Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thoughts on the 2015 Oscar Nominations

1. Original song. So Adam Levine's performing. 

2. Original song. I See Fire is still the best song from the Lord of the Rings canon--and I'm not counting Pippin's Edge of Night here.

3. VFX. X-Men: Days of Future Past!

4. Sound editing. How the f**k is the sound in Interstellar any good?!

5. Film editing. No Gone Girl for Editing. Whatever. Interstellar would actually have been an inspired choice.

6. Sound mixing. Interstellar for a sound category. Again. These people must be deaf.

7. Animated feature. The only one I've seen is Dragon. Which should be a deserving winner. Twitter people angry over The Lego Movie's snub, but sorry, can't relate for now.

8. Supporting actor. THE MOST BORING CATEGORY EVER. Riz Ahmed from Nightcrawler, anyone?  


10. Makeup. Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer. Duh.

11. Cinematography. YES MR. TURNER!!! YES IDA!!! The Immigrant, whose final shot is the best shot of the year, ain't here though. At this point, this trophy's Dick Pope's!


13. Score. Wow, they really don't like Gone Girl. Bunch of tasteless old fools.

14. Foreign language. Once upon a time, I actually thought Norte could make it here. Such a dreamer.

15. Director. This roster of directors is not credible. Any roster without David Fincher for Gone Girl is not credible. At this point, I'm starting to feel less mad. Can't spend your entire life caring for tasteless idiotic cowards. Then again, Fincher doesn't give a shit about this madness, so why should we?

16. Actress. HOLY EFF MARION COTILLARD YES! And for the record: Jennifer Aniston is terrific in Cake.

17. Actor. I haven't seen American Sniper yet, but Jake Gyllenhaal should be in Bradley Cooper's place. Yes, I'm kinda mad. And Benedict Cumberbatch is fast becoming a one-note actor, by the way. So now I'm doubly mad re: Gyllenhaal. 

18. Picture. SURPRISE SURPRISE NO GONE GIRL. And so, after six years, I finally stop caring about this awards season circus. Nightcrawler and Gone Girl both nearly shutout. I wish Theory of Everything wins everything. That should be fun.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 in Movies, 6-10

NOTE: Last summer, I got hold of Helen Mirren's autobiography, "In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures," for an embarrassing P40. (It was embarrassingly cheap.) I finished it in a single day on Sunday, January 4 (the need to note the date because I never finish books in a single day). But this is really to explain the abundance of Helen Mirrens in this post.

*     *     *     *     *

"The Madness of King George."
(Screenshot of my favorite scene. More below.)

6. The Last Station (2009, dir. Michael Hoffman)

The Russians are supposed to be passionate, dramatic, emotional, yeah? One moment, they're angry, shouting and fighting and throwing things at each other; the next, they're having raging hot sex in bed, yeah? Helen Mirren, as Leo Tolstoy's wife, captures that Russian stereotype perfectly. Also, Helen Mirren snarking about and snapping at everyone is just pure joy.

7. The Long Good Friday (1980, dir. John Mackenzie)

It reminded me of "The Godfather." But I loved how understated, and therefore British, everything is, except for Bob Hoskins' terrific all-stops-out performance. 

8. The Madness of King George (1994, dir. Nicholas Hytner)

"George! Smile, you lazy hound. It's what you're paid for. Smile and wave. Come on. Smile and wave. Everybody, smile and wave. Smile and wave!" 
--Mirren as Queen Charlotte.

The best couple of lines in a funny film about European royalty. (How odd.)

9. Starter for 10 (2006, dir. Tom Vaughan)

Occasionally, I'd catch myself wondering where in the world James McAvoy came from. Pretty aware of how famous he is, yes, but exactly when did he become famous? I remember him as Mr. Tumnus the satyr in the first Narnia movie. And then I think it was in Joe Wright's "Atonement" that I next saw him, and by then, he was already sort of a name. "Starter for 10," which has vague similarities to my high school life, shows us a relatively fresh but nonetheless expert-at-playing-confused-slightly-troubled-young-men McAvoy. And oh! Rebecca Hall! Supposedly her first film. What a stunner.

10. Insidious (2011, dir. James Wan)

If my sister were to vote for one of the more prestigious Best-of lists, like the British Film Institute's Sight and Sound, I'm pretty sure she'd go for this one. That would actually be a pretty inspired choice.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 in Movies, 1-5

The inspiration is, obviously, Jessica Zafra, whose "Every movie we see in (year)" is always such fun to read. And unless specified, the year of release is either 2014 or 2015. There's Google if you really need to differentiate.

