Saturday, November 17, 2018

Gonorrhea, Be Gone!

I received that message unceremoniously on a Tuesday afternoon from a guy whom I had intimate contact with during the most recent group fun activity (okay, okay, an orgy) I attended earlier this month. He then offered to refer me to his doctor.

By that same afternoon, I booked an appointment.

Day of the appointment, and I arrived on time at his clinic. Unlike most doctors I've encountered so far, he was early. When my turn came, he ushered me into his office. He asked me a series of questin in quick succession, then told me, "Look, to be safe, I'm going to give you a shot, then I'll prescribe an antibiotic which you need to take twice a day for 10 days. Is that okay?"

"Sure," I said. My friend had told me about the shot and meds, so I was prepared for the injection.

The doctor then ushered me to his examination room, where he instructed me to pull down my pants and lie down so he can examin my junk. After a few seconds of poking and probing, he declared, "Well, no signs of anything. Your skin there's just drier than usual. I'll prescribe a skin wask and lotion for that."

For a baby-skin soft, baby-skin smooth cock. Nice tagline.

The doctor then brought out his needle and medicine. It was a big-ass needle. "This is going to be a bit painful," he said, sounding apologetic.

Frankly, I was unperturbed. For the past several years I've had my blood extracted every three months for my regular HIV testing. Surely one big-ass needle is nothing. Still, when he positioned the needle on my left (non-dominant) arm, I decided to look away.

"Breathe deeply," he said, then I felt the needle puncture my skin.

The initial prick was nothing; they say it's like an ant's bite, but really it isn't. It's like a very light pinch, then it's gone. But after that I felt the medicine going in.

I saw what the medicine looked like; it was a clear liquid, and judging by the way it moved inside the bottle, its viscosity was similar to water. Yet as it entered my body, I felt a thick liquid coursing through my veins. When he finished, he pulled out the needle. Then I felt a steady, dull pain, like someone seriously punched me repeatedly on my arm. It began first from the injection area, then it spread down my left arm. The pain was increasing in small increments. It felt like I couldn't, or didn't want to, move my left arm. Damn doc was right, I thought.

After a while the pain subsided to a more comfortable level (though I do have a high pain threshold — just ask the dentist who did my root canal). What surprised me was how long the pain stayed steadily on my arm. I actually got worried that it'll be uncomfortable steering the wheel with both hands.

Happily, by the time I was settling my bill with his attendant, the pain retreated to a dull ache.

If you're reading this, and you've been sexually active with different sexual partners whose sexual health you have no idea about, then it wouldn't hurt to get yourself tested for various STDs. There are also vaccines against certain STDs (like HPV, for example) which you can avail of. Better be safe so you can continue to play safe.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

My ELO Singles 2018

Making lists like this is fun for me, although I must mention that such lists: [1] Are mostly arbitrary; [2] Change over time; [3] Are more like snapshots of my tastes in music at a particular point in time.

It also gives me an excuse to expound on one of my favorite bands of all time, Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO.

ELO is one of my difficult-to-defend favorites. True, Jeff Lynne and his fellow bandmates have been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, which accounts for something, I guess. But while Lynne is highly regarded as a producer and composer of music, just take one cursory glance at his songwriting and you’ll immediately realize that he’s not the most gifted of lyricists. He himself acknowledges that.

My introduction to ELO was back in the late 1970s. Around that time, I listened religiously to the radio program American Top 40, which aired (albeit a few days late) over Philippine radio (first at an AM station whose name I now forget, then at 99.5 RT FM). In 1977, “Turn To Stone” entered the AT40, and I was instantly hooked to their sound.

ELO started out in the early 70s as a band of long-haired rockers accompanied by a string section. The orchestral instruments distinguished ELO’s sound from other bands of that era, and paid tribute as well to Lynne’s love of the Beatles sound, especially Sgt. Peppers. In what I arbitrarily call the “classic rock meets classical sound, aka rockestral” phase, ELO churned out 7 album titles, each one more and more successful that the previous. In 1977 they released the double-album Out Of The Blue, which spawned several top 10 hits, including “Turn To Stone.” That was their biggest selling album in that phase.

