SID & AYA (NOT A LOVE STORY) (Irene Villamor, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sid and Aya (Not a Love Story):

1. The comparisons between Dingdong Dantes’ privileged, cutthroat stock broker Sid and Leonardo DiCaprio’s hedonistic stock broker Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street would be inevitable, but if anything, Sid reminded me more of Dingdong’s privileged car salesman character in the early 2000s flop Akala Mo… (ellipsis included) with Judy Ann Santos as a lady guard drooling over him.

In one scene, iconic character actor Mandy Ochoa was furious at Dingdong for stealing a customer using only his natural good looks and charm. The same thing happened in this movie when Sid got punched in the face by a colleague for poaching a client. (Why did I remember such petty details? Because my brain preferred to latch on to useless trivia rather than store new knowledge that would make me the next Jordan Belfort.)

2. I had never been a fan of Dingdong and his constipated acting, especially since he would always use the exact same glare whether he was surprised for being caught cheating, frustrated for getting turned down on a possible kitchen counter sex, or just pretending to be downright scary as an abusive lover. One of my happiest Christmas seasons was when he won Best Actor in the MMFF for Segunda Mano because I was laughing every day all the way through Three Kings.

After watching him play the arrogant yet sympathetic Sid, I could actually hear him say “Fuck you no-name feeling critic! Look for MY name in next year’s Urian nominees.” Yes, he was that good here. He had me at “Sino ba ang gagong ito?” and made this entire Black Swan theory of Taleb worth pondering upon. Weirdly enough, said theory worked on the premise of “may mga pangyayaring di inaasahan mangyari na magbabago ng lahat”.

(Side note: Anne Curtis also had a children’s book called Anita the Duckling Diva so I guess lapitin silang dalawa sa ibon talaga.)

3. “Napakaraming kupal sa mundo” would actually apply to people who would have the gall to say that they could easily relate to Sid, so I guess I would be the ultimate kupal. All the sleepless nights of discontentment, all the feelings of worthlessness even at the peak of success, the emptiness, the search for life’s meaning. What struck me the most was when he said “Sino ba ang hindi malungkot? Sino ba ang hindi galit sa mundo? Isang pitik, isang maling sagi, sasabog ka bigla.” When he mentioned the history of depression and suicide in his family, I actually expected it to play a big part in his story (one of the early shots was an overhead view of his condo’s balcony and I really thought it hinted that he would eventually jump off the building). I guess this was Not a Netflix Series as well.

4. Magaling na talaga mag-Filipino si Anne. Struggling slang-speaking actors that want to make it big in local showbiz should learn a thing or two from her. As Aya, she was just the right amount of Pinoy manic pixie dream girl who would brutally call Sid out (“Sobrang lungkot mo naman para magbayad ka ng kausap”) or tease him even while her heart was breaking (“Kung tumaya ako sa‘yo, ikaw naman ang masasaktan”).

Her best scene was when she was trying to hold back her tears after Sid revealed his plans to propose to his real girlfriend. I wanted to give her a hug while whispering in her ear, “Bakit di mo sinunod yung sinabi mo dati sa No Other Woman na ‘You can kiss me, but don’t you dare fall in love with me’ ang gaga nito!”.

(Also, congratulations to her glam team because she looked absolutely gorgeous in every single frame.)

5. There was a moment where Sid and Aya were staring at an aquarium-like screen with dazzling moving visuals and it would probably be the most memorable one in this film. My second favorite was when a flurry of umbrellas started moving in Shibuya Crossing. Ganda! Great soundtrack, too.

6. My OC side kept wondering about the schedules of Aya and how she was able to sustain her multiple jobs (barista at The Grind, laundry shop lady, Stardome princess at Star City, part-time escort). I knew she desperately needed the money for her father’s operation, but how did she find time to sleep? Was that why we never really saw her eat or take a shower?

7. While Aya’s co-worker wondered if Sid’s longganisa was Vigan or Lucban, I was curious to know why Dingdong’s left nipple was so close to his armpit even if he was sleeping on his right side. (Petty details, you have been warned.)

8. I was shocked when Sid’s boss (Gabby Eigenmann) was bragging about him and mentioned “To the best fucker I know… and I mean that literally.” Omg pano nya alam? Does that mean…???

9. For a supposed non-love story, it was actually very much like a love story. Even the ending couldn’t hold back on the requisite happy twist of fate. If it had chosen to go all (500) Days of Summer instead, I really wouldn’t complain.

