THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Martin Scorsese, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Wolf of Wall Street:

1. I’m surprised McConaughey’s not getting any Oscar buzz for this movie. That 7-min restaurant aria was just brilliant.

2. I had a smile plastered on my face the entire time.

3. Sex, drugs, profanity. I’m just waiting for the violence to experience a full-blown Scorsese film.

4. DiCaprio’s basically playing a version of himself. No wonder he’s so great here. Probably his best performance to date.

5. I bet a lot of guys will envy that lighted red candle. LOL!

6. That cerebral palsy phase scene has to be one of the funniest I’ve seen all year. Who knew Leo can do great slapstick? Give him an Oscar.

7. Jonah Hill is slowly becoming one of my favorite actors. He does really great work in these intelligent movies.

8. I’m going out and buying the soundtrack.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published January 16, 2014.)

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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: ★★★☆☆

AROUND THE WAY GIRL: A MEMOIR (Taraji P. Henson, Denene Millner, 2016)

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In the 2016 Golden Globes where she won Best Actress in a Drama Series, Taraji P. Henson went full Cookie Lyon mode upon the announcement of her name. She spontaneously grabbed a handful of complimentary cookies from her table and started handing them out to everyone including Lady Gaga and Leonardo DiCaprio. She feigned an attitude when an usher accidentally stepped on her gown (“Get off my train!”) and said a mouthful when asked to wrap up her speech (“I waited twenty years for this, you’re gonna wait!”).

In this squeaky-clean memoir, it was obvious that the real Taraji wasn’t too far off from her beloved onscreen persona (less the crack and jail time, of course). It actually gave us a glimpse of all the hardships that she faced as a black kid growing up in a troubled home and how it shaped her into becoming a strong and successful woman of color in Hollywood.

Although admirable for its honesty, this book didn’t really strive to be more than inspirational. The later chapters skimped on her interesting life in showbiz. Where were the juicy details? Why was the best part about Squad Goals only a few pages long? It was also odd that everything in her life seemed to be very much like the films she made (and did we really need a synopsis of Baby Boy and Hustle & Flow every time they were mentioned?).

Hopefully her next book would be more “You want Cookie’s nookie? Ditch the bitch!”. Bring it, Taraji!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

 

THE VISIT (M. Night Shyamalan, 2015)

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My notes on The Visit:

1. I had some serious doubts about this film because of two things: a) it used the no longer novel shaky cam/found footage style that was only scary because of the migraine that it might cause, and b) it was directed by then genius filmmaker turned gimmick auteur M. Night Shyamalan.

I could still remember the sight of Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel kissing in a field of swirling pollens to save their lives from (spoiler alert!!) the deadly greenhouse effect in The Happening. Yes, it was a tree-hugging horror movie that Leonardo DiCaprio would probably be endorsing soon. I was so mad that I wanted to take revenge on nature and eat a bowl of salad after watching all that awfulness.

(And then he made the execrable The Last Airbender and I promised that I would never pay to see his movies again. I lied. I still watched After Earth. In love and in movies, I just never learned.)

2. The premise was so simple and ordinary and maybe that was what made it more scary. Two kids (Becca and Tyler) were sent to live with Nana and Pop Pop, the grandparents they had never met, for a week as part of Becca’s documentary. They followed the normal house rules (curfew at 9:30pm, never go to the basement, eat all you want, have fun and enjoy) and everything was going fine until the oldies started displaying some unusual and disturbing behavior (read: screaming nonsense, crawling around the house at night like an animal, projectile vomiting, you know, the usual stuff that grandparents do).

3. After watching countless horror movies (both good and bad), I had grown immune to the scare factor. No amount of limping ladies that never had a haircut or crying ghosts or monsters lurking under the bed could easily scare me. I was pleasantly surprised with the goosebumps moments in this one, especially since these were real people. If it happened to them, it could easily happen to us (and by us, I meant me), too. I swear after this, I would probably freak out if I see my grandmother holding a kitchen knife.

4. Even with all the lingering strangeness, there were still a lot of funny scenes because of the playfulness of the kids. I loved how Tyler (played by the amazing Ed Oxenbould) was a germaphobe, thus further lowering his survival rate, and how he would use the names of singers as curse words (Shakira! Shania Twain! Sarah MacLachlan!!). My favorite bit was when he saw Nana naked and scratching the walls and he still had time to joke (“I’m blind!!”).

5. The biggest concern with these found footage films was that the characters didn’t drop the camera even in the face of danger and this was no exception. The kids were chased everywhere and they still needed to record everything. Why?! (Oh, otherwise there wouldn’t be any movie.)

