10 Revealing Lessons from Cannes Sensation Alfonso Cuarón: ‘My Films Are Like Ex-Wives’

10 Revealing Lessons from

The six-time Academy Award-nominated director showed up at Cannes with some fantastic advice.

Alfonso Cuarón was on hand at the Cannes Film Festival last week to give an inspiring hour-and-a-half-long masterclass. Joined by French critic Michel Ciment, the talk covered much ground, from Cuarón’s relationship to both the Mexican and American film industries to the director’s scrappy beginnings to creating arthouse films, blockbuster flops, and Oscar winners.

“The consistency of a limitation is what starts to create an inner language. Limitations give you form.”

1. To make great art, forget that it’s a job

Cuarón got his start in the film scene in Mexico at a very young age. Because of that, he used his job primarily as a means of survival. “I had a kid when I was 20, so cinema became my means of support,” he said. “On top of that, cinema became a way of maintaining myself.” It is a habit he is still trying to kick. “My life and career, unfortunately—and now I’m focusing on exorcising this—has been not only cinema as the thing I love and my vocation, but also as the only way I learned early on about how to survive. That was a big ball and chain that I carried through most of my career.”

“Children of Men” Credit: Universal Pictures

2. Don’t obsess over finding your unique visual aesthetic

Even before the emergence of Guillermo Del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Emmanuel Lubezki, and Cuarón, there was a vibrant Mexican film scene. Cuarón wanted it to evolve. “When Chivo and I first started, we were struggling like hell to get rid of certain tendencies we didn’t like of the previous generation of Mexican filmmakers,” he remarked. “Unfortunately, a lot of that got into the technical and visual aspect of it or the polishedness of it. I think, in a way, that distracted our journey 10 years in the sense that for too long, we were concerned about creating a form. In retrospect, it was a distraction.”

3. Give yourself small goals

Lubezki and Cuarón had humble beginnings; the collaborators’ first projects were for a show they likened to a campy Mexican version of The Twilight Zone. “When Chivo and I used to do these ‘Toilet Zone’ episodes, we were happy if we had done one shot that was decent,” Cuarón remembers. “With our first film, we evolved this idea to be, if we do one scene that is a good scene, we’re happy. We had really low expectations in who we were.”

“I said, ‘Okay, I don’t like this script, but we’re going to compensate visually.’ That never works.”

4. Being in development limbo is okay—at first

After his first film, Sólo con tu pareja, garnered some recognition but failed to pick up American distribution, Cuarón realized that if he wanted to make real money, he’d have to make a move to the states. “Somehow, I’d discovered a cheat that would support my immediate situation,” he said. “It’s so weird—in Hollywood, you can live all your life without shooting one single movie and support yourself. You can be developing projects that will never happen. I entered the limbo. I took on projects that I was not in love with, but they were projects that I could survive on.”

‘Great Expectations’

5. Never try to compensate visually for story

The only movie Cuarón really seemed ashamed to talk about was his 1998 flop Great Expectations. From the beginning, he knew taking on the adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic wasn’t a good choice, but in his words, “you get seduced. It’s seductive. I was convinced by the studios who hire you to develop things. You don’t write [when you do that]. I forgot that I was a writer. I forgot that I was anything else. I spent my days reading screenplays.”

“I had said no three times,” he continued, “but I became cocky. I said, ‘Okay, I don’t like this script, but we’re going to compensate visually.’ That never works. When the essence—the concept, the soul—isn’t there, you can’t compensate with anything. That is the truth of the matter. It’s nobody’s fault but mine—it’s not the studio’s, it’s not the producers’, it’s not the actors’. It’s mine. I did the wrong film. I should not have done it. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

6. Ask yourself why you love film in the first place

After this failure, Cuarón hit a rough patch. “I lost my track,” he admitted. “Great Expectations didn’t do well commercially, so I wasn’t being sent good scripts. I was in another limbo where I was completely disenchanted by the whole thing.”

“But then I realized,” he continued, “that I was disenchanted not by cinema, but what I had been doing and the process and where I was. So I went to the video shop and impulsively just started renting the films that made me fall in love with the medium in the first place. I took piles of VHS and locked myself in a room for one week. And that’s the moment I decided to do Y Tu Mama Tambien.”

“Try to give as much thematic information—not explicit, but thematic—inside the frame as possible.”

