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Les Misérables the Movie: ‘The Timeless Tale of The Victims’

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     SET in the 19th century French Restoration period, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables has gone a long way from the critically acclaimed novel released in 1862 to the world’s longest running musical. Now a major motion picture, director Tom Hooper’s (“The King’s Speech”) version of the novel has produced mixed reactions from both the critics and the audiences worldwide with his star-studded cast, wonderfully portraying the story of broken dreams, faith, love, and sacrifice. Hooper’s controversial style of live singing enabled the actors to provide a heart-wrenching sense of reality to the film. That, combined with close-up shots in exactly the most precious and perfect moments, certainly toyed with the emotions of viewers.

     In all its glory, the movie revolved around the idea of faith. Through the misfortunes of the characters, it was faith that gave light in their life. Hooper’s emphasis on the value of Christianity to Jean Valjean, his initial hate towards his society turning into compassion, sent a moral lesson with an impact of such intensity: that even a man who had practically lost his life was able to gain redemption through Christian love and forgiveness.

     Hugh Jackman, a theatre veteran, brought to life this former convict who broke parole to have a fresh start. His improvisation for “What Have I Done?” and “Who Am I?” showed an inner turmoil and a strong sense of conscience, testament of his determination of keeping his promise of “becoming an honest man.” How one deed changes the heart of another was demonstrated repeatedly, beginning from Valjean’s blessing to forgiving Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) amidst all attempts of bringing Valjean back to the hell he once knew. Each forgiveness constantly gave way to a better future.

     The political setting greatly influenced the lives of the characters. At a time when an uprising was inevitable due to the growing displeasure of the lower social class in France, the King’s military was relentless in capturing fugitives and eliminating rebels. The widespread poverty pushed much of the French citizens beyond their rightful morals as what happened with Jean Valjean, Fantine and the Thenardiers. Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne), born to a wealthy family, chose to live poorly because of his political views most likely influenced by his deceased father and his close friends, Enjolras (Aaron Tveit), Combeferre (Killian Donnelly), Courfeyrac (Fra Fee), Grantaire (George Blagden), and many more. They plotted their uprising at the funeral of General LaMarque who was from Napoleon Bonaparte’s regime and the only remaining popular figure supporting human rights and opposing the constitutional monarchy in France at the time. His death fueled the spirits of the French people to defend their freedom, chanting “Do You Hear the People Sing?” every now and then from the middle to the end of the film.

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     Anne Hathaway as Fantine was remarkable, bringing people to tears with her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream,” the single, factory-working mother turned prostitute for young Cosette (portrayed by the lovely Isabelle Allen). The imperfections in her singing complimented the song extremely well. Hathaway’s display of raw emotions kept one completely focused on her face, sharing Fantine’s pain and shame. Despite having a supporting role, Anne as Fantine gave depth to the character as compared to the Fantine in the musical production, who was simply a martyr. She gave a strong-willed, independent woman sacrificing all, even her own rightful morals, to provide for her dear Cosette.

     Nothing but a dose of young love could symbolize innocence and new hope better. Nine years after Valjean’s adoption of Fantine’s beloved daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), a young lady already by that time, and Marius were the more blessed of the bunch. In particular scenes, these two lovers seemed lost in their own bubble of happiness, oblivious to the people around them, ignorant to the feelings of Eponine (Samantha Barks). Their love triangle reaches out to the younger generation with “A Heart Full of Love.” It was a beautiful blend of the actors’ voices, ranging from Seyfried’s soprano to Redmayne’s bass baritone voice. But not even the bliss of love at first sight could contest to Eponine’s tragic, unrequited love for Marius sung out in “On My Own.” Something about Eponine singing and crying in the rain established the stereotypic atmosphere of the heartbroken. Barks won the hearts of many with her vocal prowess.

     Several notable characters had minor roles in the film but nevertheless were essential in weaving together the whole story. The Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen & Helena Bonham Carter), no matter how silly and opportunists they were, the film would just be too intense without their mild humor. The original Jean Valjean from the musical, Colm Wilkinson, was given the role of the Bishop Myriel of Digne, who was the first to change the life of Jean Valjean.

     Tom Hooper did an incredible job of modifying the original novel into a true motion picture spectacle. The scoring was impeccable. The acting was worth of the Oscars. The imperfections of the film with regards to the cinematography and the actors’ singing gave more beauty to it. Hooper’s approach was excellent, providing a refreshing look to the 1862 Hugo novel.

