BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance):

1. I had always associated Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu with the intersecting stories narrative where major characters in his films had their lives connected and intertwined (FYI, I really loved Amores Perros, Babel, and 21 Grams). It was one big gimmick that worked for me. I wasn’t surprised that his newest film relied on another gimmick (“one long continuous take”) to drive the story.

2. Off the bat, people would either love this or find it completely boring. There were so many insider jokes on cinema and theater and the arts that might just go over their heads. As one character stated, “Audiences love action, not this talking philosophical bullshit.”

3. Michael Keaton looked like Robert Duvall whenever he wasn’t wearing a wig. He was excellent here by the way. The mere fact that he agreed to make fun of his current status (washed up actor who used to be Batman!) was just brave. If Al Pacino could win for all the scenery-chewing in Scent of a Woman, why couldn’t Keaton? I wouldn’t be complaining if he got that Best Actor Oscar.

4. “You confuse love for admiration.” Raise your hand if you were guilty of this.

5. Edward Norton had a lot of nudity here (or scenes that showed him in his underwear or sported a boner). For a more lengthy peek on his gift, you could watch the brilliant American History X. I loved the Norton the Method Actor playing a Norton-ish Method Actor joke.

6. I was initially bothered by the drumming soundtrack. I was expecting Miles Teller to show up practicing in one corner. And then the movie revealed an actual drummer and later on a band in Times Square. I guess the joke was on me.

7. Naomi Watts’ character had this great repartee with Andrea Riseborough’s:

“Why don’t I have any self-respect?”

“You’re an actress, honey!”

8. Speaking of Watts, she was really good in this movie. I was surprised her performance was virtually overlooked against co-star Emma Stone. Everyone knew how much I loved Stone (I even named my car after her) but she was just fine here.

9. Speaking of, there was a blatant Lancome product placement that was here either as a real product placement or as a joke on product placements in movies (or both). With this kind of dark comedy, it was just hard to tell.

10. Similar to Annie, they showed a viral video that was taken from different angles. Probably the only sloppy thing in this film.

11. Did the film miss an Oscar nomination for Best Editing since it really looked like one continuous take? Shouldn’t it have gotten one for making it look like it was one brilliant, seamless take?

12. When Keaton’s character complained about getting overshadowed by Clooney, it was just a wink on the battle of the Batmans. I’d be happy to see a fourth Batman win an Oscar tbh.

13. I hope Wenn Deramas could watch this just for that wonderful takedown on film criticism. I bet he’d have a major meltdown.

14. “A thing is a thing, not what is said of the thing.” This was a sad, sad film. Watch at your own risk.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published February 1, 2015.)

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HONEYMOON (Leigh Janiak, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Honeymoon:

1. Bear rugs look creepy. I’m freaked out whenever I see any rug that still has the head of an animal. Any movie with a scene involving a bear rug instantly gives me the chills.

2. Simply put, it was about a couple that went to a cabin in the woods for their honeymoon. Ooh, Cabin in the Woods. It’s time for a rewatch.

3. The story was very predictable down to its anticlimactic ending. From the moment they showed the happy couple on video discussing their wonderful future ahead, I already knew their relationship was doomed. This is exactly how bitter people think.

4. Leisurely-paced would be an understatement. A chunk of the movie was just exposition with minutes spent on the tour of the cabin, the couple’s activities, honeymoon discussions, and lots of pawing. I still enjoyed the ride, though.

5. The lead actress looked like a B-movie Emma Stone. Definitely not a bad thing considering that some of the popular Hollywood stars couldn’t even pass for a C-movie Emma Stone. Oh yes, I’m in love with Emma Stone.

6. Red herring, red herring, red herring. Didn’t throw me off one bit.

7. Everything was going fine until we got close to the big reveal and the husband started saying: “You have her toes. You have her knees. You taste the same. Blah blah blah. But you’re not my wife!” How stupid was this character?

