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Guess the Oscar! (Like You Know and Watch All the Nominated Films!) – 2015

Here we go again.

The time when we could not help but pretending. We pretend we have watched all the nominated films. We pretend we know the taste of around 6,000 members of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), commonly known as Oscar voters, but for most of us, they’re known as, good God, “Oscar juries”. But hey, don’t we like to play God? And what better way for it than to guess who get the gold statue of naked man without penis holding a sword?

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Posted by on 02/22/2015 in Film

 

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Top 10 Cinema Going Experiences in 2013

This is the year of … binge-watching?

Shamelessly, or maybe not, I have to admit that yours truly have finally succumbed to the trend of TV-series marathons.

Why not? In the past few years, (mostly the US) TV series have given us reasons to be couch potato, mostly from their compelling stories, unthinkable twists, well-rounded characters. In short, those qualities are in contrast to what we have found in our cinema.

Thus, cinema becomes a reason to dress up, go out and socialize; whereas television becomes our comfort zone with “people” we know the most.

We need them equally.

The dearth of summer in cinemas this year could be fixed by tuning in to Girls and House of Cards as we reach home. No matter how compelling The Newsroom is, but once in a while, you need to be entertained by big spectacle in 3D, especially with gorgeous costume like The Great Gatsby.

We hang on to bits of sensation from big, wide silver screen. We are pampered with latest technology to shake us in 4DX, or to be surrounded with sound in Dolby Atmos.

But the real big screen experience is the sensation we feel during or after watching the film.

The sensation may come few(er) and between as years go by, but here, in alphabetical order, are what matters most:

1. ABOUT TIME

Date of watching: Friday, October 25, 2013.

Some films make up their flaws by emotion.

I came to watch this film alone. As the film went on, I started noticing oddities in its logic and inconsistency, given the nature of the plot. Yet, despite my awareness, I don’t mind of those pitfalls. In fact, I surrendered myself to the smile of Rachel McAdams and starting picturing myself witnessing each of the time-traveling scene.

It was not until I took a cab home then I cried recalling the film in my memory. It is a rarity to cry not during the film, but afterwards. Glad to have this weird but loving film to make the mark.

2. ALL IS LOST

Date of watching: Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

There I was, in the middle of a winter afternoon in Toronto, I snuck in a cinema to start watching Robert Redford all alone in the sea. Literally, alone.

We don’t see anyone but him, there is no volleyball to talk to, no tiger to befriend with, nor another astronaut to hang on to. We only see Our Man (Redford’s nameless character) doing a little talk, and he is busy maneuvering his way in the harshness of the sea for 90 minutes.

This is a testament of masterclass in screen acting, and Redford has taken a great challenge no other actors may be able to survive. When the light of the cinema has turned up, we are still glued to the screen, reeling from the brave journey.

3. BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Date of watching: Saturday, July 27, 2013.

Before Midnight

Before Midnight

The best part of the film comes when Celine (Julie Delpy) sits on a cafe with Jesse (Ethan Hawke), now they’re married, while looking at the sunset as it happens. She says, “Going … Going … Gone.”

We cannot help that the trilogy feels like a conclusion of an 18-year affair, the one that has inspired to roam around Europe finding undiscovered places the films were set in, to be rightly romantic at specific group of age, and to think about love and relationship in general. I watched this on a Saturday midnight show in Lido cinema in Singapore, where majority of audiences in attendance are couples, married or dating, who hug each other to find comfort as they watched the film.

To be able to follow this trilogy in its intended period of time is a lifetime investment worth having.

4. THE CONJURING

Date of watching: Thursday, August 8, 2013.

Lebaran may not be the golden time of Indonesian film anymore (when is it ever this year?), because during the holiday period, people flocked to watch Ed Warren and Lorraine Warren excise demons in an old house in 1970s.

This is the first time in a few years that local film no longer ruled cinema in the supposedly coveted time, and gave way to a chilling horror that does not feature teenagers making out.

I was one of the people who queued for the film around 2 weeks after its initial release date, yet the theatre was still packed. Audiences were genuinely scared and thrilled, and seeing the entire room gasped and shrieked is an experience on its own.

5. GRAVITY

Date of watching: Saturday, October 5, 2013.

Gravity

Gravity 

It takes a space to bring us back to cinema.

Not even one extended trailer after another can make us prepared of what we were about to see. There, on the giant screen, Alfonso Cuaron takes us circling around wide, empty outer space, particularly in one uninterrupted 20-minute take that left us breathless. It is even more remarkable that Sandra Bullock, the reigning comedy queen, is the one that carries the entire film on her shoulder. When we see her breathing, we are sucked into the confinement of her helmet and actually feel her struggle. Clocking in under 120 minutes, something of a rarity among other blockbuster hits, upon exit we are wondering, “what just happened?”

