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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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