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Joescoundrel
12-22-2011, 09:49 AM
I thought I'd start a general movie discussion similar to the "Wala Lang" and "Politikahan" threads in this main Forum board.

This came about because I just remembered that there are two movies that are a little bitin.

First, "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" with Sean Connery in the lead, and secondly "Hellboy" starring Ron Pearlman.

"League" ended with Connery's character, the legendary hunter Allan Quartermain, dead and buried in his beloved Africa. But a local Shaman was casting some sort of spell to apparently bring him back from the dead. I hope to see a sequel soon.

Speaking of sequels, "Hellboy" had two movies and the last one, good as it was in my opinion, needs to have a bookend to complete a trilogy. After all, a prediction was made in "The Golden Army" that Hellboy would either die or fulfill the demonic prophecy about him and end this world. The producers and directors should end this properly. If Pearlman no longer wants the lead, they can always tap Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo to the Game of Thrones fans).

So there, a new thread to end the year in movie entertainment. You can also post movie reviews here, fellas.

Sam Miguel
12-27-2011, 07:49 AM
From the NY Times, more on the business side of the movies ___

A Year of Disappointment at the Movie Box Office

By BROOKS BARNES

With five days left in 2011, ticket sales in North America are running about $500 million behind last year — despite higher prices — prompting a round of soul searching by studios trying to determine what went wrong and how best to proceed.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” from Warner Brothers, was 2011’s No. 1 release with $381 million in domestic ticket sales.

Movies are a cyclical business and analysts say that 2010 benefited mightily from holdover sales for “Avatar,” which was released late in 2009 and became one of the most popular movies of all time. A decline of hundreds of millions of dollars is not catastrophic when weighed against the size of the industry. Over all, North American ticket revenue for 2011 is projected to be about $10.1 billion, according to Hollywood.com, which compiles box-office data.

That is only a 4.5 percent falloff from 2010. But studio executives are alarmed by the downturn nonetheless, in part because the real picture is worse than the raw revenue numbers suggest.

Revenue, for instance, has been propped up by a glut of 3-D films, which cost $3 to $5 more per ticket. Studios made 40 pictures in 3-D in the last 12 months, up from 24 last year, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, a movie database. Theaters have also continued to increase prices for standard tickets; moviegoers now pay an average of $7.89 each, up 1 percent over last year.

Attendance for 2011 is expected to drop 5.3 percent, to 1.27 billion, continuing a slide. Attendance declined 6 percent in 2010.

Hopes that a group of major releases would supercharge the Christmas box office fizzled over the weekend. Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” was a solid No. 1, taking in $26.5 million in its second weekend for a total of about $59 million. But “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” (Warner Brothers) was a softer-than-expected second, with $17.8 million in ticket sales, lifting its two-week total to $76.6 million.

“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” (20th Century Fox) continued to struggle in third place, taking in about $13.3 million for a two-week total of $50.3 million. Three heavily promoted new entries had tepid results. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (Sony), was fourth, taking in $13 million for the weekend and $21.4 million since opening last Wednesday. Steven Spielberg’s “Adventures of Tintin” (Paramount) was fifth with about $9.1 million ($22.3 million since opening last Wednesday). Fox’s “We Bought a Zoo” came in sixth, taking in a lackluster $7.8 million in its opening weekend.

What has gone wrong? Plenty, say studio distribution executives, who point to competition for leisure dollars, particularly among financially pressed young people (the movie industry’s most coveted demographic); too many family movies; and the continued erosion of star power.

One more thing: “You have to go back and look at the content,” said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Brothers. “Good movies always rise to the occasion. Bad ones, not so much.”

Young people, defined by studios as teenagers and people in their 20s, certainly helped power some of the biggest movies of 2011, including Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” the year’s No. 1 release with $381 million in domestic ticket sales. (Paramount’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” was second with more than $352 million, and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” from Summit Entertainment was third with more than $269 million.)

