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Post-Oscar Toothache.

Reflecting any pains that Leonardo DiCaprio (might) endure(d) while filming The Departed, particularly in the scene where Jack Nicholson punches Leo’s gripped arm, it is politically incorrect that I almost shared the same pains upon knowing that the film in the spotlight won this year’s Oscar for Best Picture.

While the film is a highly watchable flick, I wonder if this signals the decline of American cinema.
Has the land become extinct due to the drought of fresh ideas and compelling stories?
Has the land been busily sharpening its sophisticated look with the help of CGI, without at once feeding the brains?

And all that deserving winners (Alan Arkin, Helen Mirren, Marie Antoinette‘s Costume Design) do not make up the fact that this year’s Best Picture is a remake of a Hong Kong instant classic film. Isn’t it ironic that one land suffers from dry-spell of stories is conquering other land suffers from dry-spell of box-office takings, yet still abundant with interesting ideas?

Try to read between the lines of what IndieWire (as taken from Associated Press) reports below:

“The Hong Kong director of the gritty gangster flick that Martin Scorsese adapted as his Oscar-winning hit “The Departed” heaped praise on the man he said inspired him to make films. “It is an honour to have been able to help Martin win his first and long overdue Oscar,” said Andrew Lau, whose 2002 film “Infernal Affairs” provided the story for Scorsese’s movie set among the gangs of Boston. “He has always been my hero, his films were why I got into making films.” AFP

What does this mean?

With all due respect to Scorsese, whose “The Age of Innocence” is a very personal favorite of mine, and whose “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull”, “Mean Streets”, “Casino” and “Good Fellas” are, IMHO, considered works of art, I can only wonder whether he has entered his swansong years.

If yes, then let him bask in his belated glory, while we, appreciative audience, will continue wondering and searching a very few good, compelling, original films that make us proud to watch them.

Writing the above sentence gave me a bump. For a few seconds, I completely forgot about my tootache. Darn my teeth!

 
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Posted by on 02/28/2007 in English, Film

 

Let’s Bet! (for Oscar, that is) — Part 3

Not much time left, so here’s a continuous quickie:

BEST DIRECTOR

I thought The Departed is an exceptional film, something like an oasis for Martin Scorsese after his successive dry spells in “The Aviator” and “Gangs of New York”. But look at his classics, “Mean Streets”, “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull”, and even “The Age of Innocence” (the latter being my personal favorite). As refreshing as an oasis can be, The Departed still falls short behind those classics, but way better than his previous two films in this century. Add that with the fact that the film is a remake of “Infernal Affairs”, I doubt if it is greatly rewarding to award someone for his cover-version effort. Still, sentimentality plays a major part here, and I doubt if Clint Eastwood can pull off his fame this time.

Will win
: Martin Scorsese for The Departed.
Should win: Paul Greengrass for United 93. His direction is a fine example of an exquisite, tender approach to otherwise a highly sensitive issue.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

I can’t shake off my disbelief on how meticulous the details are presented in The Queen. Peter Morgan did an extremely fine job here, balancing emotional and factual sides nicely in a work that elevates itself above an average TV-movie.
On the other hand, Guillermo del Toro churns out one of the richest fairy tales that linger on our minds long after we walk out of his Pan’s Labyrinth.
However, the Scriptwriter Guilds Association chose a crowd-pleasing Little Miss Sunshine as their annual awards’ winner in this category. I agree that the film has a handful of one-liners (“Go hug Mom”, anyone?), but I am not sure if it is strong enough to fight a gigantic presence of a faun and a stature of a queen.

Will win
: Michael Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine.
Should win: Peter Morgan for The Queen.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

I may not really fall head over heels into it, but I still applaud William Monahan’s skillful approach to transfer Asian graceful-action shootings to American exploitive style. The one I’m rooting for here is Patrick Marber, who was previously denied for his daring take on “Closer”, one of the most intriguing dramas on adult relationships. Penning a screenplay entirely told from its antagonist? Now that’s something.

