Saturday, February 7, 2009

From Africa to Oz

We couldn't help notice the similarity between Out of Africa and Australia.

A strong willed woman displaced from one country to another, so faraway in both distance and culture. The safari and tents camped overnight where love and a dance blossoms. The race issue. The dashing and enigmatic young man who would not stay put. The bar where only men are allowed except until she has proven herself worthy.

Buz Luhrmann this movie ain't. We were all hoping for some kind of Romeo and Juliet or Moulin Rouge to spring up only to be disappointed. Maybe next time Buz.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bells and Butterflies

I first read of Julian Schanbel's The Diving Bell and The Butterfly from last year's Cannes film festival. It was one of the most talked about and praised movies. It then received an Oscar nomination for Best Director early this year. At heart, the film is, well, about heart. No need for melodrama but filled with emotion. It ran out of tissue wiping my eyes and sniffles. For most of the film, the camera takes the form of the first person, going out of focus when the narrator's eyes well up. (The theater's projectionist would be at a loss every time there is a reel change. He is not sure whether it is the film that is purposely out of focus or the projector that needs focusing.) I felt like I was actually inside the narrator.

Julian Schnabel is a painter so you can see a lot of poetic visuals and especially heart wrenching moments. This film is in stark contrast to another "paralyzed man" movie, Mar A Dentro (The Sea Inside), the Spanish movie starring Javier Bardem which sometimes felt like political statement about assisted suicides. The Diving Bell is nothing like that. No cliches like "I should have" or "Life's too short." It is the story of a man writing a novel, and his observations of things around him. Being a journalist, his lyrical style and imagination is what keeps him, and this movie alive.

Friday, August 22, 2008


There wasn't much of an excitement this time. I heard the reviews were bad and, as a habit, I avoid reading any review until after I've seen the movie. What I heard and read a lot about is the box office flop that it was. It created more news for not making enough money than for being nostalgia for what once very hip. For me, it was one of those I-have-to-be-home-Monday-nights thing in the nineties. Unfamiliar to the new generation, this was the time before youtube, torrents and DVDs at Makati Cinema Square.

A self-proclaimed X-phile, I did not pass up the chance to watch the latest movie installment of The X-Files movie, I Want To Believe. No excitement though was racing through my body. I semi-hated the first movie installment (I cannot fully hate something I had once fully adored) and had already read about the bad news box office. So, with low expectations in mind, I entered the cinema right when the lights turned off halfway through the entrance hall.

I'm kinda glad that this version did not deal with extra terrestrials and G-man conspiracy. Chris Carter was maybe thinking that it's been so long ago since he started The X-Files that we should go back to the beginning. Dwelling on skepticism, doubt, science versus faith, and a storyline that has a psychic taking you to the crime scene the FBI has yet to uncover, I Want To Believe is no grand movie, almost like an extended episode from early on of Season !, but still compelling for this fan. This is not a grand movie, no blockbuster. No extra large flying saucer at the end, like X-Files movie #1. There, I spoiled it for you if you haven't seen the first X-files movie. It's the same ending you will recognize in another sequel from just a month ago. I Want To Believe obviously stuck to drama and character. I'm still in love with Mulder and Scully. No more sexual tension (It's been consummated), but a relationship between the believer and the skeptic, just one way The X-Files series got me in the first place. I love it!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ratings Doubt

Do you ever wonder about the movie ratings? Iron Man, with violence, sex and complicated themes on geopolitics and Afghanistan, was rated a G for General Patronage while Speed Racer, starring kids and monkey and where a kiss between two characters was held until the last frame, was rated a PG for Parental Guidance. Iron Man, a movie targeted to young adults, versus Speed Racer, a family film. What's their basis? What particular standard was used to give these two movies their ratings?

In the US, Iron Man rated PG-13 or "Parents Strongly Cautioned: Some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence and brief suggestive content." while Speed Racer got a less restrictive PG or "Parental Guidance Suggeested."