But a spate of smaller movies aimed at younger audiences bombed, including “Prom” from Walt Disney, “Glee: The 3-D Concert Movie” from 20th Century Fox, Warner’s “Sucker Punch,” Lionsgate’s “Conan the Barbarian” and “Your Highness,” a drug-oriented comedy from Universal. The horror genre struggled as an entire category, with lemons like “Fright Night” (DreamWorks Studios), “The Thing” (Universal) and “Priest” (Sony).

“As bad as the economy is for adults, it’s worse for teenagers,” said Phil Contrino, editor of BoxOffice.com, by way of an explanation. “Because they have less disposable income and because they are more plugged in to audience reaction on Facebook and Twitter, the teenage audience is becoming picky,” he added. “That’s a nightmare for studios that are used to pushing lowest-common-denominator films.”

Mr. Fellman said he had seen evidence that younger consumers were choosing other leisure activities over movies.

“There may be a correlation to the recent strength of video game sales,” he said. “You look at a game like the new ‘Call of Duty’ selling $400 million in its first 24 hours and say, ‘What? How is that even possible?’ ”

On the other hand, several movies aimed squarely at older audiences attracted stronger-than-expected revenue, “The Help” was the prime example. That period drama cost DreamWorks about $25 million to make and took in more than $169 million in North America. “We definitely benefited from coming out at the end of summer, when women are sick of going with their husbands and boyfriends to nothing but robot and superhero movies,” said Brunson Green, a producer of the film.

The R-rated “Bridesmaids” (Universal) also clicked with older moviegoers, who perhaps responded, distribution executives said, to a premise that seemed fresh: women behaving as badly as the guys of “The Hangover Part II” (Warner), which was a smash with $255 million. “Bridesmaids” cost about $33 million and took in $169 million, causing a race in Hollywood to develop copycat films.

Too much of anything, however, can produce a hangover and studios started to feel one with family films, which have been among the most reliable moneymakers in recent years.

Some new entries delivered solid results, “Rio” from Fox, “The Smurfs” from Sony, but a number of them stumbled in North America. Those include Sony’s “Arthur Christmas,” DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 2” and Disney’s “Mars Needs Moms,” which was by some measures the biggest flop of 2011, costing at least $150 million and taking in about $21 million.

Even Pixar had trouble. The Disney-owned animation studio had a hit in “Cars 2,” with more than $191 million in domestic ticket sales, but that total was Pixar’s worst single result, after adjusting for inflation.

Star power, or a lack thereof, was again a negative factor at the box office in 2011. There were bright spots, of course: Tom Cruise appears to be regaining momentum with the latest “Mission: Impossible” film; Johnny Depp charmed audiences once more with “The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” which took in $241 million for Disney (and exceeded $1 billion globally); Cameron Diaz earned her keep in “Bad Teacher,” which took in more than $100 million for Sony.

But it was wreckage for most marquee names: Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig disappointed in the DreamWorks and Universal release “Cowboys & Aliens;” Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller landed with a thud in “Tower Heist,” a Universal film; Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks bombed in the independently financed “Larry Crowne.” “New Year’s Eve,” essentially a string of star cameos, has been essentially ignored.

More troubling, studio executives say, were failed efforts by some younger stars to become bigger box-office draws. Ryan Reynolds never took off as “Green Lantern” and Jonah Hill, praised for a supporting role in “Moneyball,” flopped as the main attraction in “The Sitter.” Russell Brand missed in a remake of “Arthur,” as did Taylor Lautner in “Abduction.” Amanda Seyfried struggled in “Red Riding Hood.”

Two exceptions were Chris Hemsworth as “Thor” and Chris Evans as “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Both of those newcomers, helped by their superhero tights, found substantial audiences.

The good news for Hollywood is that the first quarter of 2012 looks much stronger than the same period this year, when studios had little to generate audience excitement.

Warner has two sequels — “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” and “Wrath of the Titans,” while Sony has a prominent remake in “21 Jump Street.” Disney will re-release “Beauty and the Beast” in 3-D, followed by Fox’s 3-D re-release of “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.” And Lionsgate will weigh in with its highly anticipated “The Hunger Games.”

“It’s an extremely strong hand for the industry to play,” Mr. Fellman said.