The answer is clear: it’s the movie that restores my faith in cinema.

6. ILO ILO

Date of watching: Saturday, November 23, 2013.

One of the highlights in cinema-going experience this year was the moment when JIFFest (Jakarta International Film Festival) was held again. I was not part of the festival this time, but kudos to the programming team to pull off the impossible, given the circumstances and the pressing limit of time.

It was my first time as an audience of the festival, actually, and you can imagine my delight when this film happened to be the first film I saw on the festival. I had no idea that Singapore, only a few years ago still came behind its neighbors in world cinema recognition, now comes up front and strong with this sublime film. It is hard to believe that a film can speak loud in its subtlety, and this film proves that, with a lot more to sweep us off our feet. Perhaps the right words to describe this film are “a very human work”, because it puts empathy in each of main characters, and in turn, gives us a touching film-going experience. This one is a keeper for years to come.

7. MAN OF STEEL

Date of watching: Saturday, June 15, 2013.

Looking back a few months later now, it is not a good film.

But then, looking right at the big IMAX screen, I see my childhood once again, staring in awe watching Superman flying across Niagara Falls in his red cape, with soaring music in the background, making us believe that there is a hero to save our day.

That particular moment for a brief few minutes is one of my very memorable moments in cinema this year.

8. PACIFIC RIM

Date of watching: Saturday, July 13, 2013.

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

I grew up watching Japanese series about superheroes who fight robots or work together with robots to fight monsters, like Voltus, Ultra-Man, although slowly I bid farewell to them as my attention shifted for good to other genres entirely.

But watching this on big screen on a Saturday afternoon surrounded kids and their parents, rooting over gigantic robots take over one another, who can resist cheering all the way? The banging sound that drums the walls of the cinema halls when the Kaiju moves and runs, the over-the-top fighting scenes, it’s like being in elementary school all over again.

9. 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Date of watching: Saturday, November 23, 2013.

There were films with in-your-face dramatic moments that I saw this year, but none came up as beautiful as this film. In fact, it is so beautiful that you could not look at or watch the film twice. Panoramic shots in many scenes are seemingly taken out of paintings in gallery or pictorial book, its scores are worth being played in a big concert by big orchestra, and production design is simply gorgeous. Bring all those elements to historical violence of slavery, you will be left with cringe and shriek.

I often pinched myself to say, “this is only a movie, this is only a movie” over and over again everytime the whipping tortures begin. Steve McQueen delivers a powerful film, no doubt, and the power is felt among us, audience, long after the credit ends.

You will be relieved to come out of such an experience. Watch it.

10. WADJDA

Date of watching: Monday, November 11, 2013.

Pardon me for being a little sentimental, but I saw this film in a small cinema a little further downtown area of Toronto. It is a one-man art-deco old cinema, and what a delight it was that the film here was shown on celluloid format! While the look of the film, clearly shot in digital, does not benefit from the showing format, it only heightens our experience in watching the film.

This is not a perfect film, for it bears signs of being made by a first timer, such as occasional loose focus and all. Yet, we cannot help rooting for the main character, a teenage girl seeking every possible silver lining in her mundane, almost repressed male-dominated world of Saudi Arabia. We cannot stop looking at her, and wanting to know what happens next as the story progresses. We are put right in the middle of daily life in Saudi Arabia, much to our chagrin sometimes, but the other part of us could not help being amused by the unexpected humor. A promising work that leaves us smiling.

What’s your most memorable experiences in cinema in 2013 then?

PS: If you must know my favorite film this year, this is the one.

Image.

 
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Posted by on 12/28/2013 in Blog, English, Film

 

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Cinema-going Experiences of 2012

We ushered in 2012 with a sigh of relief.
Import film crisis was over. People seemed to completely forget the crisis by the beginning of the year. Cinemas were added across the country again. We flocked to cinemas regularly like we always do.

Some of us noticed the shift from film reel to digital projection in cinemas. We see films in sharp clarity sans flickering and often awkward change of reels. Some of us miss the grainy look of film, but some welcome the high-def reality with open arms.

But despite the change in technical quality and the price we pay for that, we still go to movies. Be it alone, with friend, or dates, we cannot have enough of those 90-minute or more than 120-minute escapade in a darkened room shared with other strangers, enjoying what is being shown on a big screen. No 3D big size TV can replace the communal enjoyment.

After all, cinemas make us a social person.

And as what I always do since last year, I rank films based on very personal effect that the films gave me. Some of us always look for that tingling sensation throughout and after watching the films. Such effect sucks us in deep that we cannot think of anything else during the film, and we talk about it long afterwards.

I am a sucker for that sensation.