7. Let go of old loves

Cuarón hates watching his own films. “Once I finish a film, I never see it again,” he admitted. “Sometimes I have to do an upgrade on format or whatever, but there’s no sound and it’s out of order, and I cringe anyway, watching the thing.”

“My friends and peers—Alejandro, Guillermo—consider their films their babies that they’ve nurtured through life,” Cuarón continued. “They love them and stuff. For me, it’s more like ex-wives. I love them so much, but I gave as much as I could. They gave me as much as they could. We move on and we love each other from a distance, but I don’t want to see them again.”

“Gravity” Credit: Warner Bros.

8. Limitations create form

As Cuarón’s career advanced, he started introducing more and more limitations into his work. “Limitations are frustrating because they cancel cool possibilities, but the consistency of a limitation is what starts to create an inner language,” he said. “They give you form.”

9. Every detail inside your frame matters

“How do you convey things without being explicit?” Cuarón asked. “Don’t be expository about them! How do you talk about things without talking about them?”

“Formally, I focused on how stories can be told visually,” Cuarón said. “Dialogue is a support for the cinematic experience—that includes sound and so on. Try to give as much thematic information—not explicit, but thematic—inside the frame as possible.”

10. Don’t dismiss things just because they’re popular

If weren’t for del Toro, we would have never had the best Harry Potter entry. That’s because del Toro convinced Cuarón to do The Prisoner of Azkaban after he found out that Cuarón wasn’t interested in the project.

“Del Toro asked, ‘Have you read the books?'” Cuarón recalled. “And I said, ‘I saw the film; it’s not my thing.’ And then he asked [again], ‘Have you read the books?’ And I said, ‘No, I have not read the books.’ And then he got so pissed off at me. ‘You fuckin’ arrogant bastard! Go right now, buy the fuckin’ books and call me back!'”

The rest is history.   





Free Lessons on Messaging for the Clueless Amateur Handlers of Leni


I really wonder how you can sleep at night knowing that you’re doing a sloppy job while getting big bucks for it. Very big bucks – a great portion of it in US dollars.

I’m talking about YOU – Ms/Mr Handler of Leni Robredo.

How do you do your work?

Do you sit around a table and talk about strengths and weaknesses of your principal?

Or, do you track the reactions of people on stuff you churn out on social media?

Or, do you measure – even informally, amongst your relatives and kasambahays – the key messages that resonate with the greatest number of Filipinos? Either coming from your saintly client or the evil DU30?

Or, do you merely let your collective imagination run wild (in front of a white board in some hotel function room) in the hopes of stumbling onto an Aldub-type “instant” hit.

Your latest work shows your utter lack of knowledge in the basic basic crafting of messages.

You’re messing up on TONE OF VOICE.

I personally define “tone of voice” as the sum total of how people and the world see you and think of you. It is the image they form in their minds based on how you behave in public, how you talk and write, how you handle answers when questioned, how you react in a crisis… a mental picture of you – formed effortlessly by your actions and words.

For example, my tone of voice would be: irreverent, unpredictable, non-conformist, whiner, kinda rude.

If, one day, I suddenly started talking about religion, salvation and the end of the world, this would totally confuse people because it is NOT my tone of voice.

Which brings me to my dilemma with Ms. Robredo’s tone of voice.

In the beginning, her tone of voice was that of a down-to-earth, low profile probinsyana lawyer who detested socializing with powerful people… and would rather wait in some darkly-lit highway for the provincial bus that will take her home to Naga.

“Country road… take me home…”

This was great until it was busted as a “set-up”

So her team decided to move on.

Someone in the group probably had the idea of heightening how “unpresidentiable” the sitting President was – with his cussing and his probinsyano wardrobe and manners – so the big idea was: change their VP’s “tone of voice” to that of one who is authoritative, knowledgeable, sympathetic, respectable, decent, ready to lead.

For good measure, the mandate was to always situate her behind a rostrum and in front of a microphone.

Then feed her with some great sounding… cliches.

“Democracy demands dissent.”

“This government is obsessed with monopolizing power.”

“I want to be remembered as someone who did the best she could given a very difficult situation.”

Etc. Etc.


The problem with the “Leni quotes” was… they stayed quotes. She couldn’t expand or expound on the ideas she was mouthing. Or, if she tried… she did it with lopsided logic. Un-vice presidentiable.

Apparently, the lady has not been gifted with the ability to summon original thought. Or think on her feet.

And so the team brought out the magic word: simplify.

Latching on a monumental hit video campaign by a burger company, the group set out to fashion a tone of voice that says: approachable, warm, human, caring.