Will win: William Monahan for The Departed.
Should win: Patrick Marber for Notes on a Scandal.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

One of the strongest line-ups in years. How I wish to see “Volver”, “Blackbook”, “Cafe Transit”, “Curse of the Golden Flower”, “Love for Share”, “Farewell, Falkenberg”, “White Palms”, or “Something Like Happpines” were nominated. But still, none of these can beat Guillermo del Toro’s creatures.

Will win
: Pan’s Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro.
Should win: Pan’s Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Hey! “Ice Age 2” is not that bad!

Will win: Cars.
Should win: Happy Feet. The film really pushes the envelope of what computer-graphic animation should be, i.e. putting audience in anxiety over roller-coasting camera works.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will win: Emmanuel Lubezki for Children of Men.
Should win: Dick Pope for The Illusionist. Love its other-worldly look.

BEST EDITING

Not really a fan of editing styles in both Babel and The Departed, both Editor Guilds’ (ACE) winners. But if I really have to choose between the two, I guess I’ll settle for Thelma’s The Departed.

Will win: Thelma Schoonmaker for The Departed.
Should win: Clare Douglas, Richard Pearson, Christopher Rouse for United 93.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

I did my thorough observation. Hope it gets published, or if it doesn’t, I’ll publish it here.

Will win: Alexandre Desplat for The Queen. However, I’d like him win for “The Painted Veil” instead, which was not nominated despite winning Golden Globe earlier.
Should win: Philip Glass for Notes on a Scandal. It’ll be a make-up for his previous losses, especially for his haunting works on “The Hours”.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

C’mon, at least Dreamgirls should win something.

Will win: “Listen” from Dreamgirls.
Should win: “Listen” from Dreamgirls.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Girls and gays, I know how Patricia Field should be getting some recognition for both her clever picks among those designers’ galore, but against both king and queens of China and England? Nah.

Will win: (I can’t believe this) Consolata Boyle for The Queen.
Should win: Chung Man Yee for Curse of the Golden Flower. A 40-kg crown? That’s something.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURES

Like you need to ask.

Will win: An Inconvenient Truth.
Should win: An Inconvenient Truth.

BEST MAKE-UP

Will win: Pan’s Labyrinth. That guy is sitting for hours to be made-up as a faun!
Should win: Pan’s Labyrinth. Oh, there’s a vomitting giant toad, too.

BEST SOUND

My take: Dreamgirls.

BEST SOUND EDITING

My take: Letters From Iwo Jima. A perfect show-off for war films. Remember, “Pearl Harbor” won in this category five years ago.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

My take
: Superman Returns. Digitizing Brandon Routh’s rumoured bulging asset? That’s something.

BEST ART DIRECTION

“Moulin Rouge!” won this category five years before, so I’ll go the same.

Will win
: Dreamgirls.
Should win: Pan’s Labyrinth.

BEST SHORT FILM, ANIMATED

Again, I did my thorough observation on this. Let’s hope it gets published.

Will win: The Little Matchgirl. Yes, it’s that HCA classic.
Should win: Lifted. Coming soon this summer.

BEST DOCUMENTARY, SHORT SUBJECTS

My take: Recycled Life. A nice unintended publicity that came right after the nominations were announced. But don’t ask me what sort of publicity it created. Look for it yourself, ok?!

BEST SHORT FILM, LIVE ACTION

Will win: West Bank Story. Yes, it’s “West Side Story” being moved to the Middle East.
Should win: Binta and the Great Idea. Love it.

(And I just notice the bigger letters for “Rosebud” than anything else. Nice gesture of AMPAS who denied “Citizen Kane” from winning the Best Picture 66 years ago!)