By mid-70s disco had already exploded into the mainstream, and acts such as the Bee Gees and Donna Summer had disco hits that were either lavishly arranged with a full orchestral backup, or driven by a pulsating electronic beat and rhythm. Lynne must have taken his cues from both, because in 1979 ELO released their aptly-titled “Discovery”. It was their most discofied album. It produced their biggest hit ever, “Don’t Bring Me Down,” which ironically was also the most rocked out song in the album. With drum beats lifted directly from the Sgt. Peppers’ reprise, and flourishes that were more electronic and less orchestral, that thumping rock anthem also featured one of Lynne’s most head-scratching piece of lyric: “Don’t bring me down, groos!” For years I didn’t know if it was “please,” or “froosh,” or (some claimed) “Bruce!”

Lynne’s romance with disco continued on ELO’s half of the soundtrack to the 1980 movie, Xanadu. Success with the hit singles from that soundtrack, including the title track sung by Olivia Newton-John, apparently got into Lynne’s head.

He decided to stretch his talents and released 1981’s Time, a full-concept album about a time traveller who goes from 1981 to 2095. By this time, Lynne toned down the disco elements; instead, he favored the rock-meets-electronic combination. But while Time spawned several hit singles, the overall concept (thanks to his not-so-stellar lyrics) was met with a big “Huh?!” He followed up Time with 1983’s Secret Messages, again highlighting his fascination with technological flourishes meshed with his love for old-fashioned rock and roll (with the likes of Chuck Berry and Del Shannon). That’s why I call their second phase the “techno-rock (with some disco) sound” phase.

Time and Secret Messages shared similar structures, and even ended with two almost identical-sounding songs, “Hold On Tight” and “Rock & Roll Is King” (they’re so instantly mashable, which I suspect is why no one’s done that yet--it’s just too obvious). Lynne was repeating himself. 

It took Lynne 3 years to come up with another album. 1986’s Balance Of Power featured a more pared-down sound of ELO, an aesthetic echoed in the album cover that was simple and stark compared to the elaborate covers of their previous LPs. That album also carried two of Lynne’s most confessional songs to date, “Endless Lies,” which hinted at a love gone sour, and “Send It,” which had Lynne singing:

The dream is gone, the dream is just a memory
If you see my dream, send it back home to me.

Did he fall out of love with ELO? It was around this time that he started producing for other artists, most notably George Harrison, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison. Later on the four added Bob Dylan and formed the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. Lynne also released his first solo album, Armchair Theater. This is his “pared-down Wilburys sound” phase, which extended into the new millennium with 2001’s Zoom and 2015’s Alone In The Universe (billed as “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”). This phase also marked the longest duration between album releases, as there were legal battles between Lynne and his former bandmates over the use of the name “ELO”.

My ELO Singles
Are these songs my favorites? Or are they, in my judgement, the best ELO songs Jeff Lynne has ever written and produced? They’re a bit of both, although it’s just safer to say they’re personal favorites.

Because I was a young, avid, and impressionable listener back then, it’s understandable that the 70s and early 80s stuff dominate my top 10. Only one from 1986 cracked the top 10. ELO was at their best when they successfully combined their rock ‘n roll roots with symphonic and/or synthesizer flourishes, in a seamless blend of catchy melodies with hook-ladened instrumentation.

And so, presenting my Top 10:

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Tale of Two Pairs of Eyeglasses

I’ve always wanted a pair of simple black frames for my reading glasses. But when I was choosing from the available styles, the frames that I really wanted were only in brown; their black version was out of stock. So I bought a slightly different shaped black pair, and planned to buy the style I really wanted next time. 

Yesterday I decided to check if the store had stocks of the pair I wanted. They did! But when I reached for my existing pair (so I can fill out the forms), GASP! It wasn’t in my bag. So as soon as I bought the new pair, I tried to retrace my steps. I also looked all over inside my car. Nada. I texted my siblings at home, hoping I had left it there (though I remember using it in the car before getting down). They replied that they can’t find it. I was crestfallen by the loss, but happy I had a new pair to replace it immediately.

Cut to this afternoon: As we prepared to go out to the mall, my brother sitting in the front passenger seat suddenly hit his foot on something on the floor. My missing pair! I must have overlooked it when I searched the car the night before. 

