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Contagion (2011)

September 13, 2011

September 9, 2011
07:55 PM
Cinema 6, Seat I19
Glorietta 4
Makati City

For sure right now with a lot of seemingly unknown films hitting local cinemas from Thelma to Zombadings to Fright Night, a lot of moviegoers may have done their homework in determining which movie or movies best deserves their P200 (personally, this is my maximum budget, and I have actually never paid for anything higher!) On the other hand, people who follow me on Twitter or have my mobile number are playing it safe and they actually ask me if I’ve seen a particular movie and how I feel about it, as such, the recent movie people seem to have a big question mark with is Contagion. Of course, I won’t deny it, I love the notion of having an opinion that matters, but of all the movies people have to ask me about, Contagion, I believe, is very hard to explain much more if you’re restricted to 120 characters.

Some movies are like chocolate cake. It’s nice to eat, but it’s nothing worth remembering. Some are so bad, but it’s worth talking about for years and years to come. However, some chocolates are actually “gastronomically” fulfilling that no matter if you don’t get paid for it, you’ll happily tell the world about your latest discovery. Now, if Contagion were chocolate, it would be those brands from Malaysia or Middle East or something. It’s nothing worth remembering  – and it’s not bad as well – but given whenever the world’s population hear the word “chocolate,” the Swiss – or Japan – always comes to mind, it’s not really formulated to please everyone.

Now, if you made a quick search on Google, or Twitter, or your Facebook wall, you can undoubtedly see a lot of varied reactions about the movie Contagion. Some like it, while, some, thinks it’s actually Contage-Yawn (Hi, Jeworm!) Although I agree with the basic sentiment that Contagion is actually dragging, and boring, and oh-where-the-hell-are-the-special effects ala Outbreak, what people need to understand before everything else is this. Contagion is not a movie. It is an experience.

For starters, if you watched Contagion in a half-empty theater, chances are, you will never feel the same effect that it has on me or for a lot of other people who had to ride the MRT, the jeepney, and got drenched by the rain all at the same time. If you had my experience wherein you wanna punch the people seated beside you (I watched alone, after the Rustan’s event) who both don’t seem to understand proper manners when sneezing or coughing, then by all means you’re not just watching Contagion! You are actually breathing it!

Moreover, I am one of the many who have experienced illnesses, specifically dengue fever, in the past which makes my desire to annihilate all forms of bacteria multiply a hundredfold. In addition, my past work for Shinagawa Lasik & Aesthetics Center has exposed me (pun intended) to the plight of the Department of Health. Getting a chance to meet Dr. Esperanza Cabral when she was still Health Secretary and work with Atty. Nicolas Leuterio, Ms. Agnette Peralta, and former USec. Alexander Padilla. I could just imagine how hell would break loose in DOH if the prediction of how the supposed “Contagion Virus” infected and transformed all of the 7,107 islands into a cluster of red specks. A lot can be said that the government does not do a lot of things for everybody’s health. That may be true. But in my honest opinion, these people who are actually working within the Department are doing the best they can to make all our lives better. So to imagine seeing Dr. Eric Tayag go infront the cameras and explain what is bound to happen is something very real to me. Heck, right after Sec. Francisco Duque III, he was the poster boy of the government’s health initiatives in my book.

I could remember the time when the fear of AH1N1 reigned supreme. Working closely with Japanese bosses and other colleagues that flew in and out of the country whenever, wherever possible, the fear that gripped me at that time of not having the nerve to wear an N95 type mask in front of my bosses or at least ask them to isolate themselves for a good 48 hours or so upon landing from Tokyo gave me an all-time chill that I never wanted to experience ever again. It was like placing myself at the cross-hairs, at the clear and present danger of it all. As such, watching Contagion with all the coughing, the sneezing, the wheezing, and the instant hypochondria about the germs and danger brought about by the ghastly person who sat on Seat I19 right before me, was quite discomforting altogether, if you ask me.

One of the most enjoyable interviews that I ever had was with my supposed-to-be-future-boss for Star Paper Corporation. Applying to head their sales and marketing for healthcare (Yes, they sell more than just Mongols and Parker Pens,) he told me that each time a new strain of flu strikes, the masks would really run out of stock without any effort at all. Contagion gave me the notion that although this is a Sodebergh film, it won’t be farfetched to see this through the eyes of Oliver Stone, the great conspiracy director. As such, Contagion might have the nobility to teach everyone to wash their hands or not to panic or to keep their mouth shut for the sake of national interest, but even though no actual product placement is in sight, I can see the invisible hand of Procter & Gamble (Safeguard), Green Cross alchohol, Unilab, and other bigger pharmaceuticals who make drugs like Tamiflu as valuable as gold. They say Contagion is nothing more than just a big TV commercial. I beg to differ, but it won’t hurt me either to have my flu shots ready this year. Hehehe.