 
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Posted by on 02/23/2007 in English, Film

 

Let’s Bet! (for Oscar, that is) — Part 2

Interesting line-ups of thespians in equally attractive roles. And I couldn’t help but shouting “Hallelujah!” for strong roles in women fields, both leading and supporting categories. Quite a reminiscence of 2002’s leading actress category, when Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman, Diane Lane, Julianne Moore and Renee Zellwegger competed. (Darn the prosthetic nose!)

Nominees for BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE are:
Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson
Peter O’Toole in Venus
Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland.

A lock, eh?! Unless AMPAS members were busy watching “Lawrence of Arabia”, “My Favorite Year”, “Becket”, “The Lion in Winter”, and many others for the past few weeks, while regretting their past mistakes. In another note, where’s the old Leo who gripped us to a shocking effect in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”, “The Basketball Diaries” and “Marvin’s Room”?

Will win: Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland.
Should win: Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland.

Nominees for BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE are:
Penelope Cruz in Volver
Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren in The Queen
Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet in Little Children.

Wow. A total of 29 Oscar acting nominations among them. What a company! Again, who can defy Her Majesty?

Will win: Helen Mirren in The Queen.
Should win: Helen Mirren in The Queen.

Nominees for BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE are:
Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children
Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg in The Departed.

In a highly subjective way, I can’t shake off the ruggedly gorgeous look of Mark Wahlberg ever since I finished my write-up on him here.
But again, looking at the nominees, I seem to rely more on Alan Arkin, for his brief-yet-nuanced performance in Little Miss Sunshine. If Academy wants to play sentimental vote, this is the perfect category to do so, since he is the most veteran actor here.
The only obstacle? The recent award-showering to Eddie Murphy.

Will win: Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls.
Should win: Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine.

Nominees for BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE are:
Adriana Barraza in Babel
Cate Blanchett in Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi in Babel.

As much as I try not to follow what others have said, Jennifer Hudson’s soulful belt in “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going” is proved to be unstoppable.

Will win: Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls.
Should win/should have been nominated: Maribel Verdu in “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

 
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Posted by on 02/22/2007 in English, Film

 

Let’s Bet! (for Oscar, that is) — Part 1

This is my entry that loudly speaks: You ask for it!

And no matter how hard I have persuaded printed media to release my Oscar predictions (i love you, guys! hahaha!), they lean more towards what news agencies provide. Let’s see if my predictions match:

Nominees for BEST PICTURE are:

Babel
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Earlier this week, I discussed with my colleague, who traveled regularly to film festivals in the world, over why it is so hard for Indonesia and many other countries to score a nomination, at least for Best Foreign Language film. His answer is simple: “Most of AMPAS members who vote for this event reside in the US, so, it’s easier for them to vote for films they are familiar with. By familiar, it can be by getting a release in LA/NY, or media coverage, or any medium of promotions. Like everything else, it’s all about connection.”

Add that with “getting close to them, the voters”.

Four of five Best Picture winners in this century are films with stories originally concepted in America, set in the USA and directed by American directors (the exception being “The Return of the King” by New Zealander Peter Jackson). From “A Beautiful Mind” to “Crash”, they all have the Star Spangled Banner notes embedded within.

So, what does this tell us? Easy. The only very American film is Little Miss Sunshine.

If one would like to push The Departed, it is quick to note that the film is an adaptation of much superior “Infernal Affairs” from Hong Kong. The Queen and Letters from Iwo Jima are out of question, and Babel does babble in multiple languages in several continents.

The fact that Little comes with a dose of good-hearted humor is a bonus, and in a time of disheartening events around the world, I guess most of right-wing, liberal voters would like to light up the world with one thing they know best: entertaining.


Will win
: Little Miss Sunshine
Should win: Letters from Iwo Jima (hasn’t it been some time that we see a war film winning Best Picture? The last time a war drama won Best Picture was, believe it or not, “Platoon” in 1986!)

 
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Posted by on 02/22/2007 in English, Film

 

Look Both Ways.