Hence, with the desire in mind, herewith the list of my personal top 10 cinemagoing experiences in 2012:

1. AMOUR
Date of watching: November 26, 2012 – Blitz GI, Jakarta (Europe on Screen)

Amour

Amour

Earlier the day, I received a short text from mom, saying that my dad fell gravely ill. His mind went blank for a moment, and he lost balance. Eventually he gained consciousness, and has been put in an ongoing intensive care treatment.
I received the news with a great surprise. Not only because the news came all of a sudden, but it came on the day I was supposed to watch a film with similar premise: a man witnesses his wife slowly sinking into Alzheimer.
A part of me prompted cancellation from going to watch the film, but eventually I braced myself.
As much as I had prepared myself, tears uncontrollably started rolling with greater intense since we see for the first time Emmanuelle Riva did not respond to Jean Louis Tritignant’s questions. The scene alone shook me. I kept thinking of my dad, and my mom in reverse position reenacting the scene. Maybe. Maybe not.
But the personal reference kept coming throughout the film, so much that I chose to shut my eyes in a few scenes, yet the sound heard still echoes the pain as created by the actors.
These actors do not act. They live their characters. Thus it draws me close to the film, and I have to thank Michael Haneke for creating an effortlessly beautiful film about devotion. Love is shown between the two leads with such intensity that we cannot help but crying for them. I was. I am as I am recalling the film right now.

This is the ultimate film that defines my cinema-going experience this year.
This may be close to destiny, in the sense that a real life crosses with reel life, and it happens unexpectedly, and obviously unplanned.

In a way, magic does happen in cinema. I am fortunate enough to experience that in a grand note.

2. COLDPLAY LIVE 2012
Date of watching: November 13, 2012 – Blitz GI, Jakarta (Special Event)

Coldplay Live 2012

Coldplay Live 2012

Spectacular. You don’t use the word often to describe a film, but this film deserves the accolade. Coldplay’s music comes alive in striking colors and beautiful presentation, thanks to the band’s genius in planning their concerts. But besides that, you have to give credits to filmmakers who cleverly edit and capture the right moments to be presented on big screen.
And it was an unforgettable night of watching the film in awe with other fans. People sang along, gasped and a few screamed together. Some exited the cinema with red cheeks and teary eyes. Sometimes, a documentary concert this beautiful came to our life, and we are grateful enough to see it on the mighty big screen.

3. LIFE OF PI
Date of watching: December 3, 2012 – Blitz GI, Jakarta

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

If there is a film that makes us believe in the power of 3D to tell a story … Wait. I mean, to tell a good story with a good storytelling, then this film does it with a striking justification. Ang Lee takes us to his fantasy world from the first rolling credit showing shots of animals. Immediately I was enchanted with a beautiful clarity of the 3D, and I sat up straight. I sat up straight throughout the film, jaw dropped and often gasped at the film.
I said on Twitter that if there is a film that is closest to being a heaven of cinema, then this film is the answer. To date, I am still holding my opinion up high.

4. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Date of watching: August 11, 2012 – Studio eX XXI, Jakarta

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods

I saw this the first time on its first midnight show release. I couldn’t remember when was the last time I had such a huge blast in cinema! We said “what-the-fuck” throughout the film, as it keeps taking us to unexpected direction, and that makes a jaw-dropping moment in cinema. Consider it a huge compliment. And the less I say, the better you watch it again, and again.

5. ARGO
Date of watching: December 9, 2012 – SF World CInema, Bangkok

Argo

Argo

I could not remember when was the last time I was at the edge of my seat being entertained and thrilled at the same time. The desire went on and on until I kept wishing for the film to never end. This is a highly engaging political thriller without gimmick of tech wizardry. In fact, it relies on old school tool called story telling. Watching this film means we surrender to the skilled craft of story telling by, unexpectedly, Ben Affleck, and wait until the last car chase scene in the airport that makes you clinch your fists in thrilling climax.

6. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
Date of watching: December 13, 2012 – Shaw Lido, Singapore

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Many teen films give sweet sensation that ends after end credits roll. This one is an exception.
Long after exiting the cinema door, I could not help but smiling throughout, despite the rain that greeted me the afternoon I watched the film. Smiled, because the trio performances provided by Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller (a revelation) feel genuine, sincere and honest. No big scenes of guys getting girls in loud music, but this one gets to the hearts of both young and old ones alike. One of the best teen films in a long time.

7. LEWAT DJAM MALAM
Date of watching: June 22, 2012 – Blitz GI, Jakarta

Lewat Djam Malam

Lewat Djam Malam

Others may choose the nationalism sense of pride in seeing Sony Pictures Classic’s logo at the beginning of The Raid: Redemption or in 5 cm.. But I could not help feeling proud in watching this classic film on big screen, for the first time after complete restoration by World Cinema Foundation. The transfer is crisp clean, and more importantly, it preserves the dignity of the film, proven with its timeless story on psychological effect of war to ordinary citizens stuck in unfortunate circumstances. I could not believe that in 1954, we could make a beautifully harrowing thriller, with advanced story telling that puts many recent films to embarrassment. The heroic Iskandar, the femme fatale Laila, the leading lady with a wit Norma, these are all modern day standard of strong characters on screen. We really struck gold then.