10. “The things that we love will eventually kill us.” Definitely the reason why I no longer watch movies in Festival Mall’s crumbling cinemas.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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I, TONYA (Craig Gillespie, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I, Tonya:

1. Very much like Tonya Harding, I had always used my asthma as an excuse to get out of any sport requiring physical contact (or just about any sport really). Maybe that was the reason why I never had any interest in basketball or baseball or soccer, not even volleyball. Although I watched a little bit of tennis, the events that made me switch channels from HBO to ESPN involved gymnastics (more artistic than rhythmic) and figure skating (ladies’ singles mostly).

There was just a certain level of excitement while waiting for these tumbling and spinning girls to properly stick their landing. For me, these two were the only things that made the quadrennial Olympics worth watching (plus diving, but for different reasons obviously).

2. My favorite figure skater of all time would have to be Michelle Kwan since she was able to perfectly merge the technical and artistic requirements of the sport (her signature spirals were to die for!). I also loved her personality and would never forget her inspirational line when she ended up second in Nagano (“I didn’t lose the gold. I won the silver!”).

My other favorite would be Surya Bonaly, the infamous bad girl of skating who would always raise a middle finger to the judges with her illegal, signature backflip. Will & Grace actually had an episode devoted to her and it was one of the funniest in the series.

3. Which brings me to the villains of figure skating, the women that I really hated and secretly wished that they would land on their butts after their salchows and axels. One would be Tara Lipinski, who never did anything bad really except that I found her incredibly annoying. The other would be convicted felon Harding, who was definitely involved in the kneecapping of close competitor Nancy Kerrigan.

4. I still remember that incident like it was yesterday, the images of a wailing Nancy breaking my heart into pieces. So I was really surprised when that exact same scene was recreated here and my reaction was… a giggle. I knew that I was going straight to hell because of that, but it was just too hard not to let out a guilty reaction when it was played for laughs and it was detestably, weirdly funny.

Maybe that was the entire point of this “irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true” story. It wanted to change the perception that Harding wasn’t just the spoiled diva that whined about her loose skates in Lillehammer, that she was also a victim of circumstances and had no involvement in the crime. I never believed any second of this film, but it successfully made me cry. And laugh. A lot. And full of guilt.

5. Most of its success relied on the phenomenal, career-defining performance of Margot Robbie. She looked nowhere near the real Harding (and reminded me more of Jamie Pressly), but she made the character more understandable. You could see her motives and weaknesses and how some of her faulty choices were due to an overbearing mother and a troubled marriage (that included domestic violence). It was very much like watching Black Swan on ice, except that only the star’s career died in the end.

This woman blamed everything from puberty to her faulty laces for all the disappointments in her life, and yet I still felt an ounce of sympathy for her. Again, a pure testament to Robbie’s acting. Her courtroom scene alone when she learned the verdict that she was banned from skating again was simply heartbreaking (“I’d rather do the jail time!”). Feeling bad for a criminal? A testament to the power of this film.

6. “Behind every successful woman is a pushy mother” had never been more true. As Harding’s mother, Allison Janney was vicious, despicable, and relatable to any Asian kid that had a Tiger mom. I was thankful that I didn’t have to pee in my pants because my mother didn’t allow any bathroom breaks during my karate lessons and I never had a knife thrown at me for talking back at her, but I knew exactly where LaVona Golden was coming from (her line of “Oh please! Show me a family that doesn’t have their ups and downs” after that knife scene was a killer.) She even actually complained directly at the camera (so many breaking the fourth wall moments here!) with “Well, my storyline is disappearing. What the fuck?!”. How could you completely hate her (bird on shoulder and all)?

7. Whenever Harding would compare herself to some of the most popular people (“I was the second most known person in the world next to Bill Clinton!”, “I was the Charles Barkley of figure skating!”), I was reminded of the same delusions of grandeur displayed by Nicole Kidman as Suzanne Stone in the equally wicked To Die For. (Go watch!!)

8. I really liked how this was so loving and brutal at the sport as well. One judge said something like this to Harding, “It’s never been entirely about skating. You’re not the image we want to represent” and I realized how unfair the scores could be to these athletes. Judged for your personality and not just your performance? They never had this problem in basketball.

Rating: ★★★★★

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Bill Condon, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Beauty and the Beast:

1. Similar to A Second Chance, this live action remake of the classic Disney movie was completely harmless and unnecessary. Lower your pitchforks (or eyebrows), please. Inasmuch as I’m sure you would want to launch into your own glorious rendition of Kill the Beast right about now, hear me out first.

The movie was satisfactory. The cast was mostly fine. The new songs were generally okay (although a tad forgettable). Bring your kids (or your inner kid at heart) and wallow in the amazing feeling of nostalgia.