     Les Misérables will surely give you an experience. Witness the suffering, sacrifice, and the toils of the victims of a cruel society in 19th century France in all its musical glory will tug at your heartstrings and remain in your heart forever.

By Jamille Carina D. Ong
Les Misérebles poster © 2012 Universal Studios

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Marcos is still not a hero

After everything that has been, is Marcos still your idol?

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MARTIAL LAW ANNIVERSARY 2018. (Photo by Christine Annemarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb)

When we look a few years back, we remember that one of the biggest political controversies we have encountered is Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani. The rites were private and intimate for the family and he was also given a 21-gun salute. Is this 21-gun salute an ode to the 21 years that Marcos has ruled as a kleptocratic dictator? This event has garnered negative criticism since a number of Filipinos don’t consider Marcos as a hero. It may have given peace to Marcos’ family, but it caused the victims of the Marcos rule to remember a grim chapter in their lives.

A few days into the present year, Bongbong Marcos sent out a statement calling for the revision of history books used in the academe, which he deems are only teaching the students lies about what his father, former President Marcos, has done. He believed that those from the opposition are in control of the data in published materials, that’s why it is so against his father. He also claimed that the contents of these textbooks were just used as propaganda against their family and that the allegations that his father was a thief and murderer were never proven. The thing is, if these allegations weren’t true, then why was the Presidential Commission on Good Governance recovering money from the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth? 

During Marcos’ rule, Proclamation 1081 gave the military power to arrest, detain, and execute those who are standing up against the government or those who are pushing other people to do so. A proclamation like this is set to violate a series of human rights, and yet it went on for several dreadful years. According to Amnesty International, about 70,00 people were imprisoned and 34,000 were tortured under Marcos’ term. 

In 1991, Marcos was found guilty by the US Federal Court system of ‘crimes against humanity,’ which covered torture, summary executions, and forced disappearances. The Philippine Constabulary was the law enforcing body during those times and was notorious for being liable for numerous human rights violations. Take the case of Dr. Juan Escandor, a Radiation specialist from the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital, who was involved in nationalist initiatives and even founded a leftist student organization, was killed by constabulary troopers that ended in a crossfire. Though authorities say that he died due to the gunfight, his autopsies show signs of torture, with his skull emptied and filled with trash, plastic bags, rags, and underwear, and his brain placed inside his stomach cavity. 

Bongbong Marcos has always justified his father’s ways. Although he acknowledged the numerous human rights violations that were committed during his father’s regime, he says that people should also remember the numerous projects his father launched, which includes thousands of kilometers of roads built, progressive agricultural policies, power generation, and the highest literacy rate in Asia. However, could these projects ever compensate for the pain inflicted on the victims of Martial Law? Even if the Marcoses’ contributions to the country are worthy of acknowledgment, it is not a valid argument to be used to push the people to leave their dreadful experiences in obscurity. Marcos apologists can’t tell others to just ‘move on’ because failing to acknowledge the people’s grievances during Martial Law is purely insensitive.  You can’t just tell people to forget such inhumane acts brought about by a leader they all trusted to lead them through progress. 

Recently, it was shared to the public that House Bill No. 7137 was approved to declare September 11 as ‘President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day’ in Ilocos Norte, which aims to honor the late dictator. Senate President Vicente Sotto III then said that bills with local applications like this are usually easily approved in Senate hearings. This, in turn, has sparked controversy and garnered criticism from the people.

Members of different rights groups and numerous people have expressed their disapproval of this bill. They say that this bill encourages the alteration of narratives of the dark days of Philippine history under Martial Law during the Marcos regime and that it practically promotes the invalidation of what people went through during the strongman rule.

We ought to #NeverForget the numerous accounts of torture and abuse that normal Filipinos went through. In case one forgets, the Twitter account @PangulongMarcos is devoted to tweeting daily on whether Marcos is a hero today.

The approval of this bill not only pushes to erase the kafkaesque events in our history that took place during Martial Law, but it also neglects the loss of the people who mourned for the loved ones that they lost in an all-out battle against the provisions of a power-hungry government that only sought to assert dominion over the people it ought to serve. It also makes us look at tyranny straight in the eye and just be resilient about it, without being able to #ResistTyranny. After everything that has been, is Marcos still your idol?

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Why “Pinoy Pride” exists in online Filipino culture

The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture.

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereño/TomasinoWeb

Filipinos entering the foray of different online media allowed for Filipino culture to gain an even larger audience, but it inevitably exposes aspects that would otherwise only be seen within our borders.