By now, we might already be familiar with many inventive ways to make a film compelling to watch, or for those living in a fast-lane, just to look at. One way to make the film interesting is by incorporating other kind of art into the story, or at least briefly touching it, and it is guaranteed to make our eyes rolled in disbelief.

Think of Frida, a superb example of paintings coming alive, depicting the plots of the story. In an almost similar way, Sarah Watt applies the same concept to her directorial outing, Look Both Ways, here. Although it is not necessarily revealing the plot, the paintings coming to live work well in representing one of the main characters’ inflicted mind.

As such, at any given moment and chances, we might be tempted to deviate our attention to the paintings, rather than the story. Yet, Watt superbly crafts her film, in a way that we couldn’t help ourselves feeling the characters’ aching for affection and their unspoken yearning for comfort. In a story consisting of three strong plots, brought together by one trigger of an incident, Watt intertwines her characters with tender treatments that by the time the end credit rolls, we will look at the big screen and thinking, that we see ourselves in them.

That’s simply a result of a good story.

 
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Posted by on 07/02/2006 in English, Film

 

Sacred Heart.

Ferzan Ozpetek. The sole name and the mere factor that drew me to watching Sacred Heart, and leaving any expectation or pre-conceived opinion behind.

Well, I was wrong. I couldn’t resist occupying myself with certain hope that Ozpetek will once again embrace gay-themed stories as he did superbly with Facing Windows and Hamam, the former being one of my favorites. Yet, as I patiently waited for a little under two hours and after Barbara Bobulova took her clothes off in a public train station, I knew that I was in for something else.

This time, Ozpetek removes his usual clout: women having trouble accepting the presence of gay characters in their lives. Instead, he crafts a character inside Bobulova who has to walk through an unbalanced bridge of being a good Samaritan and a corporate leader at the top of her game. Irene (played by Bobulova) is best considered as an example of many of us who often question our lives instead of being in contentment with whatever things we already posses. Thus, as briefly glimpsed above about her full-frontal nudity in a public place, our heroine reaches the peak of her emotional troubles by having a larger-than-life outburst. Again, a deviation from the director’s staple of leading ladies who’d rather oppress their conflicted minds, and making the films intriguing to watch.

Wait. By saying that, does it mean the film in spotlight here not as intriguing as the others?

Intriguing, maybe. After all, the theme of doing unconditional good deeds to others while walking a fine line of living a fabulous life is always interesting to watch. Yet, if Ozpetek’s others are still enjoyable to watch despite their heavy-weight drama, this time Ozpetek fails to create the same interest in his audience, particularly the writer here. By the time Irene does her wandering, we hardly care about her motivation, because Ozpetek presents her, or rather, clothing her with only an outer mantle that somehow discourage us to get further peek inside her skin. As such, Bobulova’s terrifying act reminds me of what Christian Bale did in The Machinist: suffering-for-art not supported with a convincing work of art, i.e. good films.

Thus, a token of remembrance in this film would likely to come from the nudity scene of Irene, which by now might be gone off to become overmentioned. But apart from that, there’s nothing much to tell. The same theme worked more effectively in a comedy like Mr. Deeds Goes To Washington apparently.

 
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Posted by on 06/30/2006 in English, Film

 

Paradise Now.

Upon walking out of the cinema right after the credit ended, I couldn’t help wondering to myself, what caused that hyped controversy and commotion surrounding Paradise Now. Is it the heart-rending storytelling of a suicide bomber, or the lip-lock scene inside the car between one of the bombers and a girl?

I may not be exposed that much to the current upstream in Middle East country, but I couldn’t help getting myself jolted looking at a few good seconds of the kissing scene, with the backdrop of a chaotic country in the middle of war. Of course, to justify a little bit, the girl is a modern girl recently returned to Palestine after completing some studies. In what seemingly a stereotype-yet-still-valid depiction of someone from a developing country going home after spending some time in a more modern and established land, the girl is also shown wearing pants and tight shirt, instead of burkha like her fellow citizen.

