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.

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"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.

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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.

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