Sam Miguel
12-27-2011, 11:21 AM
From the NY Times ___

New Directors Flesh Out Black America, All of It

By NELSON GEORGE

EARLY in Dee Rees’s film “Pariah” it journeys into a Brooklyn strip club where scantily clad young black women gyrate to a sexy, foul-mouthed rap song. Lascivious customers leer, toss money and revel in their own unbridled lust. It is a scene that could have been in any of “the hood movies” that once proliferated or even a Tyler Perry melodrama in which Christian values would be affirmed after this bit of titillation.

But in “Pariah” the gaze of desire doesn’t emanate from predatory males but A.G.’s, that is aggressive lesbians, who, in a safe space where they enjoy the fellowship of peers, can be true to themselves. Other films have depicted this particular black alternative life (as did a couple of memorable characters in HBO’s masterly series “The Wire”), but no film made by a black lesbian about being a black lesbian has ever received the kind of attention showered on Ms. Rees’s film. It was a major success at the Sundance Festival in January and, even before its limited release on Wednesday, has entered the conversation as a long shot Oscar contender courtesy of the aggressive folks at NBC Universal’s specialty arm, Focus Features.

Ms. Rees, a slight, boyish 34-year-old with a shy demeanor, was recently named breakthrough director of the year at the Gotham Awards, and the film received two Spirit Award nominations, acknowledgements of good will toward the picture in the independent film world. But “Pariah” is important, not simply as a promising directorial debut, but also as the most visible example of the mini-movement of young black filmmakers telling stories that complicate assumptions about what “black film” can be by embracing thorny issues of identity, alienation and sexuality.

In addition to “Pariah” these features include Rashaad Ernesto Green’s “Gun Hill Road,” Andrew Dosunmu’s “Restless City,” Alrick Brown’s “Kinyarwanda” and Victoria Mahoney’s “Yelling to the Sky.” The first four made their premieres at Sundance in January, while Ms. Mahoney’s effort appeared at the Berlin Film Festival in February. (Two other films that should also be added to this group: Barry Jenkins’s “Medicine for Melancholy,” from 2008, a day in the life of two black bohemians wandering the streets of San Francisco, and Qasim Basir’s “Mooz-lum” (2011), a character study of a Muslim teenager in the Midwest.)

Along with their festival pedigrees these films and filmmakers share a number of connections. Ms. Rees, Mr. Green and Mr. Brown all attended New York University and received guidance from a professor named Spike Lee. ”Pariah” and “Restless City” were both shot by Bradford Young, a brilliant young director of photography who won the excellence in cinematography award at Sundance.

Most important, the points of view of the films expand the palette of images for black American filmmakers. Mr. Green’s “Gun Hill Road” is set in the Bronx and looks at the tension among a Latino ex-con father, his transgender son and the son’s black lover. Mr. Brown’s film, shot in Central Africa, uses multiple story arcs to dive into the moral abyss of the Rwandan genocide. Mr. Dosunmu captures the hustles and hardships of African immigrants working in and around Canal Street in Manhattan. Ms. Mahoney presents an autobiographical look at a family of a young woman growing up black and Irish in a quasi-suburban, quasi-hood section of Queens. Ms. Rees’s film, though clearly a coming-out story, is also about the ethical evasions affecting all members of a seemingly stable African-American family.

I use African-American, as opposed to black, very specifically in describing the drama at the heart of “Pariah,” since African-American means descendants of African slaves brought to America. Black, however, casts a wider net in dealing with works that depict the lives of people from the entire African diaspora. Mr. Green, who is black and Puerto Rican, and Ms. Mahoney, who is black-Irish, tap into both sides of their ethnicity in their films, just as Ms. Rees looks at herself as both black and lesbian, reconciling the two in her work just as her protagonist does in the film. The African-American Alrick Brown’s journey into the thickets of a brutal African experience and the Nigerian Andrew Dosunmu’s vision of life for Africans in America represent a much needed, unromantic dialogue between blacks on both sides of the Atlantic.