And so, if you ask me now and if you ask me again if I found Contagion very revolting, the answer is yes. Because for me, and a bunch of other alcogel-carrying people, Contagion is not just a movie. It was an experience. However, to put it bluntly, not everyone is as crazy or as zany as I am. So if you are the kind of person who wouldn’t be affected by the sight of a spit or a phlegm clinging on a urinal somewhere (shit, I feel like puking while I’m writing this,) chances are, Contagion will kill you.

It will bore you to death.

On another note, one of the lines from the movie that really got me was when that irritated scientist told Jude Law‘s character, Alan Krumwiede, that “blogging is not writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation.” This gave me a quick mental rundown about my current desire to blog 24/7 and, if you haven’t heard about it, the concept of a “National Bloggers Association of the Philippines.” To be honest, I feel putting up one would be hypocritical especially if those who would enlist would be people like me: profit-driven individuals. Hehehe. I won’t deny that although sometimes I blog without fear or fervor (do I, really?) sometimes I adore the thought that during the special occasions wherein my insatiable desire to hit high on search engines, I oftentimes get the results that I wanted to achieve. And as such, the money, or at least the recognition, might flow in.

I would like to believe that there are still a lot of people out there who are totally unlike me: unbiased, objective, and 100% ethical, that if ever they would make even Mother Teresa have a run for her money if ever she even had any. But the thing is, Madonna was right all along. We do live in a material world. And try as we may to be better individuals, or, in this case, better bloggers, to think that a lot of us bloggers (a lot of us bloggers daw oh!) would not lean to the practical side of “writing” if we had to is a Big, Bad, Awful Delusion! This might not mean money in most cases. Sometimes, it’s just the desire to be accepted or to be in the good side.

The role portrayed by Jude Law puts a lot of pressure on blogging than all of the characters combined in the name of fidelity, science, or proper disaster-control. This is because amidst all the chaos and fear that underlines the basic concept of Contagion, blogging by far had been the most dangerous. With respect to the plot of the film, I think professing the healing power of a Chinese herb called Forsythia had more disastrous impact to the situation not merely as an unverified medicine but in compounding controversies that were never true. Once again, with respect to the film, there were no shady pharmaceutical company execs laughing over champagne as far as I know, so the virus from the bat and the pig was real and uncontrollable. For Jude Law’s character to act stubbornly about his theories and profess the magical wonders of Forsythia on a disease he actually never had (*spoiler!*) was not only irresponsible, it was downright evil!

On a sidenote, I would like to say that the “tawa-tawa” works. I drank a lot of “tawa-tawa” juice during that time I had my dengue episode and my God, I am a believer! And oh, although initially DOH was against the public using this weed for medicinal purposes, they have long since changed their official statement.

Think before you click. That’s what they say. I believe blogging is not that difficult to do and yet its power can be multiplied a hundredfold by the minute. If we were all Alan Krumwiedes who would just blog or tweet or like for the glory without proof then we are no different than all of the Stephen Glass of this world. Blogging was supposed to be the real freedom of speech, fully independent from the likes of Rupert Murdoch or the Lopezes. The “National Bloggers Association of the Philippines,” they say, aims to make blogging in the country more professional, more responsible, more controlled. It’s a noble cause, but just like any Presidentiable who never had to choose between the lesser of 2 evils while on the high seat, it’s easier said than done.

For sure right now with a lot of seemingly unknown films hitting local cinemas from Thelma to Zombadings to Fright Night, a lot of moviegoers may have done their homework in determining which movie or movies best deserves their P200 (personally, this is my maximum budget, and I have actually never paid for anything higher!) On the other hand, people who follow me on Twitter or have my mobile number are playing it safe and they actually ask me if I’ve seen a particular movie and how I feel about it, as such, the recent movie people seem to have a big question mark with is Contagion. If I were the Big, Bad Blogger of movies or the Alan Krumwiede of Hollywood, I may have simply and easily said, “YES.”

It is true that Contagion is about fear. But just like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, the real evil and the real danger is not always what you think it is.


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2011 6:20 am

    The narrative used in Contagion didn’t bore me. It was quite real, albeit, a little bit flatter than what one may want in a film. But I know about this narrative when I went in so I have had my expectations leveled. I like how real Sodebergh made it, making it as dry as possible and inserting those punches of emotion towards the end that makes you feel a lot of things (sympathy for Mitch Emhoff and Dr. Hextall–and her dad, hate for Jude Law, sadness for Dr. Mears, annoyance for the WHO), those things made watching it worth the money.


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