8. THE MASTER
Date of watching: December 11, 2012 – Apex Siam, Bangkok

The Master

The Master

I was lucky enough to see the latest Paul Thomas Anderson’s film on big screen, and this is a rare opportunity. Why? Apart from none of his films ever made local cinemas, each of his film consistently feels operatic, be it in the look of the film, or how Anderson crafts the story and its characters. Shot in 70 mm, and is supposedly seen in the format, I only managed to see this in the glorious old style of 35 mm print. Still, the larger-than-life feeling watching the film remains intact. I felt swept to the huge Pacific sea as Joaquin Phoenix rested on big ship. And I shivered as Anderson put extreme close up in Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman while they banter in prison, making us watching an acting masterclass in session. Johnny Greenwood’s mythical score even heard more believable in big screen. It was a rare opportunity, indeed.

9. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Date of watching: July 4, 2012 – IMAX Gandaria City XXI, Jakarta

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man

Since this list is highly subjective, then I may as well going deep here.
Sure, by any means, this reboot is unnecessary. Still, it is a decent film on its own, with believable chemistry between the leads, and a standout song-in-a-film moment. It is right when Coldplay’s “Till Kingdom Come” played when Peter Parker starts learning the ropes of being a superhero, with montages of him running, jumping in the air, skate boarding, and breathing a sigh of relief over his new identity that I, sitting on a giant IMAX screen, was stunned in silence. I was hooked to the scene, and the whole atmosphere the song injects to the film. Then I realized, it was there, from this film, that the song ushers this heart for another that also saw the film together. The whole scene was unforgettable.

10. TEST PACK
Date of watching: September 10, 2012 – Blitz GI, Jakarta

Test Pack

Test Pack

Surprised? Me, too.
It is not a perfect film. Neither is this list. But once in a while come a film we realize its imperfection, yet we cannot help being drawn to its charm.
I went to see the film right after being passed out, thinking of canceling the film altogether, fearing that I might sleep throughout the film. Instead, I was completely succumbed to how Acha Septriasa and Reza Rahadian behaved and talked to each other, I willingly put my empathy to their characters, and I woke up the next morning still completely amused by them. You cannot help but liking them, despite oddities in the storyline. Call it the power of acting, and effortless direction, but this film makes a pleasant viewing anytime.

And for other memorable experiences in cinema this year that I also cherish deeply, in alphabetical order:

The Artist (seeing a contemporary black-and-white silent film in cinema, screened with digital projection, is a kick of joy for anyone);
Detachment (a no-holds-barred film with powerful performances from Adrien Brody that I would associate him with this film from now on);
The Dark Knight Rises (a majestic treatment of a superhero film that deserves repeated screenings on the first two days of release);
Looper (jaw-dropping sci-fi/action film that left me stunned, despite watching it at a midnight show);
Lovely Man (saw the first time on screener, then saw it again on a big screen, only to be amazed by how the film holds up, and still cries when Claire de Lune is played); and,
The Muppets (Need a further explanation? Kermit and Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang on the big screen? Come on! :D).

See you in cinema next year.
Or next week.

 
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Posted by on 12/28/2012 in English, Film

 

Underrated Romantic Comedies

Last night I tweeted a lot about underrated romantic comedies.

It began when I browsed randomly on DVDs or Blu-rays to buy, as I just got $5 Amazon gift voucher from an online survey. If that sentence alone does not describe how middle-class I am, I don’t know what else does.
Clicking endless “today’s deals”, “unbelievably good bargains” and “price so low you will faint as you buy” sections later, I came across one film called The Truth About Cats and Dogs.
Way before we saw an eerie family film about talking cats and dogs, the title belongs to a little, sweet charmer starring equally sweet Uma Thurman, Janeane Garofalo and Ben Chaplin. Janeane plays a character who pretends to be Uma to attact Ben’s attention, although in the end it is Janeane’s true genuine personality that wins Ben over.

Now if you talk about movies that change the world or movies that change the savings of studio executives, films like Cats & Dogs above and others do not usually get mentioned.
These are films that grow over time. Some, or even most of them, do not get good critical reception and commercial success upon initial release.

But as years go by, these are the kind of films we stumble upon while we are confused on what to watch on a relaxing Saturday night at home. Or the kind of film that our friends recommend to cure lonely hearts. Or simply the kind of film that you have no idea what it is about, you just pick it randomly in a store, but you’re glad to discover it.
Thus, you remember it for life.