The same modern-sentimental point-of-view as reflected in the above paragraph was unconsciously reflecting in my understanding towards the film. Not only applied to the kissing scene, which by now has irked me most as it actually is a very disposable scene, but also the understanding towards the story about the final hours of two suicide bombers. Storytelling wise, it couldn’t be more gripping with some hilarious scenes peppered evenly throughout the film. In particular, the scene where a suicide bomber is making a heartfelt goodbye speech to his mother before he goes on a duty, only to find that his speech is not recorded yet because the camera operator forgets to load the camera with a film.

Yes, folks. Sensing a deviation of talking about the heavy-weight theme of the story, and focusing to the light-scenes-that-matter-most is what I’ve always been aiming at. Again, I’m not in any fair position to discuss the suicide bombing, as I believe that it’d be best left to any political analyst around. What I’d like to believe most is the ability of the film to crack me up in a wide smile once in a while, soon to be replaced with gripping scenes of cat-and-mouse game between the bombers and terrorist groups marching ferociously in the film, and that’s more than enough to keep me glued to my seat.

That concludes that Paradise Now has given me a sheer joy of pure cinematic entertainment.

 
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Posted by on 06/29/2006 in English, Film

 

Superman Returns.

Like any thing we have to make in our lifetime, there’s no formula for success. There’s no pattern to guide us how to make an achievement of, aptly put, being successful. However, one thing that stands out above the rest is the passion.

The passion to treat the subject with a great tender, like carrying your own baby, and develop it well, so that he has a character evolution that also transforms the people around him. They will have their own distinctive characters that make them appear full of flesh, and we are keenly awaiting their appearance every time.

The passion to believe that what you want to achieve is a success, in every aspect, in every target market. While it often deemed almost impossible to bridge a critical and commercial success, remember that miracle does happen. You know you’re taking care of a big name, but remember, by now the big name has grown. You’ll only need to grow it a little higher.

The passion to have a little faith on faces you’ve doubts of pulling the charactes through, yet, once they get a deft direction, they will work wonderfully. That even applies to the villains.

The passion that the legacy lives on.

The passion is what makes Superman Returns.

And he will.

 
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Posted by on 06/28/2006 in English, Film

 

The Dorm.

There are many good things to talk about The Dorm. Apart from the hardly arguable fact that they make the film compelling to watch, they lead to one obvious matter: the film stays away from the horror genre, and plunges to a terrifyingly good dramatic works.

Gone are the mindless, often numbing, creature-filled horror Thai films, which actually revive the film industry in the country to be one of the most sought after in the world. Yet, the director Songyos Sugmakanan, who was also on the board with My Girl a few years back, chooses to follow the path of his fellow comrades whose penchant over crafting a masterful storytelling win over predictable shocking values often way too much to see on any horror films.

Instead, Sugmakanan cleverly presents the film more as a father-and-son story, a theme often reliable to provoke thoughtful minds, like The Return. Indeed, it is interesting how the overall plot is triggered from a coming-of-age endurance the main character has to go through while he is facing obstacles from somewhat a full-of-misunderstanding communication between him and his father. And once we are settled in this dramatic territory, we will forge the temptation to get silly scared over the creepy background, which in many surprising ways, never overwhelms the film’s tender, touching story.

Alas, if we think that Thai film industry is at the brink of overexposed tiresome, perhaps this film in spotlight is a rejuvenating, and outstanding, work the industry should be proud of.

 
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Posted by on 06/26/2006 in English, Film

 

Cut Sleeve Boys

Beauty pageant. Colorful furs and wigs. Steroid bodies. Hunky studs. Fashion equips.