Or maybe a hitchhiking spirit is seated in the back, making his presence felt.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Spirited NSA Fun

He’s 26 years old, fresh from the province of Bulacan where he grew up living with and working for his aunt. About two months ago he moved in with his married sister and her husband and kids in Katipunan so he can study for his civil service exams — he wants to apply for work in his hometown’s municipal hall afterwards.

He’s had a couple of girlfriends during his teens, had safe sex with them. But when he was in his pre-teens he also allowed a slightly older boy to fool around with him, culminating in the boy fucking him in the ass. After that, he’s always had this fascination with having sex with another guy.

So when he recently discovered by accident the world of hook up apps (while riding the FX, he saw his seat mate check out his Grindr app), he made an account and started meeting guys. He only met a few in Bulacan. I was the first one he met here in the metro.

On our first hook up, I brought him to the same motel with the cottages and the ghost in #44 (we stayed in a different cottage). Our stay there was uneventful in the supernatural realm, but pretty hot and heavy in the physical realm. Our post-sex chat was also interesting. He thinks he should identify as bisexual, but is also conscious that he not give off a vibe that screams, “I like men!” I assured him he’s straight-acting; he looks, sounds, and acts very masculine. Even his love for basketball (playing and watching the game) is an effective smokescreen, if ever he’s worried about tripping off gaydars everywhere.

Two days ago he messaged me on his new Grindr account — different name, different profile pic. He said he had deleted his account because he needed to go back to Bulacan for a couple of weeks. Upon returning to the metro, he tried to find me on the app but forgot my handle. So he decided to search using, sigh, the age filter.

We checked in at a different motel along Marcos highway. (I’m third-eye blind, and when I asked him, he said the most he’s experienced is occasionally feeling a presence just when he’s about to fall asleep. So he’s not sure if they’re real or just his imagination. But I decided not to take chances at being supernaturally cock-blocked.)

He’s like a clean slate; I can draw whatever I want, and it’s all new to him. I licked his nipples; he shuddered in excitement and ecstasy. I kissed him all over his neck; he couldn’t get enough of it. When I started licking and nibbling his ears, he fairly yelled out, “Ohmygod ohmygod shet ohmygod shet shet aaaaahhhh ohmygod!” My tongue eventually made its way down his spine and in between the cracks of his ass, eventually flicking at the entrance of his hot hole. By that time, he was panting and moaning non-stop. And when I plunged my tongue inside his hole, he buried his face in the pillow and screamed his pleasure, his whole body in a frenzy of shaking and twisting in delirious joy.

I turned him over, lifted his legs, and poised my condom-sheathed cock at the entrance of his hole. “Fuck me,” he pleaded. I pushed in. He moaned out loud. Then I began pumping.

I put some lube on my left hand and grabbed his thick, hardening cock. I pumped his throbbing shaft as I fucked his hole hard. I synched my pumping on both his cock and his ass. His breathing quickened, matching my movements. Suddenly he whispered, “I’m cumming, I’m cum—aaaahhh! AAAAHHH!” and then he was shouting as he shot off his load, his milky white cum landing on the pillow under his head.

Afterwards, when he came back to bed after showering off (and stepping outside for a quick smoke), I asked him, “Do you feel anything weird in this room?”

“Nah,” he replied. “As I said, when I’m wide awake, I don’t sense anything. Only when I’m half-asleep do I feel something weird. Sometimes.” Then he looked at me. “Well, you made sure I was pretty much wide awake the whole night!”

I should change my profile description: Seeking NSA safe fun — No Spirits Attached.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

An Unexpected Boo-king

I met my semi-regular fubu, and we checked-in our usual spot. It’s a motel which has individual cottages instead of rooms. We were given cottage #44, which the guard said was at the end of the row of cottages.

This place is discreet. Not only are the cottages at a proper distance from each other, there are lots of plants and trees beside and around the cottages.

When we got there, we saw that beside it was another cottage that was closed down; trash and other old stuff were stacked on the balcony, blocking the door. You knew no one goes inside that cottage.

When we went inside #44, we immediately noticed how older it was compared to the other cottages (yes, we’ve been there several times before, in different cottages). The floor even creaked, and we joked that we shouldn’t do it standing over that spot on the floor, otherwise we’d crash through.