6. If you live with your grandparents or if you’re planning to visit them soon, here are some questions that might help you decide if you should watch this one:

a) Has any of them ever asked if you mind getting inside the oven to clean it?
b) Do your grandparents not use a mirror since they’re too scared of their reflection?
c) Have there been instances of them rocking in a chair while laughing hysterically?
d) Do they stand quietly outside your door at night?

Now you decide.

7. Would it be a big spoiler if I told you that since this was a Shyamalan movie, there would be a big twist at the end? Really?! How many Shyamalan movies have you seen? Anyway, this one crumbled a bit after the big reveal, but it was still worth the ride.

8. Lesson of the day: “Shit does not taste like chicken.”

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

THE REVENANT (Alejandro G. Iñarritu, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Revenant:

1. Let me begin by saying that I do not hate Leonardo DiCaprio. If anything, I have loved him since he died of hypothermia in my all-time favorite movie Titanic. I would be more than happy to see him finally win an Oscar especially with his level of commitment in every role. So when I say that I wasn’t completely impressed with his crawling and grunting (sorry, I meant acting) in this movie, it’s all coming from a place of love (like a father telling his son that a B+ in Art won’t cut it because he is a straight-A student).

2. Leo has done much better work in his past films (Wolf of Wall Street, Revolutionary Road, Catch Me If You Can) and although some of these roles also required a certain level of intensity, he didn’t really go overboard in any of them. All of his acting tics were in full display in this movie that it bordered on camp (I pictured Christopher de Leon in his late 90’s movies: nostrils flaring, mouth frothing, full-on kunot-noo acting). Sure, Leo was in pain all-throughout and had his throat slashed so he couldn’t do much except moan, but his performance really didn’t work for me. For the record, he even crawled much better in the Wolf scene when he was loaded with Quaaludes.

3. But enough about him, let’s discuss the movie with its beautiful flowing waters, picturesque snowcapped mountains, and perfectly lit images that I just wanted to screencap and use as my phone’s wallpaper. If anyone here is deserving of an Oscar, it would definitely be Emmanuel Lubezki (whom I loved since A Little Princess and is on track to get his third consecutive Best Cinematography Award). He could win all of the awards every year and I wouldn’t be complaining.

4. After seeing everything that happened to Leo in this movie, I have further lowered camping on my bucket list. It was a miracle that he survived all of these: mauled by a bear, fell off a cliff, drowned in rapids, cauterized his throat wound, traveled through a harsh winter landscape, fell off a higher cliff, and slept naked inside a dead horse (this didn’t even include all the shooting). His wounds also magically healed in a matter of hours and days (although there were some juju involved, including a soil spa that worked wonders on his deep lacerations) and even with a twisted ankle, he was running in full speed after a night’s rest.

I therefore conclude that Leo is Superman and I now need further proof that he really froze to death in Titanic.

5. Was it just me or was the dubbing really bad for the Indian characters? The sounds didn’t match the movements of the mouth at all.

6. Leo ate a live fish and that was fine because I love sushi, but I wondered why he ate the raw bison meat when there was a lot of fire around him. I’m just thankful that I haven’t been that hungry.

7. I pitied all the horses that were killed in this movie. Gunshots, arrows, and cliff-diving. I hope they had insurance. The horse that was also used as a transient house should have charged rent.

8. Ate Vi’s final scene in Ekstra >>> Leo’s final scene in The Revenant

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE DANISH GIRL (Tom Hooper, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Danish Girl:

1. Much has been said about Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in The Revenant but I still maintain that Eddie Redmayne was last year’s best actor. His portrayal of Einar Wegener turned Lili Elbe was nothing short of spectacular. Every blink of an eye, flick of a finger, and point of the toes revealed the longing of a woman trapped inside a man’s body desperately wanting to break free. It transcended impersonation (which he did brilliantly as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything) and became a full-fledged transformation.

You may not win the Oscar this year my dear freckle-faced Eddie, but you are getting my Gushing Fan Best Actor Award (and with the current state of our local awards, this actually is more valuable than a Star Award or Famas).

2. I was too lazy to check Google but do raw eggs really improve fertility? I couldn’t really trust this information since the film was set in the 1920s where homosexuality was still considered a perversion caused by a chemical imbalance and the prescribed “cure” was radiation therapy (“It destroys the bad and saves the good”). Oh wait, the old couple behind me agreed that it was a disease and an abnormality and I felt like I was transported back in time (but more on them later).