8. One scene involving what looked like an umbilical cord with a wriggling scorpion’s tail being pulled out of the girl’s vajayjay was repulsive and a delight to watch. It was that kind of weird.

9. The rest of the people that watched obviously hated the movie, especially the bizarre ending. “Ano yun? Walang kwenta!” The fact that everyone wanted a refund since they barely understood the final scene made me like it even more. I demand a sequel!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 9, 2015.)

THE IMMIGRANT (James Gray, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Immigrant:

1. Marion Cotillard’s performance in La Vie en Rose is still my most favorite Oscar-winning acting piece ever. And that’s coming from the biggest Kate Winslet fan. She just makes these things look easy.

2. Cotillard elevated this run-of-the-mill melodrama with her sympathetic turn as the destitute turned prostitute Ewa Cybulski. Sometimes though, all the movie needed was a voiceover from dear Ate Charo.

3. One of my favorite scenes here was when she didn’t know how to eat a banana and just chomped on one, peel and all.

4. This was set in the early 1920’s and yet the same immigration problems still exist. I don’t think I’d ever resort to prostitution if I were denied entry in the US but the thought of not seeing Emma Stone perform in the last few shows of Cabaret might make me reconsider.

5. Here’s a tip I learned from the film: prick your finger and dab some blood on your lips, then slap your cheeks three times on each side. The finished product will either make you look like a gorgeous Oscar winner or a bloodied version of your ugly self.

6. If you were a desperate whore, would you choose your ruthless pimp or a romantic magician? They had weird love stories in the olden times.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 6, 2015.)

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (Woody Allen, 2014)

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MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (Woody Allen, 2014) – ★★★☆☆

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Magic in the Moonlight:

1. The French Riviera looked gorgeous. I loved the color palette of the movie. Every scene was picture-postcard perfect.

2. The font reminded so much of American Horror Story. Sadly, Jessica Lange didn’t show up.

3. Colin Firth played a snarkier version of Mr. Darcy. How could he make these British snobs still look lovable?

4. With all these generic predictions on what’s in store for 2015, this film about a possibly fraudulent clairvoyant just seemed so timely. Babagyo, lilindol, may artistang mamamatay, may artistang mabubuntis. Really? It’s like they have ESPN or something.

5. Emma Stone in 1920’s flapper dresses looked too cute. She had one scene where she was cross-eyed that really cracked me up. Naming my car after her was one of my best decisions in life ever.

6. “How can you eat so much? We just had lunch.” Story of my life right there.

7. Stanley (Firth) said that “one of the cardinal rules of magic is the magician must never repeat his trick because sooner or later one begins to notice the move and he’s caught”. It spoke so much about these Woody Allen comedies. As long as I was temporarily enchanted though, I wouldn’t be complaining.

8. Stone and Firth were great in this film but they were just not bagay. How could I root for their love story?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 3, 2018.)

BATTLE OF THE SEXES (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, 2017)

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Tennis was one of the very few sports that I actually cared about and watched live on TV, but I hadn’t seen a complete match since the heydays of my favorite player Michael Chang. While other kids my age were enjoying the (fake) entertainment of wrestling (then WWF), I was enthralled by all the drama on the tennis courts with Andre Agassi as the villain that I loved to hate.

The historic battle between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the early 70s was way before my time and probably even before our family had an actual television. I didn’t know the result of that event and it was a testament to this film’s strengths that I almost chewed off all of my cuticles while watching them play against each other (even the old women around me were cheering loudly like we were at a Bingo Bonanza).

I felt sad at the thought that Emma Stone hit her peak during Easy A, but her performance here was definitely her best so far (yes, even better than her Oscar-winning one in La La Land). She had this one locker room scene where her character completely broke down in tears and you could actually feel the exact same weight of the world on her shoulders (the pressure of being a female tennis player demanding equal pay, the confusion on her troubled lovelife and its possible effects on her career, etc.). That red A embroidered on Olive Penderghast’s left boob definitely meant Actress.