Afterwards (sorry, this isn’t about the sex, although it was great) we were resting in bed, with him lying down by the side table of the bed. Suddenly he jumped up, and I knew he had freaked out because he saw something but was trying to hide that fact from me.

“Ano yun?” I asked. “What did you see? What is it?”

“No, nothing, nothing,” he replied.

“You saw something. I’m sure of it.”

He kept denying. I kept insisting.

After a pause, he asked, “Are you easily spooked?”

“No,” I replied. “What did you see? Tell me.”

“Nah, later. I’m fine, I’m fine,” he said, sounding more sure of himself. “I’m okay.”

I tried a couple of times, but he insisted he’s okay. So I decided to stop asking.

While we were talking about another topic, we heard a sudden sound, like the crumpling of a candy wrapper. Or a very dry leaf falling and hitting the ground. Except it was inside, in the middle of the cottage.

He raised his head and turned to me, “You heard that?”

“Yes I did.”

He lay down again. “Okay.”

“Do you want to check out now?” I asked.

“No, no, I’m okay,” he assured me. Then he looked at me, “Do you want to check out now?”

Honestly I did, but only because I really wanted to know what he saw, and he’d only tell me if we’re already in the car driving away.

“No, I’m fine,” I lied. “We can rest a bit.”

After a few minutes of discussing where we wanted to eat afterwards, we decided to check out. I noticed he sat on a chair away from the bed.

In the car as we drove off from the place, I asked, “So what did you see?”

“I saw his reflection on the TV screen,” he said. Each cottage has a small, old 12-inch TV hanging at the foot of the bed. The TV was off the whole time. When you look up, you can see your reflection on the dark TV screen. It’s blurred and ill-proportioned, but you know it’s your reflection.

He continued, “I saw his reflection. He looked like a masculine guy, well-built but not, like, muscular. Just ordinary. I could only see the upper half of his body. He was shirtless.”

“Did you recognise him?”

“No. The reflection isn’t that clear to distinguish his features,” he said. “But for a second, when I saw his reflection, he looked straight at me and nodded. That’s when I reacted.”

“Where was he? You said you saw his reflection—”

“He was seated on the side table beside me,” he said.

“He was beside you? Why didn’t you say so?” I asked. “And why did you agree to stay on? I offered to check out.”

“I have always been sensitive, even when I was a kid,” he said. “I was told to not mind them. They won’t bother you if you ignore them. So I just ignored him. Even when he made that sound. You also heard the sound, right?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“That was him.”

“And then what happened afterwards? I mean, we stayed for a bit more.”

“I was ignoring him the whole time,” he said. “So I think he was just there. I didn’t look towards him anymore. And when you called front desk to check out, he wasn’t there anymore.”

“I see,” I said. But I noticed he kept looking towards the back seat of my car. By this time, we were several kilometers away from the venue.

“Why are you looking at the back?” I asked. “Is there someone seated at the back? Did he follow us into the car?”

He looked at me, startled, but didn’t answer immediately.

I forced myself not to freak out. “Can you see someone in the back?!”

“No!” he replied.

I was not going to take chances. After I dropped him off, I parked to the side, took off my t-shirt, and wore it backwards.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

May Joke Sana Ako Kaso

This is what happens when you’re waiting for the shuttle to arrive, but the line at the station is long, it had just finished raining so hard, and it was rush hour. And you read the meme in someone’s FB wall. So….

May joke sana ako tungkol kay Bong Go,
Kaso inunahan niya ako.

May joke sana ako tungkol kay Harry R.,
Kaso ambaboy.

May joke sana ako tungkol sa Scarborough Shoal,
Kaso ibabaliwala lang.

May joke sana ako tungkol sa Ang Probinsyano,
Kaso di matapos-tapos.

May joke sana ako tungkol kay Sass, Nieto, at Mocha,
Kaso nakakainis eh.

May joke sana ako tungkol sa ating dalawa,
Kaso malabo eh.

May joke sana ako tungkol sa PCOO,
Kaso palpak.

May joke sana ako tungkol sa Supreme Court natin ngayon,

May joke sana ako tungkol kay APC,
Kaso nakakabobo eh.

May joke sana ako tungkol sa mga tambay,
Kaso baka hulihin ako.

May joke sana ako tungkol kay Duterte,
Kaso bastos eh.