*     *     *     *     *

"Mr. Turner."

1. Feng Shui 2 (dir. Chito Roño)

Given the chance--and I'm not shitting you here--I'd have voted for this to win Best Picture in the 2014 Metro Manila Film Festival. Yes, I saw "English Only, Please," Dan Villegas' subtle and intelligent rom-com featuring the divine Cai Cortez, and it was excellent. But indulge me for a moment: If we're going to talk about entertainment in its most literal sense, then "Feng Shui 2" has it all--comedy, horror, drama, suspense, more comedy! Is it a great movie? In your dreams. But oh, what an absolutely delightful time I had at the cinema! The cherry on top is Kris Aquino, who is such a one-note scream-queen, it's already funny!  

2. Feng Shui (2004, dir. Chito Roño)

I was in 6th grade when this came out. Mother and sister went to see it, while I joined father to see "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid." Not as funny as the second one, but there's a sequence that is a masterclass in horror-comedy, set inside the haunted house and involving Jay Manalo, his kids, the neighbors' kid and lots of ghosts in bad makeup.

3. Calvary (dir. John Michael McDonagh)

Small-town stories appeal to me, not only because I hail from one, but also because there is always that palpable sense of orchestration among the characters and the way the story unfolds. It's not exactly predictability; more familiarity, the way the viewer slowly becomes acquainted with the narrow streets, the singular church, the eccentrics and the alliances, the cars, houses, fathers and mothers and their kids on bikes. The characters in "Calvary"--save for the magnificent Brendan Gleeson in the leading role of a priest whose days are numbered--don't really get past the "caricature" phase, but it's the irony and dark humor pervading this slice of McDonagh's rural Ireland that even makes you look forward to that priest's death (and that's not much of a spoiler, huh).

4. Mr. Turner (dir. Mike Leigh)

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times named this his best of 2014, and I really don't know what to feel about that. Timothy Spall is a rambling, grumbling, grunting man-beast as the painter J.M.W. Turner in a biopic that feels too long, like it overdosed on Valium and is now floating in some unreachable art-house fantasyland--and that's not a diss on the film (which is miles away from bad). But "Mr. Turner" is really about the greatness of Dick Pope's cinematography, which deserves to win every award there is out there (and there's a lot, given that critics' groups are everywhere these days). In every shot, you get the feeling that this wasn't just the work of someone who got a camera to focus on something, but one with genuine skill, knowledge and passion for the way things translate to the screen--the framing and angles, colors and shades, light and dark, subjects and layers. The head of a pig on the dining table. A ship's mast in a snowstorm. Two women and a windmill in the early morning. Fishing boats and a dead girl seen through a circular window. Pope's images were intoxicating upon first viewing, that I didn't mind going through the entire film again just so I could take screenshots of my favorites (which are posted below). 

5. Cloud Atlas (2012, dirs. Tom Tykwer, & Andy & Lana Wachowski)

For me, the 2nd best film of 2012, after Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master." But did anybody even listen to its soundtrack? Someone from the Oscars? Hello? What happened back then was that it polarized the critics, garnered a few notices (mostly for its visual effects, cinematography and score), and was left to gather dust. Great movies, after all, are never truly recognized during their time. I shall leave the arguing to one of my favorite critics, Andrew O'Hehir from Salon - here.

*     *     *     *     *

The best shots from "Mr. Turner" approximate a painterly sensibility. Screener quality, but just look at them--the composition and attention to detail allowing these singular images to tell stories of their own.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Year in Film (2014)

Let's be clear: My longlist included films from this and last year that I saw this year. That's the most inclusive method, I think, if you live in a country where so-called Oscar contenders and even local film festival entries often get late commercial releases, if none at all. Also, too lazy to make my own citations, so there.

*     *     *     *     *

10. The Immigrant (dir. James Gray)
"This is compelling filmmaking, but it doesn't necessarily make a great film. Rather, what makes The Immigrant a great film is the way in which Gray uses actors and his mastery of the unspoken to create a tremendously lived-in, felt-through world. Every space--public or private, interior or exterior--feels authentic, historically and emotionally."
--Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club.