I suspect a conspiracy. A G rated movie has a better box office potential than PG obviously because of a G movie means anybody can watch. I doubt that the movie review board had a totally uninfluenced judgment. Maybe the local distributors gave some gifts, money or treated the board to some sumptuous five-star hotel buffet. If I had young kids, I would not have made them watch Iron Man but would have had a good time with them at Speed Racer. So, be wary, very wary of the local ratings. Suggest following the US ratings where there are advocacy groups that watch over the ratings body.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Movies That Made You Love

It's Valentine's once again. I'm thinking of the movies that made me fall in love. I mean, the movies that made you feel romance or made you giddy with love. Never mind if you watched the movie alone or with family members. It's that whole feeling of ahwwww. These movies are not the classics like Annie Hall or Casablanca. Certainly these two movies rank up there on so many lists, including the romantic lists. Though there are many things to do on Valentine's day, nothing beats a light romantic comedy to make a Valentine's moment while one is unattached.

While You Were Sleeping and Notting Hill just do it for me. I so identified with Sandra Bullock's character (a simple train station ticket agent with a big crush on one of the regular passengers) that I fell in love with Sandra and looked forward to whatever movie she was in. No matter how bad or corny a movie she made after that, it never just seems so bad with Sandra in it. Imagine being mistaken as your crush's girlfriend and actually living out your fantasy even for just a moment, but in the end reality sets in and still you find love. The same thing with Hugh Grant falling for a famous movie star. Actually, it was the movie star that fell for him. Another fantasy come true perhaps. I'm okay with it. I'm unattached at the moment and still very hopeful. I will have my Hollywood ending.

Friday, February 8, 2008

On Heath

Last weekend, the Velvet Channel showed Brokeback Mountain. Coincidence or planned? So close to the timing of Heath Ledger's passing. I didn't quite get that movie the first time it screened in theaters. With so much hype from the critics and the potential Oscar nominations (at that time), expectations were high. I thought the critics saw something that I didn't see. I just shrugged.

But seeing it again on TV last week, I now get it. The lyrical way Director Ang Lee moves the story and draws out emotion with style really got to me. Those close ups of Heath. What a great actor, I told myself. The pain, sorrow and loneliness were so real and then mean something else knowing that we will never get to see anything more from this gifted actor. I hate myself for not seeing and feeling it then when I first watched the movie. Maybe its the idea of watching it alone at home and without inhibition allowing myself to be taken in. I couldn't stop crying just watching Heath.

What happens now The Joker? News reports have it that Heath started having his insomnia when he was shooting Dark Knight and I'm Not There. How deep and personal did he go to get into character? Perhaps a dark life with a truly very dark ending, or just one of cinema's brightest gems. Thanks for those movies. We won't miss you, Heath.

Monday, September 24, 2007

On Lists

You will never find yourself short on the best or greatest movies of all time. I mean if you Google it, you'll most likely be bombarded a million websites. I haven't tried it. Edward Copeland's blog published a list based on a survey that he conducted among critics. I haven't read his entire blog but wonder about the absence of English-language movies. This was probably a reaction to American Film Institute's (AFI) 100 Years, 100 Films list. Personally, I have used as a guide the list published by Time Magazine's resident critics list of 100 Greatest Movies of All Time that was published in 2005.

Lists change over time as more movies come out but it's more because movies get a newer perspective as years pass. In AFI's list, for example, I noticed how The Wizard of Oz is now number ten. Newer films have taken its place. Some movies influence other filmmakers more and more and thus gain a higher preference among critics.

But in the end, it's what you really enjoy and what has stayed with you that matters. Rushmore has affected me in many ways. The humurous, heartbreaking and uplifting story about a competitive outsider in a prep school and finding love and its painful truth in a painful way has affected me deeply and personally. "Brilliant" is what I was screaming at the screen as the end credits rolled. With a wry and witty sense of humor, Rushmore is the film for me. If you had just to pick one movie, just one movie as your favorite movie, one that you could watch over and over again, what would it be?