Since its momentous debut back in March 2012, the visionary brainchild of writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples has been hailed by both critics and fans as a game-changer in the field of comics. I am, of course, talking about none other than SAGA. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t consider SAGA as part of their regular pull lists or the hordes of newly converted fans declaring this ongoing series as their gateway drug into comic books and graphic novels. Indeed, the fandom for this incredible title has seen thousands—if not millions—of devotees from all over the world and only recently did Vaughan and Staples gave their blessing towards the opening of an online store where people could buy official merchandise based on their work, such as a large plush toy of fan favorite, Lying Cat.
But despite the overwhelming amount of praise heaped upon SAGA, the creators have gone on record several times that while they are open to the possibility of having their seminal work adapted into film or television, it was never created for such an intention and nor is it a priority of theirs. Understandably, some (if not most) fans were completely heartbroken at having to contend with only a comic format with which to enjoy this beloved modern classic of the space opera genre. From a visual and storytelling perspective, SAGA is a prime candidate for a major blockbuster production that could rival either Game of Thrones or anything pulled from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, with SAGA being released under publisher Image Comics where comic creators hold full copyrights to their work, fans could only wait with bated breath until such time that Vaughan and Staples will ultimately relent and give the green light for Hollywood to make an adaptation that is truly worthy of the source material.
Hypothetically speaking, the idea might sound good on paper though perhaps a huge point of contention should a SAGA movie adaptation come into fruition would be the casting. We are now living in a time where diversity in media is being consistently demanded by discerning audiences despite Hollywood still making glaring missteps in that regard. Racial bias against actors of color and underrepresentation of women and LGBT individuals are hot button topics that almost always become watercooler discussions every time the casting of a big film or TV production is announced. Any SAGA fan worth their salt knows for a fact that the comic series is filled with characters that appear visually diverse in terms of race and gender despite the setting being in a fictional extraterrestrial galaxy. Both Vaughan and Staples were conscious of reflecting the current social climate of the real world so that readers of various demographics could relate to any character featured in their astonishing pages.
So until such time that hardcore fans such as myself will receive confirmation of a future SAGA debut on the big screen or on the boob tube, we shall only remain in blissful “what if” scenarios in our wild imaginations. That being said, I have taken the liberty of acting as an imaginary casting director for a potential SAGA film franchise, where I took great measures to make this both a dream cast filled with great talents while also fulfilling the demand for diversity and representation of minorities. And a little disclaimer (plus a minor spoiler alert): my dream fan casting selections were based on the characters still written as alive and kicking by the end of the sixth story arc. So without further ado, here are my top choices for the current cast of characters still featured within the pages of this great comic book.
I remember back in my senior year of high school, our teacher made us do this project in our Arts class (what is now known in the current K-12 curriculum as MAPEH—Music, Arts, P.E., Health) where we had to create our very own wedding invitation. You know, the really fancy kind you often get in the mail when a friend or relative gets married: the promise of a romantic event made out of premium card stock or parchment and flourished with intricate design details such as embossed letters or digitally printed photographs of the bride and groom. If the couple had money to burn, you’d often get an invitation that was even made out of even more expensive materials than just plain printed card stock. Immediately after our teacher presented us with the details of our art project, I never once hesitated that my wedding invitation would feature my name next to another boy’s name.
A disclaimer before I continue with this anecdote: I have always been aware of my sexuality from a young age that I did not need to “come out” in a traditional sense to my friends and family, and thus, I was largely accepted for being true to my queer roots. And though attending a private school with a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination would be considered an advantage, there was always that petty undercurrent of ridicule spoken behind my back due to my extroverted nature. That being said, I worked hard to make my invitation the best it could possibly be; a competitive edge driving me to make sure that my “gay wedding invite” would surpass that of my heterosexual classmates. I submitted the finished product to my teacher where—to my slight surprise—she never batted an eyelash nor did she voice out any homophobic remark upon seeing that the person whom I was “to marry” in the invitation was a boy’s name. For that month’s art project, I received one of the highest marks in class.
Years after that indelible memory, I would come to grow up and face an era where gay marriage was no longer an impossible dream, but a tangible reality that someone like me could one day attain with the right man. Sadly, living in a country like the Philippines has largely prevented me from achieving the kind of happiness that many gay men and women in North America and Europe have experienced in recent years. But the meteoric rise of the internet and social media in the past decade has been crucial in keeping me well-informed of any and all news and issues concerning LGBT topics, which was instrumental in educating me that the world beyond the archipelago I lived in showed me that being gay is okay and that it was possible for me to get the civil and human rights afforded to straight people.
But despite such rainbow-colored optimism flaunted in many LGBT-friendly places, I am not that naïve to think that the community I belong to still doesn’t face negative judgment in various levels. Countries like Russia and Uganda both have a horrifying stance against homosexuals—too often based on ultra-conservative religious principles—that often becomes violent. LGBT people don’t even stand a chance if they live in the Middle East, where at the very worst, an extremist terrorist group would gladly execute gay men on camera and proudly defend their actions to the world disturbed by such blatant inhumanity. And even in highly developed countries like the United States, there is still so much hatred by Americans of different shades and shapes towards gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people that the Supreme Court’s monumental decision to approve same-sex marriage in June 2015 feels like a feeble triumph of a small battle in an epic war that has yet to be fully won.