9. Ida (dir. Paweł Pawlikowski)
"Though strands of plot touch contemporary chords, there is nothing overtly ideological about Ida. Its concerns are predominantly personal and emotional, like watching what transpires when two women pick up a hitchhiking musician on the way to a desultory gig."
--Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times.

8. The Grand Budapest Hotel (dir. Wes Anderson)
"Mr. Anderson is no realist. This movie makes a marvelous mockery of history, turning its horrors into a series of graceful jokes and mischievous gestures. You can call this escapism if you like. You can also think of it as revenge.
--A.O. Scott, The New York Times.

7. Violator (dir. Eduardo Dayao)
"As promotion would call it, the film is a horror story. It is--technically. But there is more to it than that. There is an almost palpable sense of dread looming around his image and sound, an unseen phantom creeping on stretched hallways, mossed terraces and lit hills of asphalt. This phantom is not captured in-frame, but its presence is unmistakable. It is unsettling."
--Armando dela Cruz, Film Police Reviews.

6. Nightcrawler (dir. Dan Gilroy)
"The movie is quite something, and, despite its title, it doesn't really crawl. It scuttles ahead, wide-eyed, antennae waving, on a journey to the end of the night, and toward a future when nothing will not be shown. Don't look now, it tells us. So we do."
--Anthony Lane, The New Yorker.

5. Child's Pose (dir. Calin Peter Netzer)
"Few viewers will come away from "Child's Pose" without strong feelings about Cornelia and her behavior. But even the most passionate judgments might be chipped away after the film's amazing final sequence, which the director begins in a cramped home kitchen and ends by masterfully framing a pivotal encounter in a car's rearview mirror."
--Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post.

4. Boyhood (dir. Richard Linklater)
"André Bazin wrote that art emerged from our desire to counter the passage of time and the inevitable decay it brings. But in Boyhood, Mr. Linklater's masterpiece, he both captures moments in time and relinquishes them as he moves from year to year. He isn't fighting time but embracing it in all its glorious and agonizingly fleeting beauty."
--Manohla Dargis, The New York Times.

3. Maps to the Stars (dir. David Cronenberg)
"Maps to the Stars might be disturbing to those who don't yet realize the corrupt and repugnant culture of celebrity we're all sort of living through right now. Maybe you had to be alive before everything went to shit. Or maybe you look around and you see nothing wrong."
--Sasha Stone, Awards Daily.

2. Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (dir. Lav Diaz)
"The force compelling us all to stay was the audacity of Diaz's filmmaking. His scenes go on, though not for the sake of their longevity. The extended takes, at every range (wide shots, close-ups, a flying digital camera that approximates dreams), allow your eye to study the details of the prison cell or the vastness of a woman's farm. They're not long takes so much as deep breaths."
--Wesley Morris, Grantland.

1. Gone Girl (dir. David Fincher)
"The movie's script, by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the novel, pares down both the discursive and expressive rhetoric of the book as well as its psychology. I suspect that part of the book's appeal is its underlying mythic power. Fincher unleashes that primordial, archetypal fury along with its cosmic irony, making a movie that is a tragedy of our time."
--Richard Brody, The New Yorker.

And ten more that ought to be in some best-of list, in no particular order: Night Moves (dir. Kelly Reichardt); Snowpiercer (dir. Bong Joon-ho); Lilting (dir. Hong Khaou); Le Week-end (dir. Roger Michell); The Skeleton Twins (dir. Craig Johnson); X-Men: Days of Future Past (dir. Bryan Singer); Palo Alto (dir. Gia Coppola); The Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent); Barber's Tales (dir. Jun Lana); Winter Sleep (dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan).

Finally, my ten--let's make that 22--most favorite performances (to make it more fun, listed alphabetically):
  • Nina Arianda (Rob the Mob)
  • Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
  • Rose Byrne (Neighbors)
  • Carrie Coon (Gone Girl)
  • Essie Davis (The Babadook)
  • Mackenzie Davis (What If)
  • Adam Driver (What If)
  • Lindsay Duncan (Le Week-end)
  • Jesse Eisenberg (Night Moves)
  • Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  • Paulina Garcia (Gloria)
  • Luminita Gheorghiu (Child's Pose)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)
  • Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins)
  • Mailes Kañapi (Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon)
  • Agata Kulesza (Ida)
  • Sid Lucero (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan)
  • Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars)
  • Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
  • Gladys Reyes (Barber's Tales)
  • Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer)
  • Ben Whishaw (Lilting)