Just every common stereotype labelled to the campiness of gay life is mentioned, we’ve got to see all of them in Cut Sleeve Boys, the title itself refers to a slang, sort of, used to describe gay Asian male in UK. Whereas the premise of cultural clash of East vs. West has been brought up to the big screen through a hardship look (Yasmin), or a bone-tickling manner (East is East, Bend it Like Beckham), here the first-time director Ray Yeung chooses to focus instead on the ‘fabulous’ side of gay, leaving the cultural distinction of the characters being both Asian and gays at the door.

Which means, while the film does an almost knock-out premise, it never takes itself seriously. The film opens with the story of Gavin, a closet gay working menial jobs, who encounters death while involving in a slightly unfavorable sexual intercourse with a stranger. From this point on, the story begins, and we are required to determine ourselves how the death makes an impact to Gavin’s two best friends, Mel and Ash. Their lives as two Asian gays revolve around the listed words right below the title above, and more. Yet, they remain within the jovial side of the chosen life, while the enduring part of their cultural lives remains a yearning for us wanting for more.

As such, who can’t resist watching a maniacal ego man is having a silly catfight with a beauty-pageant-obsessed balding guy? Yet, while its fun lasts for a good an hour and a half, one can’t help looking beyond the horizon as often inserted in a few scenes of the main characters making out with their Caucasian partners: that above every campy life, there’s substance to make everything becomes contentment.

 
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Posted by on 06/24/2006 in English, Film

 

Lentera Merah.

Any afficionados of Asian horror films, particularly from Thailand, will quick to notice that Lentera Merah feels like a second-rate material from the factory. Thus, when Hanung Bramantyo, the director, tries to make the film to be in par with other films from that particular genre grouping, the result is somewhat confusing.

Why so? While it wishes to reach the maturity of thrilling horror, influence of Indonesian-style horror films, as seen on the penultimate scene, bogs down the intention carefully crafted from the beginning of the film. The premise of the film, which revolves around the publication of a campus magazine aiming to reveal nothing but the truth, is intriguing enough, as seldom we see horror and political-themed story match into one. Yet, this plot is twisted into another creature-filled horror films, and instead of beguiling audience with thoughtful lines, the film quickly chooses deus-ex-machina solution, by resoluting the problems through religious intervention.

If that sounds familiar, because it has been used way too many times. While Bramantyo clearly has reduced its presence, yet it has become pivotal enough in the whole structure of the storyline. It might be interesting to see how Bramantyo polishes his future thrilling horror films, if he will make any, because what we get on the film, at least, shows an interesting start.

 
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Posted by on 06/20/2006 in English, Film

 

Stoned!

Who is Brian Jones?
He is one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones in 1962.
Okay, and what made him matter most?
He died at the age of 27, believed to be suffering from overdosed drug and alcohol consumption.
Okay.
Hold on a sec.
You said, ‘believed to be’?

And that’s how the film is intended to be, which also explains why Paddy Considine has a strong presence, despite not being the title role. Playing a supporting character which soon becoming a pivotal one as the story progresses, Considine shows a remarkable intensity that it is always pleasantly intriguing to see him chopping the scenes with his grit. The film relies heavily on him.

Does this mean Stoned fail to capture ‘the wild and wicked world of Brian Jones’, as the secondary title suggests? Stephen Woolley, the director who reportedly spent not less than a decade researching materials for the film, manages to lift the film above any other biopics with too much to tell and too much to show. However, the choice to trace down the remaining days of Jones, with not much activity to show in a big screen, leads the focus seemingly shifting to Considine’s character, leaving Leo Gregory, who gives an equal marvelous performance as Jones, does his acting to his own good.

As such, the film might be less wicked, yet what remains on a big screen is purely nostalgic for those living in the heyday of swinging ‘60s.

 
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Posted by on 06/18/2006 in English, Film

 

Transamerica.

After ‘turning ugly’ has become a major staple for any gorgeous Hollywood actress to impress critics with their acting skills and a sure bet to, at least, get a nod in Academy Awards, soon another trend will emerge: being a transvestite.