May joke sana ako tungkol sa cheddar,

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Really Now?

I believe that romance, while good in general, can be a negative force in excess. And frankly, I think it's reached epedemic proportions in pop culture, especially in movies and television. The thrill-of-the-chase leading to the kiss-at-the-end-of-the-movie is the stuff of most romcoms and cheesy paperback romance novels. And it's easy to see why. It's the most exciting part of the relationship, and it climaxes with a happy ending. Structurally, it's sound.

It's also the reason why a lot of people have unrealistic notions of love and romance. And no amount of "my parents are separated/divorced/not together anymore" is enough to counter the power of beautiful actors and actresses falling for one another at a click of a screenwriter's keyboard.

I've been thinking I should start a movement. It means I need my own production company and/or my own publishing house, so yeah, it seems it'll be capital-heavy. But I want to start coming up with anti-romance romance movies. Yes, I know, it's contradictory. I'm just using that label cuz it's easy to remember. Okay, maybe it's more accurate to say that I'd want to produce a slew of romantic comedies that are more realistic, more grounded, and doesn't always end on a happy note. It could be sad, hopeful, ambivalent, or a mix of several. Whatever. But what it should do is not lie to its audience that there's a "happy ever after." There is no forever. There is only what you have, when you have it. And when it's gone, you appreciate it for what it was. And move on.

I'm thinking of calling it Get Real Productions, even though it sounds like I'm going to make a reality show.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Tale of Two Tweets (and Two Mothers)

On this Mother's Day, let me talk about two mothers.

True, Miriam may be the one who could have given the SC the tongue-lashing they deserve for the ouster of Chief Justice Sereno via quo warranto. She's someone who will not hesitate to speak her mind; in fact, she'll even relish the attention she'll get.

And there's the rub with Miriam. The reason why I didn't vote for her is simple. I don't agree with her on several things, most glaringly, her stand on the Marcoses. She was willing to allow them back into the country and back in to power, thinking that the law and civility will be enough to keep this greedy family in check. Now I understand why sometimes compassion should tak a back seat to justice, and that Filipinos should learn to be less accommodating. This is where the oft-praised "Filipino resiliency" fails us. Forgive? Give them another chance? Do leaopards change stripes? 

No wonder Delamar left The Morning Rush (TMR) after years of keeping the morning drive bearable for a lot of commuters. From her tweet, we can surmise that some higher-up from the station didn't want her to be a role model for single motherhood. Someone must have a real problem with strong, independent women. So I applaud her move to leave.

While it's unfair to ask Chico (and to a certain extent, Gino) to make a stand on behalf of Delamar, I wonder why the boys of TMR allowed this to happen. Yes, the boys' livelihoods are at stake, and they have much to lose--aside from a regular salary, they most probably will be not allowed to bring their show to another station, as per contract. Given Chico and Del's popularity, RX93.1 will be foolish to make the duo (or even trio, if Gino joined them) leave their stable. 

We may never know yet the full story behind the departure of Del, but with the surfacing of this tweet, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed by the boys. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Irony (It Has Happened To Me)

Rain on your wedding day, a free ride when you’ve already paid, a black fly on your chardonnay—as rightly pointed out, these are more of a bummer than ironic. You know what’s ironic? Leaving your call center job for an ad agency, but only to leave said agency for a writing job—at a BPO.

Now isn’t that ironic, don’t you think?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Re. Start

Ever since I left my cushy job at CNN Philippines, I have been hopping from one job to the next for two years now.

First I tried going back to an advertising agency but it turned out to be more of an events agency, so the fit wasn’t great; I stayed there for only half a year. When I left I told myself, that’s it, no more advertising agencies for me. After several months of burning whatever savings I earned from there, I was desperate for a job, so I applied for a job at a call center seven minutes away from our house. My schedule was turned upside-down (our client was US-based), but at least there was no traffic going to and coming back from work. The work itself was demanding and stressful—it’s no joke to be in that line of work, so I learned never to say, “He’s just a call center agent.” But despite that, the pay was not enough to even cover the cost of paying for my car. So when my friend Louie called me out of the blue and offered me a higher-paying job, I immediately jumped at the chance. I didn’t even give my call center employers a month’s notice; I gave my resignation letter around 9am; by lunch time, I was cleared by their HR (it helped that I was there for less than two months). I left the call center even though Louie’s offer was for an advertising agency position. What helped me convince myself were two things—the much-higher pay, and the fact that this was going to be an in-house creative agency for a ginormous multinational client. “An ad agency with a twist,” I told myself.