Traditionally films made for, and often by, African-Americans have fallen within a very narrow definition of our experience. Forty years ago the notorious blaxploitation era was in full stride with crime melodramas its stock and trade. Though there was plenty of hack filmmaking then, some gifted directors (Melvin Van Peebles, Gordon Parks, Gordon Parks Jr.) helped create a worthwhile canon of films in which “the brother man” consistently trumped “the other man” (white authority). Many of the accompanying soundtracks (Isaac Hayes’s “Shaft,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly,” Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man”) were more artful than the images they supported.

Twenty years later, in 1991, 16 films were released theatrically that were directed, produced or written by African-Americans, a historic year that was documented in a cover article in The New York Times Magazine. (I was part of that wave. My screenwriting credits include the 1991 comedy “Strictly Business.”) In retrospect the films of 1991 were really quite varied: a tale of Afrocentric feminism (“Daughters of the Dust”), interracial love drama (“Jungle Fever”), soul era nostalgia (“The Five Heartbeats”). But it was hood movies that grossed the most at the box office (“Boyz N the Hood,” “New Jack City”) and defined that period.

If there is any historical precedent for this emerging 21st-century movement, it is a collective of black filmmakers who attended the University of California, Los Angeles, in the ’70s, making films that existed under the commercial radar and addressed subjects from neo-realism to pan-Africanism. Among the standout writer-directors in this loose collective were Haile Gerima, Julie Dash and Charles Burnett, whose 1977 masterpiece, “Killer of Sheep,” has been inducted in the National Film Registry.

The desire to identify a new generation of black filmmakers is as important for American cinema as it is for filmmakers and audiences. Halle Berry, Cuba Gooding Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes, Queen Latifah, Ice Cube, Regina King and Nia Long are among the Oscar nominees, leading men and women, and television regulars who were given their first major exposure in films written, produced and directed by African-Americans. A generation of household faces came out of these films, faces that would otherwise never have had star-making opportunities to carry a film. That these actors crossed over, often to colorblind roles in mainstream entertainment, is a testament to both their skills and the underappreciated role black filmmakers have played as talent scouts.

The acclaim for the previously unknown Adepero Oduye’s performance as the young lesbian Alike in “Pariah” is typical of how black film spotlights otherwise marginalized actors. And there is a very human desire to see people on screen who resemble you, but are better looking, stronger and larger than life. It is the power of movies at their most elemental.

This current mini-movement has none of the certainty about black identity that defined previous periods. Identity — the search for it, the limitations of it, its fluidity — is at the core of all these dramas. Such themes speak to a sophistication that previous generations of filmmakers didn’t possess or rejected since rigid definitions of racial identity are much easier to market. Then again, none of these films have made a substantial dent at the box office.

So a lot rides on the reception for “Pariah,” both as the introduction of Ms. Rees as a major filmmaker and a symbol of this incipient new wave. Certainly some of the excitement surrounding it was ignited by “Precious” in 2009. Both films are small dramas about sexual issues confronting young African-American women in New York City. “Precious,” Lee Daniels’s gothic take on Sapphire’s novel, made $63 million worldwide (on a budget of $10 million), won the screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher an Oscar for his bold adaptation, and was anointed by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry as executive producers. The film played well to mainstream as well as black audiences, which may have emboldened Mr. Perry to direct “For Colored Girls” (2010), an adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s feminist play, and surely factored into the marketing strategy for this year’s black-women-theme blockbuster, “The Help.”

That’s not to suggest that ”Pariah” subscribes to any kind of formula. There is a gentle, almost tentative quality to the journey of Alike (subtly played by Ms. Oduye) that is very much a reflection of Ms. Rees’s personality. This highly autobiographical film began as a feature script in 2005, became a much-lauded short and was expanded back into a feature, with the support of a bevy of executive producers and independent film institutions (Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, IFP, Film Independent). It was shot in 19 days in and around Brooklyn.

While attending New York University from 2003 to 2007 Ms. Rees worked as an intern on Spike Lee’s Hurricane Katrina documentary “When the Levees Broke,” and his Denzel Washington vehicle, “Inside Man.” Mr. Lee, who has been the artistic director of N.Y.U.’s graduate film program for nearly a decade, critiqued drafts of the script and advised Ms. Rees and her producer, Nekisa Cooper, on fund-raising.