If there was one confidently sure thing that defined the films I had the privilege of seeing this year, it would certainly be the spirit of diversity and creativity that made each of the selections on my annual shortlist distinctive in their unique cinematic way. Curiously enough, the fifteen films that comprise my list this year were evenly divided into five key film genres: comedies, documentaries, animation, indies, and blockbusters. This is perhaps a serendipitous sign that regardless of their silver screen pedigree, the illustrious crop of films below represent a positive step forward in the right direction as far as the future of filmmaking is concerned, and that there will always be something for everyone. From massive tentpole crowd-pleasers to critically-approved arthouse works, may you find something to discover and enjoy in my list of the Best In Film Of 2015.
My love for music has been embedded since childhood, roughly around the same time I had started to develop a vested interest in films. The golden years of MTV were a crucial element during the formative stages of my life, and as I grew older, I was exposed to a wide variety of artists and genres which gave me valuable insight into cultivating my personal preferences when it comes to music I love to listen to. A brief but memorable phase of my late adolescence was my stint as a radio DJ for a local station in my hometown where the Billboard Hot 100 songs and other well-curated upscale tracks reigned supreme to a target audience that demanded sophisticated songs as opposed to unpalatable mass market tunes playing on the airwaves.
Throughout the years, technology has steadily evolved and the way I consumed my regular sonic fix has changed to reflect the passage of time and the kind of music I am willing to absorb. Back then, I heavily relied on radio and television to get maximum exposure on my favorite artists and find out about emerging talents in the scene. If I wanted to enjoy repeated listening sessions in the comfort of my home without resorting to my previous default options, then cassette tapes were somewhat a grudging compromise to the more expensive CDs housed in shiny jewel cases that I could not afford with my meager allowance at the time. Fast forward to my present age of not-quite-yet-30, the internet has become an invaluable source of easily discovering and acquiring music I love by way of high-quality MP3 downloads and high-definition music video viewing on YouTube.
So far, my musical tastes are more or less entrenched in what I really care to listen to nowadays, but there is still plenty of leg room should there be interesting aural avenues that deserve a place in my digital music library. And I do realize that, for a huge fan of music like myself, it has taken me quite a while to write a year-end blog post about the best in music for the past twelve months given that I have been doing this for the field of movies for a few years running. Better late than never, as the saying goes, and I am thankful to the sonic gods and goddesses that 2015 has blessed me with an eclectic plethora of harmonious choices that ultimately compelled me to compose this inaugural list of my handpicked finest sonic cuts of the year. From concise extended plays (EPs) to full-length studio albums (LPs), this is the Best in Music of 2015 presented in alphabetical order by artist.
January in Cebu City means two things: the start of the New Year, and of course, the big Sinulog weekend.
The Sinulog Festival—held every third Sunday of January in Cebu City—is a massive cultural and religious festival that commemorates the Filipino people’s acceptance of Roman Catholicism, where the very first of such spiritual conversions happened on the island of Cebu way back in 1521. In recent years, the festival has grown to such epic proportions that it has garnered worldwide attention from adventurous globe trotters everywhere who flock to the Queen City of the South in order to witness the famous grand street parade and other sidebar highlights. Sinulog has achieved a sterling reputation for the Philippines that it has held pride of place for many fun-loving travelers; putting it on equal footing alongside other huge international festivals such as the New Orleans Mardi Gras and the Carnaval Do Brazil.
Relatively new to the Sinulog scene is the huge rave experience known as LifeDance. Birthed in 2012, this intrepid outdoor music festival has steadily grown in terms of scale and ambition over the years. It has billed itself as the country’s first and largest ever ongoing al fresco music event that exclusively caters to the EDM genre and its thousands of devotees. Think of it as the Philippines’ ingénue answer to more established global EDM gatherings such as Electric Daisy Carnival, Tomorrowland, ZoukOut, The Big Chill, and Ultra Music Festival. Strong word of mouth plus incredible support by dedicated partyphiles from all over the Philippines has made LifeDance a major sidebar attraction for many visiting locals and foreigners during the weekend of Sinulog since its inception.
Another year, another exceptional crop of great films that I have had the privilege to see in the past twelve months. And since I was spoiled for choice this time around, I simply could not round up a list featuring only ten entries like last year’s post. Therefore, I have expanded my selections to twenty of the most exceptional feature films—arranged in no particular order—that impressed me greatly this year.
Because of obvious geographical limitations and the general bullshit surrounding the release of certain films in the Philippines (which is where I live), you won’t be seeing several prestige titles that have made headlines in various major film festivals (i.e. Berlin, Venice, Cannes, and Toronto, among others) and garnering serious Oscar buzz on this list. That being said, I hope you will take my list of the Best Movies of 2014 with an open mind and discover something to enhance your moviegoing experience in the comforts of your own home.
Rare is the film that deftly weaves masterful storytelling, gripping action sequences, precise acting performances, and a biting social commentary on class warfare. Look no further than “Snowpiercer” to deliver all these elusive elements perfectly distilled and combined into what is perhaps a bravura masterpiece from acclaimed Korean auteur, Bong Joon-Ho. Adapted from the relatively obscure French graphic novel series originally titled “Le Transperceneige” created by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette, director Bong (who helmed previous hits such as “Mother”, “Memories Of Murder”, and “The Host”) bravely took the source material and by bucking against typical Hollywood filmmaking restrictions, he has delivered a tour-de-force experience that can comfortably rest alongside the greatest science-fiction films in cinematic history. Period.