One month into my new job, I knew there was trouble brewing for me. I can see the reasons why Louie got me, but after a month of knowing more the job and my teammates, I realised that I was not the best fit for my position. Someone else with other qualities more suited for the job should be there. If I were to stay and be good at my job, I really needed to grow into the role. Luckily (or unluckily?), Fate intervened.

Let’s go back several months ago, when I had just left my job at an advertising/events agency, and way before I took on the call center job.

Even before my last day in at the agency, I was already looking for opportunities outside of the advertising industry—and outside of the country. Yes, I was very much okay with being away from the Philippines for the next six years. I saw a job as senior copywriter for an online marketing company based in Bangkok. Even better, I knew someone, a Filipino, who currently works there. He assured me it was a good, stable company. So I immediately applied, took their online tests, and forwarded to them some of my published works. Then I waited.

And waited. And waited.

By December my funds were non-existent; and it was Christmas time! I asked my friend in Bangkok what the status of my application was. He assured me that I was being seriously considered, but unluckily, December was also the time when most of the decision-makers there were on leave.

I took the call center job, thinking that it’s temporary.

By January I asked my friend again. He said it was just a toss-up between me and a local Thai girl. I though, “That’s not good. A local girl will cost less compared to an expat.”

When Louie called, I snapped up his offer. And in my mind, I shrugged off Bangkok.

January faded into February, and I was getting a better handle on my new role. In fact, I had decided that I would need to step up and evolve for this job. I even started hunting for places to stay near our office in BGC, so I don’t need to wake up at 4:45am to get to BGC by 7am so I can have a spot in the parking lot.

Towards the end of February, I received an email from Bangkok.

Apologies for the delay, they said. But the reason why they took so long in getting back to me was because they were busy setting up an office—in Manila! Specifically, in Ortigas! Then they asked me, “Are you still interested?”

Weeks of interviews and negotiations later, I told Louie I was resigning. I told him on Good Friday.

Tomorrow is my last day of work in BGC. On Monday next week, I start in Ortigas.

This was two years of jumping from one job to the next, grabbing whatever was available. The Bangkok-now-turned-Ortigas job was something I wanted. As my friend Leigh said, everything else was out of desperation; this was out of desire.

(Of course, there are no perfect jobs. So good luck to me in this new journey.)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

My 10 Favourite MCU Films

Now that 10 years of Marvel Cinematic Universe is culminating with Avengers: Infinity War, I decided to take this opportunity to come up with another list of my own—My 10 Favourite Marvel Cinematic Universe Films.

For this list I’m sticking with the ones produced solely by Marvel Studios. This excluded the Spiderman movies, which Sony Pictures still owns and has final creative control over the films. (As an aside, I prefer Tom Holland as Spiderman over Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.)

Note too that I said “favourite” which means that while excellence in film craft factors in my ranking, I also take into account a movie’s over-all impact—how much did I like it? And reasons for liking a movie can go beyond filmmaking brilliance.

One last caveat: I also excluded Infinity War because: (1) I feel it’s too soon; and (2) it doesn’t feel like a stand-alone movie. It feels like the first of a two-parter. So I’m holding off on ranking it until Avengers 4 comes out.

With that, let’s begin:

[10] Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

7 out of 10 movies in my list are the “origin” movies. I think I have a soft spot for the movies that are tasked with setting things up. This isn’t one of them. Ragnarok’s achievement is in infusing new life into what seems to be a boring, problematic Marvel character. Thor started out as a Shakespearean-sounding god who, despite having a complex family backstory, is more interested in fighting, drinking, and whoring—in that order. With Ragnarok and Infinity War, Thor has evolved into a funny but tragic figure, his pride and arrogance his double shield against everything that the Fates have thrown against him. No wonder his latest solo caper was so hilarious—he really could use some levity.