Thanks to prosthetic penis and Adam’s apple, these two latest invention in acting make-up will give a chance to any aspiring thespians out there to prove their ability to bring them in within themselves, and we’ll see how far they can go with those tools. But let me hold my reservation and doubt, whether any of them will up to the par set by Felicity Huffman in Transamerica.

Playing as Bree whose days of becoming a complete woman are marred with a life-changing road trip, Huffman is far cry from being a frantic housewife we see weekly on television. Instead, she not only lowers her voice to match a man’s tone, but she goes to letting her character’s ambiguity becomes her drive for every gesture she makes. From flinching when she tries to embrace her son, or fidgetting when a cowboy made a pass on her, these are the moments to show Huffman’s triumphant performance that will surely be remembered for years to come.

As such, deglamorized oneself is a matter of inner strength. That leads to a fine, exemplary performance.

 
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Posted by on 06/17/2006 in English, Film

 

Ekskul.

Excuse me.

The first ten minutes watching Ekskul, I began making this mental note: style-over-content. The stylized editing, the glorified violence, the overwhelming scores, the move has been used in many John Woo’s films, or Quentin’s, and the most recent film that sticks to my mind most is Running Scared by Wayne Kramer.
Call it MTV-style, this is the platform any young filmmakers these days find themselves at their utmost ease. They can show(-off) their apt skills in filmmaking, and that is as far as they go.
Story-telling wise, usually they tend to complicate otherwise simple narrative story, and again, we can see how far Pulp Fiction has influenced filmmakings for the past decade.

For all the influences, the film we observe here may still be trapped under those overwhelming look of a music video taken fresh from MTV. Yet, the same quality actually makes the film gripping enough for one to sit throughout the film, without at once flickering or despising, and this is despite some undeveloped characters, such as the annoying headmistress of the high-school where the story is built, or one particular girl who does not rise beyond glancing empathy look to the main character.

Excuse these few minor undamaging problems, then this film is a thriller for teens worth watching.

 
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Posted by on 06/16/2006 in English, Film

 

The River Queen.

There’s gotta be something about New Zealand and epic.

It seems that in recent years, any films from the country, made in the country, and created by its native residents do have a certain epic quality which make them hard to ignore amidst the crowd of CGI-ridden films in recent years. The sentence actually leads us thinking, what is it with New Zealand filmmakers who can turn otherwise mindless films heavy on visual effects into something of, say, award-winning works?

Peter Jackson gives his emotion to The Lord of The Rings trilogy, and even King Kong is considered one of the greatest dramatic achievements in this time. Andrew Adamson gives a life to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, making the film a pleasant to watch despite the heavy-handed action sequence. Not to be left behind with these two fellow New Zealander, Vincent Ward ambitiously embarks on a project of bringing up a story about a heroine who challenges the race diversion between the white and the Maori tribe in the late 17th century.

The River Queen tells the story of the heroine in a poetic way that often feels like a bridge between Jackson’s usual sweeping action scenes and John Huston’s Western-hearted films. The latter influence could not be more mistaken as the main character, Sarah O’Brien, is given a large portion in handling her emotional conflicts, torn between her Irish heritage, and her enduring motherhood, which eventually led her becoming a Maori herself. The kind of character who faces psychological obstacles in a physical struggle could be played by Humphrey Bogart or Gary Cooper in the past, and this gives Samantha Morton her own edge.

Already known as an actress with skillful talents, Morton gives a daunting performance in such a difficult role like this. Fearless and emotionally naked, she injects the film with her unmistakably commanding presence, making her stands tall above the rest of the cast, as her role is intended her to be. It is simply hard to see anyone else is up to challenges she clearly has gone through in inhibiting her character here.

If only the promotional material is daring enough to put ‘Samantha Morton is The River Queen’.

 
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Posted by on 05/30/2006 in English, Film