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.)

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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (Ang Lee, 1995)

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Marianne: “Can he love her? Can the soul really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn, to be on fire. Like Juliet, or Guinevere, or Eloise.”

Mrs. Dashwood: “Well, they met rather pathetic ends, dear.”

Marianne: “Pathetic? To die for love? How can you say so? What could be more glorious?”

I am such a Marianne whenever it comes to life and love, with romantic sensibilities and emotions always overtaking reason and restraint. And the fact that her character was played by the brilliant Kate Winslet (faney alert!) was just the cherry on top.

This is definitely one of my all-time favorite films from one of my all-time favorite directors. The divine English cast (Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones, Elizabeth Spriggs, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, etc.) was such a treat to watch.

Thompson won an Oscar for this smart and funny adaptation and if you’re still doubting her acting/writing talent, just Google her 1996 Golden Globe Best Screenplay speech.

Rating: ★★★★★

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (Hany Abu-Assad, 2017)

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If there was one thing I learned from Titanic, it was that I would never want to get stuck in a life-or-death situation (especially in an icy location) with Kate Winslet. The survival rate would most probably be slim to none. Unless of course this were Alive and she would serve as my dinner.

Although the movie started off well with a terrifying plane crash that would make one hold off any travel plans for the next month, it turned into a confused survival drama slash bland romance that felt like an eternity to sit through (with the cheesiest ending straight out of Star Cinema).

The performances by Winslet and Idris Elba were fine, but I didn’t really care much for their characters. A stray cougar could have feasted on them and it really wouldn’t have mattered. All I wanted was to see that adorable dog survive this awful tragedy (the crash, not the movie).

All the beautiful snow here reminded me so much of the first time I visited Iowa armed with only a light jacket. My body was so used to jabar that when the temperature dropped below zero, I gradually turned purple and my panicked American boss wanted to rush me to the nearest ER. I feel you, Jack Dawson.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

COLLATERAL BEAUTY (David Frankel, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Collateral Beauty:

1. The movie started with Will Smith (as Howard, an advertising executive) delivering a supposedly empowering and emotional speech to his team (“We all long for love, wish for more time, and fear death”), but said message closely resembled the coffee commercial asking us “Para kanino ka bumabangon?”. I actually expected him to take a sip of Nescafe after every dramatic pause. How could advertising illuminate other people’s lives if we’re dealt the same treacly platitudes?

2. Trauma caused by the death of a loved one should be a gold mine for emotional manipulation (nothing wrong with it, if executed properly). Instead, the movie decided to be a dark comedy where Howard’s co-workers slash friends hired professional actors to play abstract characters (Love, Time, and Death) that interacted with him and made him appear all sorts of crazy. Some friends, no?

3. I liked how the movie raised the discussion on bereavement hallucinations. Maybe this could help explain all the ghost stories of loved ones visiting us days after their death. Or why I would imagine a giant KFC chicken on our dining table Temptation Island-style whenever I would go on these unsuccessful New Year’s resolution diets.

4. One character mentioned that “casting is very important” and it couldn’t be more true in this one. Without Smith, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren, among others, this probably would have been a Christmas TV movie on Lifetime.

5. Speaking of Mirren, she performed a holiday miracle here by making the most out of a thankless role (“It turns out Death was an elderly white woman.”). Her character kept complaining that she should have played all the parts and at some points, I actually wished she did.

6. As a huge Winslet fan, I had always been fascinated with her wobbly American accent and her waterloo was always the word “absurd”. I swear, check out her other films.

7. I think my eyes rolled out of their sockets in the scene where Howard described the experience of seeing his newborn daughter with “I looked at her and I realized I wasn’t feeling love, I have become love.” Another reason why I would never be a father.

8. The digital manipulation done on Howard’s breakdown videos must have cost these characters a fortune. Surely, there were better and more cost-efficient options.

9. Twist after (predictable) twist that didn’t really matter. Everything felt inauthentic down to the buckets of tears that flowed in every other scene. Boo hoo indeed.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

TITANIC (James Cameron, 1997)

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Sure it was hokey and the screenplay (Jack! Rose! Jack!! Rose!!) was rightfully snubbed by the Academy Awards but fourteen years later and the movie had not aged one bit. What other film could satisfy a Discovery/History channel geek and a hopeless romantic?

The additional dimension further elevated the beauty onscreen (the underwater scenes, the gorgeous costumes, a nude Kate Winslet) and it was even more fun to relive the magic and spectacle. I could watch this over and over in any format without even noticing the three hour running time.

It was nothing short of magnificent. It was movie-making at its finest. (Yes, I’m a fan. Haters can continue to hate.)

Rating: 5/5