MIDSOMMAR (Ari Aster, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Midsommar:

1. Let me preface this by stating that I would never recommend this film to just about anyone. My high rating wasn’t really a reflection of its overall quality. Rather, it spoke more about the perverse pleasure that I had watching old people’s faces smashed to smithereens or the silly thought that a horny teenage girl used her pubic hair trimmings as a vital ingredient to a love elixir (or better put, organic gayuma that would put all those Quiapo-made ones to shame).

Pretty sure a good number of you might find this misadvertised (?) horror movie reaaaaally slow and excruciatingly boring (even worse, lacking a decent payoff). I should know, I felt the exact same grief with Ari Aster’s feature length debut film Hereditary and its snail-paced two hours (plus knockoff Paranormal Activity 3 ending). You had been properly warned.

2. I mentioned before that Get Out gave me that creepy Shake, Rattle & Roll II: Aswang vibe where Daniel Kaluuya’s character Chris resembled the offering of the month Portia, played by local horror princess Manilyn Reynes. Well this one took it to a whole new level by increasing the number of Portias and cranking up the overall weirdness (and this coming from someone who had seen both versions of Wicker Man).

I had never been this scared of villagers wearing all-white outfits (imagine the boxes of Tide that they consumed!!) and faint, chanting sounds that would never be part of my ASMR nightly playlist. Because of this movie, Sweden definitely dropped to the bottom of my travel checklist, just a little above Slovakia (no thanks to you Hostel!!).

3. There were several moments here that required suspension of disbelief because nobody in their right minds would see a body freefall from a cliff and not run as far away as possible from that crime scene (no, not even if one would win a Pulitzer for Anthropology by writing about that cultish ritual). And who wouldn’t question the type of meat pies that were being served to them, especially one that had a golden pube? (This reminded me again of another Manilyn classic, the Zombies episode of Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang where they got served a special soup filled with hair, nails, and ultimately “MATAAAAAA!!”).

Why didn’t these people ever feel the need to… wait for it, get out?!

4. Still, the most disturbing bits for me were the ones where Dani Gurl (Florence Pugh) suffered from panic attacks caused by the trauma of her bipolar sister killing their entire family (the sight of the sister with that exhaust tube taped around her mouth was the stuff of nightmares).

One of my favorite scenes was this smooth transition of Dani exiting the living room and ending up hyperventilating in the plane’s lavatory (my other favorite was that disorienting upside down shot of the car traversing the country road, reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead).

Pugh’s a terrific actress and effortlessly made me feel the pain that she was going through. Seriously, I needed some high-grade Ativan as well to calm me down after her breakdowns. 

(Although I did find it weird that Dani experienced a lot of grisly stuff yet only threw up when she witnessed her “cheating” boyfriend. Iba talaga ang effect ng pag-ibig.)

5. Happy to see The Good Place’s Chidi (William Jackson Harper) playing a variation of his geeky TV persona on the big screen. Wait, he wasn’t too smart in this one pala considering where his character (and leg) ended up.

6. When the one of the elders used the tambyolo to pick out the village’s other 90-year offering, was it a direct reference to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery?

7. Moral of the story: Always treat your partner right or you might end up drugged inside a hollowed-out bear while burning in a cult’s yellow temple. You had been warned, Gerald Anderson.

Rating: ★★★★☆

NOTTING HILL (Roger Michell, 1999)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Notting Hill:

1. No matter how many times I tried to repress the memory, I would never forget that I once played Julia Roberts as Anna Scott for a skit about absolute love (how apt!) in a college Philosophy class. Long story short, I couldn’t make the Hugh Grant character William Thacker believable since I obviously lacked his puppy eyes and boyish charm so our group leader thought of reversing the gender roles where I ended up voicing (since I apparently wasn’t too pretty to be Anna as well) the female part.

We recreated that entire iconic bookstore scene and I delivered the “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy…” line with an awkward high pitch that sounded like Lani Mercado’s wicked witch in the Sleeping Beauty episode of Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang. Our presentation obviously bombed (all those confused looks would continue to haunt me in my dreams) and I walked out of that class feeling like Vivian in Pretty Woman getting thrown out of a posh boutique in Rodeo Drive (and since this was real life, I didn’t even get a redemption scene).

2. Julia may have won her Oscar for Erin Brockovich, but her performance here would probably be my most favorite. Sure, the woman with the (then $15M) megawatt smile was basically playing another version of her rich and famous, A-list celebrity persona, but the fact that she gamely poked fun at herself (loved it when Anna pointed at her nose and chin when asked about her cosmetic surgeries) and revealed the sadness beneath all the fame and glory was really admirable.

Her Anna character was also completely flawed (and actually bordered on being despicable with just the way he treated William) and yet I still really, really wanted to be her friend (to the point that it would also be an honor for me to have her in my loo). Her best scene was at the dinner table where everyone was trying to win that last brownie and her face displayed the longing to experience the kind of love that the mortals (er, William and his friends) had.

3. Speaking of that dinner scene, I could easily pinpoint the part where I would immediately start sobbing every single time I’d watch this film. It was when Bella (Gina McKee) explained that she deserved the last brownie for having the saddest life because she was stuck in a wheelchair and could not bear kids. This was followed by a shot of her husband Max (Tim McInnerny) silently giving her this look of genuine love. Romantic or not, we all deserved someone just like him.

(Their other scenes that made me bawl my eyes out: when he carried her upstairs for the night when William decided to sleep over at their house and when he couldn’t afford to leave her during the climactic chase scene and carried her inside the car. Hala, just thinking of these made me teary-eyed again!)

4. A lot of people would probably knock this film down for being too formulaic to a fault, but it shamelessly peddled itself as a fairy tale so I didn’t mind at all (“This is the stuff that happens in dreams, not in real life.”) A huge Hollywood star falling in love with a commoner who looked like Hugh would be the ultimate fantasy, right?

Comical meet cute, set of kooky friends (Rhys Ifans’ Spike as the standout, course), soundtrack of sappy love songs (Ronan Keating’s When You Say Nothing At All >>> Alison Krauss’ version tbh), final romantic declaration of love, all tropes utilized to maximum effect. It was surreal, but nice.

5. I had a (fortunately) short phase where I pretended to be a charming Brit ala Hugh and ended up sounding like a post-Kabbalah Madonna. I replaced my “Susmaryosep” with “Whoopsie daisy” and “Ay tae!” with “Shickity brickity”, but those didn’t stick. Foreign catchphrases and accents were never really my thing. I couldn’t even properly imitate an American accent when I worked as a call center agent that resulted to one customer referring to me as a weird Hawaiian guy.

6. Spot the cameos: Matthew Modine! Alec Baldwin! Mischa Barton! Emily Mortimer!

7. That one long take of Ain’t No Sunshine with the changing seasons was really lovely. I would one day be able to visit Portobello Road Market and that iconic blue door. Who would be willing to fund my London trip?

8. “For June who loved this garden. From Joseph who always sat beside her.”

“Some people do spend their whole lives together.” ❤️❤️❤️

9. I didn’t really need this film to make me realize that some people could influence you to do something better or be a better person even if they had hurt you, but it was nice to be reminded of this with every viewing. #whogoat

10. “The fame thing isn’t really real, you know?”

A huge star ready to give up everything for love? Your move, Bebe Idol Sarah G. Rooting for your happy fairy tale ending as well.

Rating: ★★★★★