Emman Nimedez and Lloyd Cadena’s passing has shown how impactful online media has become for the youth. While traditional media like TV and radio broadcasting maintains the largest audience in our country, we have slowly crept into the online world with the rising presence of Filipino personalities. Though this puts our heritage on a much larger stage, it has unfortunately exposed the pitfalls in our society. Any Filipino browsing comment sections on their favorite social media and video platforms will have inevitably seen the words “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” on their screen at least once, usually bearing a negative connotation. How have Filipinos managed to set themselves apart so negatively online that it yielded such labels on online platforms?

“Peenoise” was a term originally coined by online users within gaming communities to refer to Filipinos who are considered to be toxic in-game. Now, it is generally used to describe Filipinos who exhibit toxic behavior online, such as trolls or bullies. On the other hand, Pinoy Pride is another aspect of “peenoise” that is less aggravating but is much more reflective of who we are as a society. Pinoy Pride revolves around being endlessly proud of a Filipino personality for achieving something that led to global notoriety. 

How have Filipinos managed to set themselves apart so negatively online that it yielded such labels on online platforms?

These behaviors, ironically enough, could be coming from the Filipinos’ prioritization of family values. The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture. Our innateness to find “kababayans” and treat them like family could both be a blessing and a curse in situations where we band together to defend our identity. This is even exploited in media channels that release “Filipino-themed” videos where personalities would experience Philippine culture or would have a part-Filipino cast member be the center of the content.

Another aspect that could be contributing to these online behaviors is the lingering effects of crab mentality in our society. As this blog puts it, we are quick to throw praise and be proud of our own people once they achieve success, but are also quick to call something “cheap” if it has not achieved prominence. But this even goes beyond Filipino artists as any individual who has the slightest hints of being Filipino is quickly embraced and celebrated as if they were our own. We like living through other people’s success as if they were one of our own, yet we pay no heed to those still climbing the ladder and even go as far as ridiculing them for their efforts. 

The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture.

Finally, these attitudes don’t really hinge on being Filipino, but rather being Filipino outside of the Philippines. Pinoy Pride only begins to matter once something done by a Filipino gets recognized outside of the Philippines. This can be attributed to the Filipino’s “American dream” or the notion that the ultimate goal as a Filipino is to make it outside of the Philippines. 

If we ask most college students what their goals are after graduation, it will probably be about building their careers until they can go abroad. Whether it’s nurses, teachers, or artists, they’re usually aiming for a career outside the country and for good reason. The same professions would normally be paid less here, not to mention having to work harder just to get paid half of what they would’ve made had they gone off to work abroad. 

A few weeks ago, a wave of posts took Facebook by storm as Filipinos started sharing images from Harvard and placing either themselves in the context of being Harvard students or Harvard being a university in the Philippines. While this short-lived trend was merely humorous for most, it shows how we ultimately aspire to live a life outside the country rather than to flourish within it. It shows the condition which we live in and how we’ve had to make do with subpar standards in our country.

In summary, the “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” attitudes that Filipinos are showing online is not about patriotism, but rather defensiveness and the desire to live better. They hinge on the strong family ties Filipinos are known to have which, while bringing a strong sense of unity, also brings to light the aforementioned “crab mentality” that some tend to have. Ultimately, it comes down to the desire to live a better life than what our current social and political situation allows. 

In summary, the “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” attitudes that Filipinos are showing online is not about patriotism, but rather defensiveness and the desire to live better.

Much like how we’ve stood out in beauty pageants and boxing, we also stand out as audiences but in an unflattering light. While such behaviors do not necessarily include all Filipinos, these do exist in our online space. We have the ability to change this and, while we cannot enforce it onto others, starting with ourselves can be a huge step in the right direction. Rather than embodying the bad sides of our culture, we can showcase our most prominent characteristic: bayanihan.

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Cramming Playlist: Buzzer Beats

Yeah, it’s big brain time.

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Artwork by Ayeesha Panotolan

The most dreadful time of the semester is here and with it comes every student’s best friend: cramming. We all know that it’s an ineffective and unhealthy way to retain information. Yet, we still choose to condense weeks worth of lectures into hours of late night study sessions because it somehow still gets the job done. 

Studying in the wee hours of the morning means you need something to keep you and your brain awake and functioning. Below, we’ve compiled a playlist that will surely get those neurons firing as you burn the midnight oil.

 

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