The films that touch our heart are not necessarily the great ones. They are those that can make us believe in love again, convincingly, and unknowingly.

That’s why they are underrated.

I’m not going to write any longer than this. Oh come on, you know that this is long enough already! But I’m going to share with you images from some #underratedromanticcomedy films that you should watch, especially:
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Posted by on 07/14/2012 in Blog, English, Film, Personal

 

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A Few Affairs with Extra-Marital Affair on Movies

The other day my friend Leila commented on a picture I posted on Path, “I love movies about glorified extra marital affair!”

The picture she commented on is a scene from Same Time, Next Year, the 1978 film about a married man and a married woman embark on a love affair for 26 years without divorcing their respective spouses. I have spoken about the film quite a number of times either here or on Twitter, which is obvious enough to say that it ranks as one of my all-time favorites.

Same Time, Next Year

I am sure that those of you who have watched the film will be drawn to the charismatic characters, and cannot help liking the film, despite the questionable premise as I mentioned above. After all, when we talk about film, we talk about a whole different world of make-belief and the film succeeds.

In fact, extra marital affair makes a very interesting subject to be brought to big screen.
I’m sure many films on the said subject immediately registers to your mind as we speak.

Want some proof?

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Posted by on 05/26/2012 in English, Film

 

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Less than 100 Words Film Review – 3

Summer blockbuster season is here, and thank God for no hiccup this year! Alternative programming gives a refreshing element to cinema going activity this season. Simply said, we just cannot wait to go back to the movies!

Check out the select few of what I’ve seen in the past weeks after the cut.

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Posted by on 05/25/2012 in English, Film

 

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Films about the Making-of-Film

So I woke up this morning to the sight of My Week With Marilyn on my TV. This has got to be the third time I watched the film. While it is not a flawless film, it has its own charm that make it worth repeated viewings.

Of course, this entry will not discuss the film at length. After all, you have heard million of times that Michelle Williams was robbed in Oscar night. (Alright, that’s only me.)
But as I watched the film, I suddenly recall another film project that also depicts the making of an old film. It’s the one with Anthony Hopkins playing as Alfred Hitchcock in the film about the making of Psycho. Currently the film, which is still being shot, is tentatively titled Hitchcock. I hope the makers will change the title because, hey, do you want to challenge any film buffs out there to say that Hitchcock is only represented by that one film?

Having both films above in mind, I could not help but wonder if it’ll become common to have an option of “possible reinterpretation to depict behind-the-scene of the film as a separate feature film entity” in the making of future films.
In other simpler words, it may be possible to have more films like My Week With Marilyn or Hitchcock that revolve around the making of a film. After all, behind-the-scene juicy story is worth telling on its own, especially as a film.

And I as keep toying with the idea, I couldn’t help but wonder: what are current and not-so-distant films (maximum 35 years old!) worth being remade as films about making-of-the-films?

Here are my top 4 choices:

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Posted by on 05/23/2012 in Blog, English, Film

 

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Less Than 100 Words Film Review – 2

An early summer blockbuster session, two local films that surprise me not in a good way, and a home-viewing discovery that pleasantly surprised me given its medium.

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Posted by on 04/17/2012 in Blog, English, Film

 

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Less Than 100 Words Film Review – 01

Welcome to these short film reviews, or what I presume as the bearable read for those on the move with smart phones, mobile laptops or tablets, and not desk-bound computers who do not like having too many to read.
Trust me, the feeling is mutual.

I hope the series will be done regularly, with accumulative pieces of reviews rather than making single entry blog for each film like you used to read.

In addition, films watched in cinema and at home need to be separated. We attend each of the film-watching experience differently, and that reflects our perception towards the movie.
Feel millions of times much cooler after every vague word.

Without further ado, presenting the first edition of Less Than 100 Words Film More (after the cut):

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Posted by on 04/08/2012 in English, Film

 

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Guess the Oscar! (Like You Know and Watch All the Nominated Films!)

Ah, awards season.

The time when suddenly good films rushing to theaters, leaving us in wonder with whatever happen to the rest of the year.
The time when suddenly some good, serious actors grace cover of lifestyle magazines.
The time when we are forced to read and nod along in pretense whenever news about film X winning critics awards, or actor Y continues his/her winning streak.

Wait. Pretend?

Here’s the thing.
Chances are you read this note in your computer at home. That means most likely you reside outside US, or any countries that so far have had the Oscar nominated films released there.
Of course, you are deprived of the joy of knowing the films first hand, since all you can do is read about them.

Films? Read? They don’t go together. Hardly.

The other option is to rely on piracy.
Harsh truth, but everyone in many countries are exposed to this one way or another. Even then, not many films are already available in black market.
Sometimes the ones being sold are taken with crappy cameras, or having subtitles generated by Google Translate.