At N.Y.U. Ms. Rees came in contact with Mr. Brown, Mr. Green and several other emerging talents, including Seith Mann, a graduate who has built a successful career directing television dramas like “Dexter.”

“During Seith’s time a lot of the black students began calling themselves ‘the League,’ ” Ms. Rees told me, a reference to the all-black baseball league that ended in the ’50s. The shorthand speaks to a sense of camaraderie that is shared by many of the black students there. If there’s a thread connecting their work, it is that “none of us have reductive views” of black identity, she said. “There are different ways to be. There is no monolithic black identity. My film is less about coming out than becoming into who you are and how to be that person. I think we want an extreme diversity of images and voices. And it is not enough to have a lot of films in one year, but to have an ongoing supply of films.”

Mr. Lee, who taught Ms. Rees, Mr. Green and Mr. Brown in his third-year directing class, is cautious about too much talk of a new wave, noting that very few of the directors who emerged in ’91 are still making features. Still, Mr. Lee, whose own feature “Red Hook Summer” will have its debut at Sundance, is “optimistic about the talent out there and the work being done,” he said in an interview. “But I told Alrick, Dee and Ernesto all the same thing: You got one done, but you can’t rest on your laurels. Don’t make one film and then travel with that one print to film festivals. You need to get the next one going and the one after that. The idea is to build a body of work.”

Ms. Rees has been busy doing just that since Sundance, writing an HBO pilot, another film for Focus and a spec script about an insurance adjuster, all featuring lesbian or bisexual characters. “Sexuality is not an issue” in these scripts, Ms. Rees cautioned. And in a comment that could refer to racial identity as well, she added, “They are people, and that’s just part of who they are.”

Sam Miguel
12-27-2011, 11:25 AM
From the NY Times ___

Streep Dons Thatcher’s Armor

By CHARLES McGRATH

WHAT do you do after turning yourself into Julia Child, a bold, occasionally bossy woman who changed the way people think about food? You turn yourself into Margaret Thatcher, of course, an even bolder and bossier one, who changed the way people think about Britain. This is what Meryl Streep does in “The Iron Lady,” which opens Friday in New York. In yet another of her miraculous impersonations, which has already been nominated for a Golden Globe award, she seems even more Thatcher-like than Mrs. Thatcher, so that after the movie if you go back and look at photographs of Mrs. Thatcher in her prime, you can’t help feeling that they’re a little off. She no longer looks like herself.

Sitting over tea recently at the Waldorf Astoria with Phyllida Lloyd, the film’s director, Ms. Streep said that she had been hoping to make a movie about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, and that Ms. Lloyd told her sarcastically, “Yeah, that will pack them in.” But when offered the role of Mrs. Thatcher, Ms. Streep didn’t hesitate. “You have to imagine yourself as a 62-year-old actress getting a phone call asking you to play the first female leader in the Western world elected on her own merits and not on the coattails of her husband,” she said. “To say, ‘No, I’m not interested’ would just be ridiculous. There is no other opportunity like it.”

Ms. Streep researched her part carefully enough to learn even what Mrs. Thatcher carried in her handbag: 3-by-5 cards with adages by Kipling, Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln and Disraeli. She also realized, she said, that Mrs. Thatcher, who is now 86 and in ill health, was herself an impersonation of sorts, a woman who allowed herself to be made over by Tory strategists and even changed her way of speaking. In the movie Ms. Streep effortlessly imitates those burnished, sometimes strident, declamatory tones, the one the novelist Angela Carter once said were reminiscent “not of real toffs but of Wodehouse aunts.”

Ms. Lloyd said: “Meryl just has an ear. There’s a Margaret Thatcher voice that British impersonators — men in drag — like to do, and it’s a frightful parody. But nobody has really gone inside it the way Meryl has.”

