Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Don't Stop Believin'

I went to the New Parkway for the first time in 2013 on Saturday to see Don't Stop Believin'.

Don't Stop Believin':  Everyman's Journey; directed by Ramona S. Diaz; documentary; English & Tagalog with subtitles; (2012) - Official Website

I walked from the 19th St. BART station to the New Parkway in less than 10 minutes.  It wasn't a bad walk although downtown Oakland streets were awfully deserted for 4:30 pm on a Saturday afternoon.  I wouldn't want to walk that route late at night.

Once at the theater, I ordered a $9 hamburger which was bland and unmemorable despite the beef being advertised as Niman Ranch.  I'm still not sold on the food at the New Parkway.

The film started 10 to 15 minutes after the posted 5 PM start time.  Thankfully, there were no PSAs or previews.  I can't recall if I was in Theater 1 or 2 but it was the theater with restaurant style seating on the main floor.  Wanting to eat my hamburger at a table instead of in a chair, I sat downstairs with one other person.  The rest of the audience sat in balcony area.  I'm not sure how many people were up there.  Having seen The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the balcony of that theater, I think I prefer sitting on the ground level.

I have been to restaurants, hotels and banquet halls where they put ice in the urinals.  There are many theories regarding the specific benefits of putting ice cubes in the urinals.  The New Parkway is the only establishment I can recall visiting which puts citrus fruit in the urinals.  On Saturday evening, they had sliced lemons in the urinals.  Since there were multiple slices in both urinals, I can only assume management has instructed the janitorial staff to put the lemons there.

Don't Stop Believin':  Everyman's Journey was the opening night film at the 2012 San Francisco  Asian American Film Festival but I opted to go to Cinequest that evening.  During the 2013 San Francisco Asian American Film Festival (renamed CAAMFest), Don't Stop Believin' was playing at the Sundance Kabuki, but I chose not to see it (more on that in a future post).  I was happy that the New Parkway booked Don't Stop Believin' for at least a week.

Don't Stop Believin' follows Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer in a cover band who is plucked from obscurity and relative poverty to be the lead singer of Journey.  Reportedly selected by Journey guitarist and founder Neal Schon after viewing YouTube videos of Pineda singing Journey songs, Pineda sounds a lot like Steve Perry. A sampling of Pineda's YouTube videos indicate he is very good at mimicking the voice famous singers on several cover songs. This skill comes in handy for a band like Journey whose legions of fans expect the classic songs to be sung like Steve Perry used to sing them.

Pineda is a congenial and gracious man as he confronts mild racism and the impossible expectations of fans who prefer Steve Perry to him.  This isn't really dealt with very much.  Similarly, I would have expected him to have tremendous cultural and socioeconomic shock as he lives in the rarified air of rock-n-rock legends.  This isn't dealt with at all.  Pineda seems to hit the ground running.  Most of the film is spent documenting the minutiae of life on the road of a rock and roll band.  Arnel caring for his vocal cords, Arnel meeting VIP fans backstage, Arnel doing vocal exercises, Arnel interacting with the stagehands and roadies, etc.  Frankly, got to be a bit boring.

I would have liked to have seen some of the difficulties which the movie hints Arnel has sidestepped. Throughout the film, Arnel is alluded to as a Filipino role-model and icon akin to Manny Pacquiáo.  In one segment, Arnel meets the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  I cannot believe the man has not been changed by the experience but the film doesn't address that aspect of his life story.

Instead, the film approaches hagiography.  A few references to sex, drugs & rock-n-roll from Arnel's youth are briefly mentioned but Arnel states he won't risk his marriage today.  Don't Stop Believin' is a sugary concoction which could used a little more flavoring.  Regardless of what I think of the film, Pineda's singing is incredible...even more so considering he did not formal training.  His success transcends the film's attempt to capture it.  His story is incredible by any measure but I just didn't the film gave an accurate portrait of the man.

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