In other words, we are deprived of watching the films on big screen, as they are supposed to be seen.
(Hey, aren’t Oscar voters also watching films they have to vote from DVD screeners they get from studios? Hmmm …)

But thanks to the Internet, gone are the days when we were completely alien to the Academy Awards.

Oh, don’t you think I could forget when TVRI aired the time when Marlee Matlin forced herself to say “and the winner is” to Michael Douglas, Best Actor for Wall Street … only to realize the names and the film years later. Or when RCTI had Adolf Posuma in Los Angeles doing live reporting the time when, finally, Al Pacino won for Scent of a Woman.

We had no clue about the films then.

Now, with film bloggers and awards-specialist bloggers dominate and, like it or not, influence how and where the season goes, we become more familiar with each course of award seasons.

For film fans, we become expert as years go on.
For non film fans, you are likely to be overwhelmed … and that is why you need to read this note!

Nine films nominated for Best Picture, with some tenfold other pictures nominated in scattered categories can be puzzling.
But you need to catch up with your colleagues, peers, dates, flings come Oscar ceremony up to a week after; thus, I offer you a shortcut: sound bites.

What I am going to do is list several main categories (there are 24 categories in total!), and offer you one liners of information or trivia about the nominated works that will make other people go “wow! I didn’t know that you know that!” at you.

Then, as you are compelled to answer the often asked question of “so, who do you think it’s going to win?”, I offer you: safe bets.
This equals to “will win” field you see in many other prediction articles. Like the term suggests, the bets are accumulated from precursor accolades, namely other previous awards held this season, or simply guts gathered from critics.

And my personal pick, being the writer of the note. Don’t fret. Don’t be tempted.

Ready? Here goes:

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Posted by on 02/26/2012 in English, Film

 

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#movieandme – What’s The First Film You Watched in Cinema?

More than any other time in my life, as long as I can remember, last year seemed to be the time I was drawn to filmgoing experience the most.

I can’t explain why. Perhaps it was the constant worry on the dearth of cinema during our ‘cinema-blackout’ period, which I had repeatedly written, the latest being my kaleidoscopic article here.

But beyond the unfortunate incident, somehow it has always been “planted” in me that the best medium to watch film is in cinema.
There is something magical about sitting in a darkened hall, waiting for flickering lights to turn into escapism world of images and words, where we surrender ourselves and reality surround us for a good two hour or so.

If you find those words familiar, that’s because most of the entries in the blog revolve around the topic. In fact, my life does, too. Or so I made it to be.

When I spent my year-end holiday in my hometown, I watched Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in nearby cinema. It was a full-house session, despite no advanced sound system. Yet, the packed crowd shrieked and clenched their fists on their seats altogether when Tom Cruise climbed Burj Khalifa, holding their breaths anticipating the suspense and the thrill of that scene. As I sat on top rows, I could see clearly the collective movement, and it was such a joy, such an unbelievable sight at this time!

I still could not believe my eyes even when I reached home.
And as I looked around my room, tons of VCDs I collected when I was in college were stacked on shelves, collecting thick dust and zero care.
Having nothing to do during the holiday, and being thankful for relatively smooth Internet connection, I thought of VCDs giveaway via Twitter. One cannot live without twitting, right?

Three of five Video CDs (VCDs) for my #movieandme giveaway

Thus, on the last day of 2011, either most people at their utmost relaxing mood or busy preparing for parties later, I asked my timeline:

Do you remember the very first film you watched in cinema?

Using hash-tag #movieandme suddenly answers started pouring in. What supposed to be film title turned out to be recollection of memories: when they watched the film, where (and many cinemas that are no longer present), and with whom they watched the film.
These answers still strike my emotions as I am re-reading them now.

What intrigues me most from this collective memory is how our childhood revolved around cinema, one part or another. Many of us were either going with parents, friends from school or relatives, and the choices, as you can see below, are mind-blowing!
Who would’ve thought that our past cinematic treasure could be this rich?

And look at how diverse the location is! Wherever you spent your childhood, cinema was around to lure you in, and good time was abound.

Guess a saying that goes “everybody must have a certain memory about cinema” is true.

While reading these #movieandme entries, can I ask you: what’s your very first film you watch in cinema?

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My Top Filmgoing Experiences of 2011

What a year.

More than anything else, we will remember 2011 as the year we almost lost cinema.

No thanks to the temporary halt of film import that went on for 5 months (how did we even survive, I wonder?), we almost lost the joy or even the idea of cinema-going experience itself.

Suddenly the term filmgoing experience itself finally acknowledged the idea of going to pirated DVDs shops, something we have been exposed to all along, but not until this year public acknowledgment of such could be said without shame.