What better way than with free burgers carrying cute one-liners on post-it notes.



And this is when… I gave up on this group and all their moronic efforts.

I think it is easier to teach a monkey to sing “Spain” than to fine-tune the brains of these “communicators”.

Their benefactors must be bleeding… and complaining.

Sorry. Tried my best.

Let’s have Warren Buffet end this piece.


OSCARS 2017: The Nominees

Oscar statuettes

This year’s Oscar nominations are out. Look at the list below, and come back to find out who’s won when the Academy Awards ceremony comes around on 26 February.


Best picture

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

Best actress

  • Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
  • Ruth Negga (Loving)
  • Natalie Portman (Jackie)
  • Emma Stone (La La Land)
  • Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Best actor

  • Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
  • Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
  • Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
  • Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
  • Denzel Washington (Fences)

Best supporting actress

  • Viola Davis (Fences)
  • Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
  • Nicole Kidman (Lion)
  • Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
  • Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Best supporting actor

  • Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
  • Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
  • Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
  • Dev Patel (Lion)
  • Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Best director

  • Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
  • Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
  • Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
  • Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
  • Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Best adapted screenplay

  • Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
  • August Wilson (Fences)
  • Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures)
  • Luke Davies (Lion)
  • Barry Jenkins and Alvin McCraney (Moonlight)

Best original screenplay

  • Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water)
  • Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
  • Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou (The Lobster)
  • Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
  • Mike Mills (20th Century Women)

Best animated feature

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

Best foreign language film

  • A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
  • Land of Mine (Denmark)
  • The Salesman (Iran)
  • Tanna (Australia)
  • Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Best documentary feature

  • Fire At Sea
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • Life, Animated
  • OJ: Made in America
  • 13th

Best original song

  • La La Land – Audition by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • La La Land – City of Stars by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • Moana – How Far I’ll Go by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Trolls – Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
  • Jim: The James Foley Story – The Empty Chair by J Ralph and Sting

Best original score

  • Jackie by Mica Levi
  • La La Land by Justin Hurwitz
  • Lion by Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
  • Moonlight by Nicholas Britell
  • Passengers by Thomas Newton

Best cinematography

  • Arrival
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Moonlight
  • Silence

Best costume design

  • Allied
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Jackie
  • La La Land

Best make-up and hairstyling

  • A Man Called Ove
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Suicide Squad

Best live action short

  • Ennemis Interieurs
  • La Femme et le TGV
  • Silent Nights
  • Sing
  • Timecode

Best sound editing

  • Arrival
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Sully

Best sound mixing

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Best documentary short

  • 4.1 Miles
  • Extremis
  • Joe’s Violin
  • Watani: My Homeland
  • The White Helmets

Best production design

  • Arrival
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • La La Land
  • Passengers

Best visual effects

  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Jungle Book
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best animated short

  • Blind Vaysha
  • Borrowed Time
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  • Pearl
  • Piper

Best film editing

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • Moonlight

Sitting Too Much Ages You By 8 Years

by Alice Park

Pink chair

But exercise can counteract it, a new study finds

Sitting too much during the day has been linked to a host of diseases, from obesity to heart problems and diabetes, as well as early death. It’s not hard to understand why: being inactive can contribute to weight gain, which in turn is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, hypertension and unhealthy blood sugar levels.

On top of everything else, sitting has detrimental effects on cells at the biological level, according to a new report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

In the new study, scientists led by Aladdin Shadyab, a post-doctoral fellow in family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego, traced sitting’s impact on the chromosomes. They took blood samples from nearly 1,500 older women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term study of chronic diseases in post-menopausal women, and focused on the telomeres: the tips of the tightly packed DNA in every cell. Previous studies have found that as cells divide and age, they lose bits of the telomeres, so the length of this region can be a marker for how old a cell (and indirectly the person the cells belong to) is. The researchers compared telomere length to how much the women exercised, to see if physical activity affected aging.

 Earlier studies have also looked at telomere length and exercise. But they relied on asking people to report on their activity levels, a process that’s often inaccurate. Shadyab instead relied on more objective recordings of physical activity from accelerometers that the women wore for one week. Initially, he did not find any relationship between telomere length and physical activity levels. But when he focused on the women who did not meet the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily, he began to see some interesting trends.


Among women who didn’t get the daily half hour of exercise, those who spent more time sedentary (about 10 hours or more) had shorter telomeres than those who spent less time sitting everyday. The amount of shortening added up to about eight years of aging, the scientists estimated—meaning that inactive women who spent more time sitting were about eight years older, on average, than those who were inactive but spent less time sedentary.