3. Girls, if your husbands know how to fix your lipstick, has a fascination with different textures of clothing (fur coats, silk nightgowns, nylon stockings, etc.), lifts his pinky while sipping tea or drinking champagne, and fondly tries on your outfits in front of a mirror while tucking his penis between his legs, then do the right thing and set him free. Be a supportive wife like Gerda in a world full of Aling Dionesia. (Lili even became Gerda’s muse and future moneymaker. Talk about a lucky charm.) Let your scarf fly!

(FYI, Alicia Vikander as Gerda was phenomenal as well.)

4. The best moments here were definitely the heartbreaking ones:

• When asked where Lili was coming from and Einer said “Inside me”

• After the radiation therapy and he cried, “You hurt Lili”

• And when Lili recalled a dream that she just had where she was a baby and her mom looked down at her and called her by her real name “Lili”.

5. As I mentioned earlier, I had the unfortunate luck of sitting in front of an old couple during the screening and the old man let the theater know his views on adultery, reproductive health, and homosexuality, among others. When the lights went up, he loudly said, “Kaya namamatay yang mga bakla, hindi makuntento sa binigay ng Diyos sa kanila.” So I did what was right. I simply stood up, smiled at him, and let him be because well, that would be the most Christian response, right?

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published February 8, 2016.)

BROOKLYN (John Crowley, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Brooklyn:

1. One nice character gave this friendly advice to our heroine, “Nothing fancy, you wouldn’t want to look like a tart”, and that line perfectly captured the essence of this old-fashioned and formulaic but ultimately lovely and well-told film.

2. The said character also gave a checklist of do’s and don’ts in Immigration (“Think like an American”, “Whatever you do, do not cough”) and it brought out my weird fears passing through the same lines whenever I visited another country. There would always be this voice warning me that the officer would find something anomalous in my passport or discover an error in the system and that I would immediately get sent back home. It always felt like I was entering the gates of heaven as soon as I got cleared from the Immigration counter. Best part of my trip every time.

3. I have great admiration for people that work abroad or completely migrate to another country. It takes a lot of courage not only to start a new life in a different world but also to leave the place that you call home. Just the thought of being away from my bed for a week triggers a nervous breakdown. Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) mentioned in the movie that “Homesickness is like most sicknesses. It will pass”, but that definitely wouldn’t apply to me. Living miles away from my bathroom will be the death of me. (Again, a salute to our hard-working and fearless OFWs!!)

4. I’ve never tried riding a ship to travel (the closest experiences would be the SuperCat we took from Cebu to Bohol and the TurboJet from Hong Kong to Macau) and based on these ship stories (including Titanic), it might never even happen. This film was set in the 50’s and I’m sure the conditions have changed since then but that scene where Eilis (a terrific Saoirse Ronan) took a dump in a pail because of seasickness will forever haunt my dreams.

5. Julie Walters as the snappish boardinghouse owner Mrs. Kehoe was so delightful that I was surprised she didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this role. I loved the entire conversation regarding Eilis’ greasy skin that ended with Mrs. Kehoe asking if the Bible stated what brand of soap is best to use. When she mentioned that “Giddiness is the eighth deadly sin”, I actually believed her. Her character was the direct opposite of that haughty store owner slash town gossip Miss Kelly who berated a customer for buying shoe polish on a Sunday. These old women were really something.

6. Were you also curious to know how the cashier tubes worked? I actually imagined an underground room full of goblins similar to the Gringotts in Harry Potter.

7. Eilis wore these really gorgeous ensembles (usually a dress and cardigan combo) that wouldn’t be out of place in Jessica Day’s closet. It’s time to plan a 50’s theme party.

8. I first saw Emory Cohen in Smash as the annoying mopey son of Debra Messing and I was surprised to see him bring a natural zest in the role of Italian-American lover turned husband of Eilis. I giggled a bit though in the scene where Eilis tried to rest her head on his shoulder because Saoirse with heels was about an inch or two taller than Emory. Such a cute couple (and not in a Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman way).

9. The audience was obviously affected by Eilis’ every move. They let out a loud collective gasp in the scene where she simply hid the letters of her husband without reading them. Even I was so engrossed that my mind kept screaming “Malandi! Haliparot! Kerengkeng!” when she started to fall for another man (Domnhall Gleeson, or Dumble Gleeson if you’re Leonardo DiCaprio).

10. Was I the only one bothered that the ultimate reason for her decision was because she got caught by the town gossip? Did she really need a wake-up call to remind her of her married status? My ultra-conservative side wanted her to swim all the way back to Brooklyn as penance. Ang perfect ko kasi!!

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