The overview of the situation has been written in The Jakarta Globe as part of its kaleidoscope series, by yours truly.

What’s written here is a recollection of how a common filmgoer like me spent his time in movies this year.

I was simply trying to make do of what was left in cinemas, and guess what?
There were unexpected joys to find, thanks to those who still believed in the power of cinema and its audiences, bringing films from different parts of the world, unlikely programming that amused my thirst of quality cinema, and occasionally bad films that, nevertheless, made me smile.

Here they are, my choices for filmgoing experiences of 2011:

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Posted by on 12/29/2011 in English, Film, Personal

 

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What Are Crazy Things You Do For Movies?

It all begins with my dear friend Santi saying this:

“Val, I want an action. Something you’ve done.”

I swear if it’s something about impregnating …

“We want something you’ve actually done to show how crazy you are. And we all know you’re crazy ;”

I’m still digesting and thinking if there’s any alcohol involved. Because if it is …

“Let me put it this way: you need to tell me how passionate you are about movies. What are the crazy things you’ve done for movies?”

Exit false pregnancy worry, enter bigger question.

What are crazy things I’ve done to show how passionate I am about movies?

The question has occupied me the entire evening, so much so that you are reading what my mind is thinking right now.

Repeatedly I have written blog entries, which serve like a love letter to cinema. The first one, you can read them here, which tells how I was lured by my parents, then avid filmgoers, to literally “dark side” when I was a kid.
Then there’s another one here, for my emotional outburst during our dark period of cinema-going earlier this year.

Is this going to be another love-letter to cinema? Since “crazy” is the operative word here, I’ll let you decide at the end of the entry.

What I can be sure of instead is how my life has always been evolving around movies. The involvement ranges from being merely as a spectator, or what has been happening in the past six years: a slave in the film circle itself.

Thus, film has always been one of the main priorities, major in fact, in every turning point of my life.

When one does what it takes to get his/her utmost priority, what others perceive as ‘that-crazy-thing-you-do’ is actually a normal thing to do to us. Call it a norm or custom or habits, we don’t feel like doing anything crazy or special at the moment of carrying out the actions.

Only when we look back, like what you and I are doing right now, we realize how often those past things seem surreal.

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Posted by on 12/07/2011 in English, Film, Personal

 

Life may begin with ‘The Tree of Life’

Life begins with nothingness.

So does my personal experience in watching the film. Armed with overwhelming warning, expectation, hope and other kind of buoyant adjectives that only propel further confusion, I decided to enter the darkened cinema hall with no prior thoughts nor set of presumption.

The only thing we can hold true is the title itself: The Tree of Life.

Seemingly poetic, the words that make the title unveil themselves through a series of imagery that would rival the best National Geographic photography works ever invented. We may be tempted to describe the whole film as a visual poetry. There are those, I am sure, that prefer to describe the entire film as a masturbation work of an artist under bout influence. There is a possibility that one treats the film as an artistic exhibition worth being displayed in a world-class art gallery, but not cinema.

These are examples of a few labels that may be applied to the film. These labels comprise the film. Just like life itself.

In fact, if life is a film, then it might as well be The Tree of Life.

Especially when life is filled with curiosity to explore what constitutes as mankind. Through the whisper of voice overs, the striking visual galore and microscopic close-up scenes, Terrence Malick observes life from the eyes of a child who simply wants to understand his own being.
As a boy like any other boy, he carries equal influence of being raised by a set of parents, namely Mother (Jessica Chastain) and Father (Brad Pitt).
As a boy like any other child, he carries within himself eternal attempt to balance the contrasting teachings from both parents.
As a boy like any other beings on earth, he lets nature guide his action, sometimes at the cost of his wonderment of doing things he does not wish to do in the first place.

The internal struggle of human being, something Malick has never grown tired of exploring in the past four decades, is given a larger-than-life proportion in this canvas. Alexandre Desplat’s operatic score enhances the ethereal beauty of Emmanuel Lubezki’s mesmerizing cinematography that is derived from Jack Fisk’s production design. Mark Yoshikawa orchestrates the film with various paces of editing that keep one audience enthralled, so much so that he barely moved an inch in the first hour.

Me. It should be you.

But like life, to each his own cinema-going experience. In short, like life itself, we may perceive things differently, because as the Brad Pitt character says, “Subjective is something that is true to you. Can’t challenge it to anybody, because it is coming from you.” Something like that.

Thus, watching The Tree of Life is akin to how we behave towards things in our surrounding. For every one hooked, shuddered and cried, there are others who choose to walk out. For every one that defies and denies the film worthy of entrance fee, there are those who embrace this as the film that can propel the function of cinema as a place to experience visual treat.