Women who got the recommended amount of daily exercise showed no association between how much time they spent sitting and their telomere length, suggesting that physical activity might counteract the shortening that occurs with aging.

“Our results suggest that the combination of being sedentary and not engaging in enough physical activity to prevent the telomeres from shortening leads to the shorter telomere length,” says Shadyab. “Women who did not meet the physical activity guideline and were sedentary for at least 10 hours a day were biologically older; their cells are aging faster than those of women who were less sedentary.”

Exactly how much physical activity is needed to negate the aging effects of sitting on the cells isn’t clear yet. But Shadyab’s study shows that sedentary behavior has potentially aging effects on the cells, and exercise may be one way to combat that aging process.

Dumb Citibank Service Gets Dumber


Technology has ruined what was once exemplary customer service.

Talking about Citibank credit card customer service.

Once upon a time, one phone call was enough to solve all your anxieties and problems with your card.

Lost card. Late payments. Higher ceiling. Rewards info.

Not anymore.

Last week, I received a SMS message advising me to call a number since they had just “locked” my Citibank Visa Card and, therefore, not useable because of 1) unusual activities, 2) my failure to respond to their calls/emails.

It made me wonder why the text existed.

First, I’ve had no suspicious activity. I ONLY use the card for hotel reservations abroad.

I never got a call or a text from Citibank, re: the “locking”.

So I called the number (9959999) immediately.

But all I got was a taped response telling me that I couldn’t access the number because my card was locked. However, the voice added that I will receive a one-time passcode on my mobile to let me in.

I waited the whole day. No SMS about the one-time passcode came.

However, I did get a SMS that alerted me to call 9959999 since they had just “locked” my Citibank Visa Card and, therefore, not useable because of 1) unusual activities, 2) my failure to respond to their calls/emails.

Five times.

Five days later. Still no one-time passcode. A recurring SMS that alerts me to call 9959999 since they had just “locked” my Citibank Visa Card and, therefore, not useable because of 1) unusual activities, 2) my failure to respond to their calls/emails.

In their quest to eliminate human intervention in online interaction (translation: the bank’s call center agents suck), Citibank has unleashed technology that they themselves are clueless about.

And so it continues. The recurring SMS that alerts me to call 9959999 since they had just “locked” my Citibank Visa Card and, therefore, not useable because of 1) unusual activities, 2) my failure to respond to their calls/emails.

Technology is a bitch.

God gave me middle fingers to use judiciously

Chubibo Fearless Forecast

It’s that time of the year when we examine our mental crystal balls to try and figure out what’s ahead in the new year.

I would like to share the little trinkets I was able to catch from my “fishing” expedition

  1. Buoyed by the success of the Metro Manila Film Fest, a new crop of young filmmakers will emerge. Armed with their Canons and Black Magics and Macbooks, the newfound excitement in making movies will usher in yet another golden age of Philippine cinema
  2. America will be “friends again” with the Philippines upon Donald Trump’s assumption of the presidency
  3. International media will realize that they’ve been suckered and taken for a ride by the triad of power-hungry Philippine opposition clowns, oligarchs and drug lords… and will report more favorably about the Duterte presidency
  4. The Supreme Court will rule justly and firmly on a controversial election protest
  5.  A Philippine musical icon will leave the local music scene. Forever.
  6. Ikea starts building its first store in the country – making a choice from two shortlisted locations:  Bulacan or Sta. Rosa
  7. The mother of all endorsers will see her endorsement gigs decreasing by the month and her popularity going “south” rapidly
  8. The defenders vs destabilizers will find themselves busy writing newspaper columns – subbing permanently for boring, irrelevant columnists who have been around since God wore short pants
  9. The Senate will be in dizzying re-org mode
  10. The growing number of casinos will find new ways to give themselves a wholesome image while vacumming the hard-earned money of suckers… eh… clients
  11. Intense wining and dining will kick off the all-out campaign of the two TV networks to have their franchises renewed
  12. A 5-star entertainer will ache for new relevance to a career that seems to have plateaued
  13. A controversial senator will continue to open his/her mouth unraveling a head devoid of a brain
  14. The imaginative crooks at the Bureau of Immigration will find new ways of separating travellers and OFWs from their dollars and pesos
  15. SBMA will be a mess again… will be in the news again