Some people might not like this film for being a cheesy inspirational biopic (one gay character consoled a lesbian player with the thought that someday they could come out in the open and people would embrace them for what they really were) or for being terribly one-sided (male chauvinist pig vs hairy-legged feminist!), but I still enjoyed it and it brought me the exact same joy as watching Monica Seles defeat Steffi Graf in the French Open. Go underdogs!

Rating: ★★★★☆

LA LA LAND (Damian Chazelle, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on La La Land:

1. One character in this film probably summed up my entire viewing experience of this oftentimes joyous homage to classic Hollywood musicals: “How are you going to be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist?”

Damien Chazelle (who also directed Whiplash, one of the best of 2014) concocted such a nostalgic fantasy world that easily razzle dazzled the audience and made them forget that they were basically watching the same old romance tropes (why am I mentioning romance like it’s a dirty word?). I think Billy Flynn in Chicago said it best with “How can they see with sequins (or in this case, thousands of stars?) in their eyes?”.

2. The “Another Day of Sun” opening sequence was such a delight to watch that it was hard for me not to stomp my feet along with it. Wouldn’t it be great if people suddenly burst into an all-out song and dance production number while stuck in EDSA rush hour traffic? Besides, your obnoxious soulmate might just be right there in the next Tas Trans bus.

3. I named my current car after Emma Stone so my love for her was unquestionable. It would also be out of love for me to say that she was great here as struggling actress Mia (the first audition scene when she was rudely interrupted for a sandwich was heartbreaking), except when she was required to sing. Her voice was just too weak (thin? airy?) and it hobbled what could have been a brilliant showstopper with “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. (This song sounded like “The Rainbow Connection” while “A Lovely Night” reminded me so much of Frank Sinatra’s “Cheek to Cheek”.)

4. Ryan Gosling as Sebastian was just as charming and had the right amount of smarm, like he was the better person simply for being a jazz enthusiast. He actually looked like he was literally dying of embarrassment while playing A-ha’s “Take On Me”. His fingers were a bit stiff during the piano scenes, but he fared much better vocally. Also, could someone teach me how to whistle that “City of Stars” piece?

5. When J.K. Simmons stormed out of the kitchen to fire Gosling, I actually thought that he would throw a ladle at him and scream, “Not quite my tempo!!”. (Seriously, if you hadn’t seen Whiplash, watch it now!!)

6. Passion, hard work, and the sacrifices made to realize your dreams. Different priorities, different outlooks. Long-distance relationships (“My aunt used to live in Paris…”) rarely worked. Why must life be so cruel?

7. The seasons as metaphors for their relationship status and even the bench break-up scene reminded me so much of (500) Days of Summer. On the other hand, the coffee shop scenes were very Bituing Walang Ningning. I loved the newly-transformed Dorina Pineda vibe she gave when she walked in five years later to get her latte. Uwian na, may nanalo na.

8. That alternate reality sequence would probably go down as the ultimate hopia moment of 2016.

9. Much had been said about the bittersweet ending complete with their longing looks (disappointment? regret? hope? acceptance? closure?) and it probably would have been more poignant if I didn’t see it first in Olivia Lamasan’s The Mistress.

Rating: ★★★★☆

EASY A (Will Gluck, 2010)

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Emma Stone is a star and in a cast where everyone seems to fit their roles to a tee (Amanda Bynes as the Bible-thumping beeyotch, Thomas Haden Church as the professor of reason, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as the coolest parents on Earth), she still manages to outshine everyone.

It may be hard to believe that someone as lovely (and hot!) is considered a loser at school but she plays the part perfectly that you end up sympathizing with her character. Credit goes to the smart screenplay as well making this the funniest teen movie since Mean Girls.

I’m so happy Emma dropped out of Sucker Punch for this.

Rating: 4/5