If you choose the latter, then you should know that the treat comes at the cost of Malick’s venture in finding God. More than just using Bible quotes and the endless images of outer space, ancient times, and other-worldly shots, the director ushers us to discover ourselves through our relationships with parents, sibling, people, and nature. Being a keen observer, he leads characters to scarcely sparse dialogue, making each line quote-worthy. The lines eventually immerse in our sense, and we begin to surrender.

Note that it was not an easy give-in process. You don’t get any spoon-fed linear narrative here. The moment you decide to stay after the first 20 minutes, mind-blowing images like how one usually describes the experience taking chemical drugs continue to bombard and leave us perplexed. Slight conventional drama follows, allowing us to take a breath while trying to connect the dots of what we see earlier. Before we may or may not succeed in doing such, another arrays of pictures set in.

“You have to be the master of your own life,” again, the Father character said. It is a continuous process that one shall undertake to make the life goes on living. Understanding the film is another continuous process one shall take to complement the task above.

Do I understand the film? I don’t. Do I “get” it? Hardly.

Do I understand life? I don’t. Do I “get” where life is headed? Hardly.

In the end, after the house light is lit up and end credit rolls, we may return to nothingness. But this time, there’s an undeniable mark within us that we are already exposed to one’s attempt to uncover life and humankind in a masterpiece of filmmaking.

Let The Tree of Life grow in us.

Let it be a start to understand life.

Experience it.

(Images are taken from the digital booklet of The Tree of Life original motion picture soundtrack. Solely used for personal purpose.)

 
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Posted by on 08/14/2011 in English, Film

 

This is OSCAR! He is 80!

Dear Grandpa,

How are you? Enjoying yourself being polished and showered in gold? Has the cold weather been good to you? I’m sure you can handle the weather, considering how much you like to show up in your birthday suit all the time.

Bad weather aside, I can only be amazed at your endurance in surviving assassination attempts, wars, and so many historical events throughout decades. You’ve always managed to show up with a dignified pride, not at once giving a hint of aging. Guess your stark and everlasting beauty is what makes people admiring you go crazy and rush off to have their natural handsomeness Botoxed. You’ve never said “no” for all those maddening antics.

But this year, the time when you are supposed to be celebrated with a big bang, you’ve shown signs of, I’m not sure how I put it, lack of self-confidence? Suddenly you’re not sure if you’re able to throw a big bash again, the way you’ve always done for the past eight decades?

Grandpa, I know how your heart is undergoing major surgery right now, and at any given moment, the outcome may determine your well-being. But no matter what the results may be, they can tell you one thing: you are not going to die. You will be forever celebrated, cheered, and championed.

After all, there’s no reason of backing off from celebration.

Look at how your admirers behave for the past year.

Remember how once you favor literature adaptation? It comes back in a very graceful manner this year. Watching it makes me feel like having an Atonement of all the bad sins in bad films I’ve watched in a year.

And remember the epic scale of Giant or any dramatic films in 1950s? Look no further than Paul Thomas Anderson’s majestic There Will Be Blood, Grandpa.

I bet you can also recall the heydays of paranoia drama, the way The China Syndrome or … And Justice For All were built. Michael Clayton does it with an equally impressive result, Grandpa, and I’m sure you will marvel about the film’s director, Tony Gilroy, considering that the film is his directorial debut.

And Grandpa, maybe it is the time you reward one of your overlooked hopefuls, the Coen brothers, as they bring their most intense work to date, i.e. No Country for Old Men. It may not be your cup of tea, but if you could look beyond the film’s bleak look, you will see nothing but brilliance of filmmaking, Grandpa.

Your cute little grandchildren, Juno, sneaks in, because she (yes, Grandpa, we’ve got a film with first-name leading lady character as its title!) and her acerbic wits will tell you that smartness is still highly regarded in the present world of mindless films.

Beyond those five, you have every reason to be proud of your future aspirants.

You thought action is dead? Paul Greengrass and his The Bourne Ultimatum inject a dose of unbelievable energy to restore our faith in the genre.
You thought animation merely circles around kidlet’s fantasy? Persepolis challenges my perception towards what happened in Iran during Islamic Revolution in 1978, and Ratatouille cements Brad Bird’s status as a pioneer (aka a brat with a brain) of animated flick. Oh, Grandpa, don’t get me heartbroken again with curiosity of how The Simpsons Movie fails to crack in. Too brash?
Never mind. At least you can also be proud of how Tim Burton never loses his magic in Sweeney Todd and his barbaric yet menacing acts, and both 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford generate excitement to root for Western all over again.

See, Grandpa, how you should be proud of cinematic achievement in 2007?

Thus, Grandpa, this major surgery at your heart, at your core of living, is something I’m sure you can pass off easily. You’ve survived bigger events than this, and you will live on.

So will film.

Love,

XOXO.

 
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Posted by on 02/06/2008 in English, Film