movie stars in Philippine politics, including the election of President Joseph Estrada to the Philippine presidency.

What good is getting sick If nobody is watching?
This was probably fated, but what a remarkable coincidence?

On the same week this December that movie star, TV host, and presidential sister Kris Aquino was taken to hospital for a severe allergic reaction, and then rushed back to hospital a few days after discharge, the cable program, My Movie Channel, which features noteworthy old films, showed Director Gus Van Sant’s 1989 comedy, “To Die For,” which starred a young and energetic Nicole Kidman.

What’s remarkable is how the themes of the film drama dovetail into the real-life drama of Ms. Aquino’s indisposition and celebrity career.

Local media dutifully maintained a diligent watch over her health, reporting daily on how she was recuperating, and publishing some choice quotes from her, no doubt aided by her publicists, if not her attending doctors. There were some awful photos of Kris on her sickbed, which netizens feasted on.

After the initial hospitalization, Kris quickly returned to work at ABS-CBN to host her TV programs. But in a flash, she suffered a relapse; she returned to sick bay.

From her sick bed, Kris nevertheless managed to send an Instagram post; she said she tried her best to fulfill her work obligations but her body just “gave up.”

Her severe allergic reaction the day before happened because she mistakenly took the medicine of her son Joshua that has ibuprofen, to which she is allergic.

During her return to her morning show, “Kris TV,” she told guest co-host Carmina Villaroel: “Deadma bells sa allergy na matindi. Ayaw ko na nga eh, kung pwede lang ihiga ito. Kung alam niyo lang I am floating sa dami ng antihistamine sa katawan ko,”

In hospital, Kris was clearly anxious about her new showbiz project, the horror film “Feng Shui 2” with Coco Martin, which is an official entry in this year’s MMFF, and which her company, Kris Aquino productions, produced.

Some media pundits have commented that Kris was trying to extract as much publicity as she could from her illness, in order to promote the film.

Stardom as life’s sweetest reward
In “To Die For” (1995), Nicole Kidman plays Suzanne Stone, who utterly believes in the redeeming power of television and would stop at nothing to cultivate and promote her celebrity, which she regards as life’s sweetest reward.

Suzanne has made herself into a candy-colored creature, using her job as a weather girl to climb the ladder and rise to fame. Her whole life revolves around this idea of glamor. When she serves dinner, it’s famous food (“This is the dish they serve in Johnny Carson’s favorite restaurant in Hollywood”) and she avoids actual cooking. When she gets married, it’s in a veil copied from Maria Shriver’s. And even when she’s in private, she remains a coyly decorative public person. “What’s the point in doing something good if nobody’s watching?” Suzanne wants to know.

“To die for” is a film that gives movie fanatics exactly the satire that they deserve. It’s a funny and witty black comedy that takes aim at tabloid ethics and hits a solid bull’s-eye. Ms. Kidman is both alluring and hilarious.

The film is also notable for the co-starring roles of Matt Dillon as the bewildered husband, and Joaquin Phoenix, as the teenage chunk whom Kidman seduces and victimizes.

No worries about PNoy’s health
If the film has a serious message, it is this: the tabloid-based culture of television rewards virtue and notoriety equally well. Suzanne thinks of herself as eminently sensible, as when she suggests that “Mr. Gorbachev — you know, the man who ran Russia for so long?” would have fared better politically with makeup covering the birthmark on his forehead. But she is completely amoral and without scruples.

At film’s end, Suzanne meets a rather bizarre fate.

Let’s hope that Kris will fully recover from her illness, and that her film will fare well at the box office after all her exertions.

It’s significant that the Filipino public can worry over the good health of Kris Aquino, but it doesn’t seem to worry one bit about the good health of her brother, President Noynoy Aquino, who may be slowly smoking himself to extinction.

And yet, it is his health that the nation should monitor regularly, says the Constitution.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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