Just never forget that you’re watching a film directed by the same person that most recently gave us The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Parts 1 and 2. (Fade to black.)

2. I never expected a shot-by-shot remake of the cartoon, but I also didn’t see the need for forty additional minutes of filler to explain the stories behind the Prince’s bad behaviour, Belle’s dead mother, and the Enchantress’ double life in the village, among others. You could immediately feel the difference as soon as this one started with the stained glass sequence in the original losing its storybook effect by having the Prince in full Black Swan make-up partying like Lindsay Lohan on a Friday night.

Even with all the back stories, it still wasn’t able to justify why the poor servants had to be included in the curse (and no Mrs. Potts, indirect negligence of an abused child was not reason enough for such a cruel punishment). I did like the explanation on why nobody really bothered checking on the castle post-curse and that was achieved through one line of narration.

3. If anything, this version posed even more questions:

• Given these recent historical revisionisms regarding inventors (read up on Bell vs Meucci haller!), should we assume that Belle actually created the first washing machine? Also, whatever happened to those bedsheets that she tied up for her planned escape?

• Who was that toothless piano (played by Stanley Tucci)? Was he part of the Broadway production (I swear I couldn’t remember that character in the cartoon)? Also, why wasn’t Mrs. Potts talking out of her spout? She ended up looking more inanimate here.

• If her mother really loved roses, then why was she even named Belle? Why not Rose or Rosita or Rosa? (So happy my mom was never fond of champaka.)

• Speaking of, when she brought back that rose heirloom and gave it to Maurice, wouldn’t that make him patient zero for another bubonic plague/outbreak?

4. Sorry bashers, but Emma Watson actually had a decent singing voice (regardless of Auto-Tune). My concern though was that she still acted very much like Hermione in a grand Hogwarts production of Beauty and the Beast. I even had lots of fun imitating her very British accent in provincial France (“Puh-paww!!”, “That’s ab-suhd!”).

The bigger surprise here was Luke Evans, a perfect casting choice for Gaston (no one even falls like Gaston!). I loved every moment he had with LeFou (played by Josh Gad, who should be in every Disney movie moving forward).

5. Poll question of the day: Did you like Dan Stevens as the Beast? Or more accurately, was he the Prince that you were expecting? Some people (cough, cough) wanted to kill me for laughing during the big reveal post-Beast transformation. My reaction was more of “Ehh” and I wanted it to be more of “Huwow!”. It certainly was no Devon Sawa moment in Casper.

I could understand Dan’s charms in a Benedict Cumberbatch way, but I really expected someone conventionally great-looking. Given the extensive use of motion capture in his Beast performance, he could have been replaced by Andy Serkis (yup, Gollum) and they could have gotten someone physically resembling Prince Charming.

6. When Belle ran up the hill and the camera started swirling around her, did the Sound of Music theme play in your head as well?

7. One of my favorite lines in the movie was from Plumette: “I grew three more feathers and I just plucked yesterday.” Story of my life right there.

8. Where was the openly gay character in the movie? A couple of people asked me if this was appropriate for kids, especially since the issue had been blown out of proportion. Fear not parents, there was no gay kissing or gay sex scene (this was still a Disney film after all).

Actually, there wasn’t even any mention of a character being out and proud. If anything, this should open up a whole new discussion on how Disney’s milking the gay uproar (vis a vis them proudly proclaiming the inclusion of a gay character) when there was none to begin with.

Everything pertaining to homosexuality was actually played for laughs (even that controversial blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dance). That was even more disappointing than the states and countries that banned the movie. Where was the hyped progressivism, Disney?

9. Be Our Guest was my favorite sequence in the original and it felt a bit messy here (even more distracting in 3D/4DX with the constant seat movements and excessive flashing lights). The iconic dance scene was fine (hearing the wonderful theme did give me serious goosebumps) and I kinda liked the yellow dress even if it resembled the Halloween version being sold in Toy Kingdom. But why did they have to remove the romantic dinner? I also missed the swoon-worthy scenes of her blatantly teaching him how to dance and putting her head on his hairy chest. All we got here were those excessive shots of low-hanging chandeliers. Hay.

10. This movie still begged that age-old question though: Is it superficial if a woman falls for a man with a huge, uhm, library?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

BLACK SWAN (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

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I have to admit that I wasn’t too impressed when I initially saw this movie. I just didn’t buy the whole psychological thriller meets high camp meets horror movie. I wasn’t even rooting for Natalie Portman to win the Best Actress Oscar.

Repeated viewings definitely changed my perception. I now love every minute of this film, every detail that went in each scene, and of course the excellent performance of Portman.

It was indeed perfect.

Rating: 5/5