[9] Thor (2011)

This movie starts with the grandeur that is Asgard, and quickly reveals the drama underneath all that pomp and circumstance. And from a Shakespearean tragedy, this movie shifts into a tale of a fish-out-of-water who finds love against impossible odds. This story of how the God of Thunder grows up to deserve his hammer also has the distinction of showing Thor shirtless and in jeans. No CGI can hold a candle to Chris Hemsworth’s most special effect.

[8] Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers assemble for the first time to fight off Loki and Chitauri. It takes a while to get everyone on the same side (Agent Coulson’s fake death galvanises them), and the final battle in New York, on hindsight, now feels smaller and more lightweight. But the way the characters play off one another is still a joy to watch (the “Puny god!” scene of Loki and the Hulk is as hilarious as ever). And after pulling off that kind of assembly, the possibilities for the Marvel Cinematic Universe seemed endless.

[7] Ant-Man (2015)

Bigger isn’t necessarily better, and this origin movie proves that many small joys put together can equally pack a huge wallop. A hilarious script, great casting (to me, Paul Rudd is the most “I didn’t expect him but it works!” actor working for Marvel), and the best dubsmash storytelling sequences all make this a huge personal favourite.

[6] Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

Of all the Marvel characters introduced in the movies, the Guardians were the ones I had absolutely no clue whatsoever. I mean, I knew of Black Panther even though I never read any of his books. But the Guardians? Who were they? What were they? But that cool trailer (using “Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Suede) was just a preview of the seriously hilarious mayhem that’s present from beginning to end in their origins movie. Hooga-chaka, hooga, hooga!

[5] Black Panther (2018)

When I first saw this groundbreaking film in the moviehouse, I didn’t have any inkling of the cultural impact that this movie was about to make. I was just in awe of the world-building skills of the filmmakers in pulling off a living, breathing Wakanda. I did take note the many strong females of colour, which was refreshing to watch (Shuri is surely one of the biggest breakout characters from the film, and I can imagine her and Okoye as having a spin-off of their own). I was actually not that impressed by the men in this movie (while Killmonger’s motives make for a compelling case, the way he and T’Challa duke it out in the falls was so-so for me). But the more I watched the movie and read/watched the audience reactions (especially among African-Americans), the more I realised that this is a Hollywood game-changer.

[4] Iron Man (2008)

The movie that started it all. I have no idea if Kevin Feige, Robert Downey, Jr., Jon Favreau, and company realised or were aware that they were creating what would become the winning formula of an MCU blockbuster: awesome effects, kick-ass characters (preferably with complications but not too much that they end up navel-gazing), and healthy doses of humour. What I liked most about the origin story is that Tony Stark uses his own ingenuity to defeat the weapons his own company makes. When Iron Man swoops down on an Afghanistan village and defeats the bad guys armed with Stark Industry weapons, Iron Man makes me want to be Tony.

[3] Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America begins as a simple all-American goody-two-shoes soldier who is ever-loyal to his government and his country. Throughout his three stand-alone films, the Captain transforms into a lone wolf who’s distrustful of the very government that created him. Winter Soldier marks the beginning of Captain’s transformation into an “it’s complicated” hero. Magnificent set pieces, a more-complex-than-the-usual-superhero-movie story line, and awesome SFXs elevates the superhero movie into something akin to a spy movie.

[2] Doctor Strange (2016)

Here is where the caveat “favourite” kicks in—I am a sucker for the mystical arts, and for huge, flowing cloaks. I love its visuals; this is the kind of movie that’s perfect for IMAX 3D. Benedict Cumberbatch is also one of my favourite actors, so to have him play the Sorcerer Supreme is a major plus for this film. The plot and the characterisation of the main villain aren’t as sharp as in the other MCU movies, but the moment those rings appear on the Doctor’s wrists, I’m so there.

[1] Captain America: Civil War (2016)

The best Avenger movie that’s not an Avenger movie. I love it that there are no bad guys; just friends who are on opposite sides of the issues. Both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark have personal tragedies that inform their choices in this film. When it is revealed that Bucky a.k.a. the Winter Soldier was responsible for Stark’s parents’ deaths, the stakes become very personal even to us viewers. Civil War succeeds in mixing blockbuster spectacle with moral complexities that are not usually present in Hollywood big-budget movies. This is The Dark Knight of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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What are your Top 10?