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Top Cinema Going Experiences of 2014

I’ve gotta tell you something: I love short movies.
In fact, I love our local short movies.

Having sat through around 500 short films to watch every year for the past 3 years now, there is nothing more exciting to finally see short films now made with big screen viewing in mind. Sure, I’ve worked to grow 21 Short with all its might. But beyond that, short films create a long lasting impression, extended beyond their limited duration.

However, this annual note celebrates feature film as seen on big screen. The above number of short films to assess often gets in the way to enable me writing the note. That, and the endless temptation of American TV series. Goodness, these series keep getting better and better, don’t they? The best dramatic plots for the past 3 years have been found in our living room, or wherever you watch TV series.

Hours will go by easily as we hook on the series. But once in a while, we need to breathe fresh air. A walk to nearby cinema is needed to see other people, strangers, friends, or anyone. It’s good to dress up a bit, even in T-shirt and sneakers just to go to cinema. After all, cinema still matters.

And these films matter to me this year.

In alphabetical order:

1. CAHAYA DARI TIMUR

Date of watching: June 19, 2014

Movie magic does not come very often in Indonesian film. But this film, particularly in the penultimate scenes involving mosques and churches, come very, very close to being a defining one. It still gives me chills as I am typing this while recalling those scenes.

2. CHEF

Date of watching: October 28, 2014

The film proves and shows that heart and passion about anything you love will eventually be reflected in whatever you make. “Chef” Jon Favreau loves good food. He loves people. He loves seeing the good in people, or rather characters, he creates. The result is perhaps the warmest feeling we had in cinema-going experience this year.

3. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Date of watching: April 16, 2014

I could not hold back overflowing emotion that the first Wes Anderson’s film I can see on big screen is his most well-rounded yet. This is his most accessible film so far, and it is easy to see why: the characters feel very human.

4. INTERSTELLAR

Date of watching: November 6, 2014

Love it or loathe it, Christopher Nolan knows how to succumb both his fans and haters together to his world. The film is unmissable. The technical wizardry is used to accommodate his ideas that he is willing to toy with his audiences, something we, as mentioned earlier, either like or be uncomfortable with. But let’s agree on one thing: his film always, and always, deserves a cinematic viewing.

Interstellar (Courtesy of hastagstudios.com)

Interstellar (Courtesy of hastagstudios.com)

5. JALANAN

Date of watching: March 28, 2014

Perhaps this is the most heartfelt tribute to Jakarta on big screen yet. What others fail to capture is the essence of struggle, something the film is proud to wear on its sleeves with genuine laughter and tears. I watched it again in regular screening after the full-house preview, and it held up. A tight editing and a carefully written screenplay allow greater freedom for Daniel Ziv, amazing first time director, to explore the emotions of the three main character we cannot help but love.

6. LOCKE

Date of watching: April 24, 2014

A film like Buried or this one makes a terrific cinema-going experience. We are forced to sit through the entire duration of 90 minutes with one person in real time. Tom Hardy delivers the impossible with crazy intensity, and we cannot help but marvelling at the highly discipline of filmmaking in creating this film. To put it simply, it is unforgettable.

7. THE LOOK OF SILENCE (SENYAP)

Date of watching: November 10, 2014

While The Act of Killing jolts us in shock and surprise, its follow up chooses a different path. The tender and often quiet treatment results in one thing: the film stabs us gently, and before we know, we weep in silence.

8. PK

Date of watching: December 21, 2014

It is not easy to surpass 3 Idiots in terms of being a message movie that is still likeable and entertaining. But the film achieves the impossible feet by choosing risky theme, and present the time as blatantly as possible. Forget subtlety. Banal religious issues, being as it is, should be presented with images and lines that often show the extreme. And it works. And it stays in our mind long after. And it provokes discussion. And it works!

PK (Courtesy of bollywood.celebden.com)

PK (Courtesy of bollywood.celebden.com)

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And for many reasons that the following films are not available in cinemas, either by the time it was shown on big screen I was out of town, or they were not picked by local cinemas for various reasons, they still make impressive viewing memory in me.

Thus, my top films, non-cinema wise, in 2014 are (in alphabetical order):

1. THE LUNCHBOX — my favorite film of the year.

2. THEY CAME TOGETHER

3. DANS LA MAISON

4. LIFE ITSELF

5. GONE GIRL

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

See you next year!

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Posted by on 12/29/2014 in Uncategorized

 

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A Much Treasured eX

Cinemas come and go, but sometimes, there is one among those that holds the most memory in us as a filmgoer.

For me, the place is Studio XXI eX in Jakarta.

 

The four-hall cineplex was the most luxurious cinema when I was in the middle of my permanent shift to town around 9 years ago. I was mesmerized. Never before had I seen high end materials adorning spacious, bright cinema lobby, and I was even more amazed with the seats. Those big, comfortable red seats with wide leg room, so big that we just threw ourselves easily and comfortably as our back rubbed against the soft fabric of the chair.

 

However, beyond the plush experience, it was the moments that make the memories.

 

As I joined Jakarta International Film Festival (JIFFest) a year after I stepped in the eX cinema for the first time, I realized that the year’s festival was actually to be held in the cinema.

We heard complains, we heard praises for the move. Suddenly the festival reached out unassuming mall visitors in addition to regular patrons. The festival that year was one of the most attended editions, and the most fun one for us to organize.

 

The festival began my attachment to the cinema.

As I lived nearby to eX the shopping centre, I always made a point to watch latest films here. Be it on weekday or weekend, be it alone, with friends, or with my then partner, the cinema was the to-go destination. 

Most of the time, I came to the cinema to watch on Saturday night for midnight shows. I remember watching Juno with friends; Dreamgirls, on which we clapped after Jennifer Hudson’s big number; The Tree of Life with a friend on a date, which I’m sure the date was ruined by the absurdity of the film, and many others.

There were some film launching events or premieres, most of the titles I couldn’t remember anymore, but I did recall watching Kala there.

 

This is the cinema where I applied for my first local credit card, the one that comes with buy-1-get-1-free ticket, which is obviously the reason I applied on the first place. It only made more sense then that this is also the cinema where I used the card most often.

 

This is also the cinema where I hardly had any problem with the crowd. Most people may be overtly dressed up to watch films on regular screenings, but be them in casual sneakers or gown, audience were hardly annoying. I don’t remember shushing noisy audience here. Even if I did, they came very few in between.

 

For almost a decade, coming here has become a regular habit. 

 

Then came the news of the cinema closure.

Image.

 

When I read the news yesterday, I could only stare at my phone in silence and disbelief. Another cinema gone, but this time, it’s not an ordinary cinema. 

For the cinema itself, it started as the pioneer of other luxury cinemas in town.

For others, it started the experience of comfort in watching films on big screen.

For me, it started the cinema-going habit in then a new town.

 

I always love cinema, and it always hits me the hardest whenever a cinema is closing down for good.

 

Cinemas come and go, and soon enough, they may be forgotten. 

But sometimes, there is one you will remember the most.

That is a much treasured eX.

 
 
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Posted by on 06/15/2014 in Uncategorized

 

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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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#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?

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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