Ms. Streep also captures Mrs. Thatcher’s icy imperiousness, especially toward the end of her career, when she enjoyed humiliating her ministers, and even the hint of sexiness that kept so many of those ministers in thrall for so long. In one scene Ms. Streep is in an evening gown, having a button sewn on before an important Tory function, and when the seamstress is through she hoists her bosom, like Queen Boadicea putting on her breastplate, before going out to challenge a roomful of men.

But “The Iron Lady” is not, everyone involved keeps insisting, a conventional biopic, one that follows the career of some exalted personage step by step and ends with him or her in triumph. It’s not even an especially political film. The movie begins in the present, with the Thatcher character old and frail, a little dotty and paranoid, and hallucinating the presence of her dead husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent). She appears that way for almost half the film, revisiting her great days only in memory, so that “The Iron Lady” is a movie as much about decline as about a rise to power. The great events of Mrs. Thatcher’s career — the miners’ strike, the Falklands war, her meetings with Brezhnev (who gave her the Iron Lady nickname) — are touched on only briefly and sketchily.

The movie has provoked strong but mixed reactions in Britain, where some have seen it as a mean-spirited attack on Mrs. Thatcher’s sacred memory, while others have applauded its warmth and humanity. Some Conservative M.P.’s have even called for a House of Commons debate over whether the film shows sufficient good taste and respect.

“There have been people who have seen the movie and were fully aghast, who would have liked it to be a triumphalist saga,” Ms. Streep said. “Some in the distribution arm of our own enterprise here were saying, ‘Why can’t we go out on a high?’ ” She changed her voice to sound like an old-fashioned movie mogul. “My God, for 40 percent of the picture she’s an old lady!” She paused for a moment and then changed back to Streep: “That’s the point, you dodo.”

Ms. Streep and Ms. Lloyd (who also directed her in “Mamma Mia”) have by now perfected a kind of “Stage Door” routine together, with Ms. Lloyd — polished, thoughtful — in the Katharine Hepburn part and Ms. Streep in the funny, irreverent Ginger Rogers role. Ms. Streep loves to laugh and also to surprise. At one point, mostly just for the fun of it, she began speaking in the clipped, unnatural voice of a 1930s film star.

“The Iron Lady” was written by Abi Morgan, a British screenwriter greatly in demand these days. She wrote “The Hour,” the “Mad Men”-like BBC serial about television in the ’50s, and together with Steve McQueen, its director, she wrote “Shame,” the new film about sex addiction that despite copious amounts of nudity, male and female, is bleak enough to put most viewers off sex for a couple of days at least. Ms. Morgan said she was initially reluctant to take on the “Iron Lady” project. There had been at least four made-for-TV Thatcher movies fairly recently, she explained — including the well-regarded “Long Walk to Finchley” — and she didn’t think she had much to add.

Then she happened to read a magazine article by Mrs. Thatcher’s daughter, Carol, about the moment she realized that her mother’s memory was beginning to slip, and that gave Ms. Morgan the idea of writing about a woman who is starting to fail and at the same time looking back on her life. “What would it be like? I wondered. You’re a woman who was on the world stage and had access to some of the most important decisions in the country, and now to a certain extent you’ve become invisible.” She added: “I really think we will all die while washing up the teacups. Whether you’re Obama or the man in the street, we all die doing those domestic things that we do.”

Ms. Lloyd, who is probably better known as a stage director than a filmmaker, said she sometimes thought of “The Iron Lady” as “ ‘King Lear’ for girls.” “Here is this mighty leader reduced to nothing,” she added. “No, not to nothing — to a reckoning with herself.”

Ms. Streep said, laughing: “We’re not interested in King Lear’s politics. We’re not saying we would have voted for him.” She added: “What interested me was the part of someone who does monstrous things maybe, or misguided things. Where do they come from? How do those formulations begin, how do they solidify, calcify, become deficits? How do a person’s strengths become weaknesses? Look at me. I tend to go on too long. I’m a little dogmatic, and that could get really awful over time. If you are self-aware, as actors are, you let these things go into your pores, including criticism. I hate being criticized.”

Ms. Lloyd said: “So did Margaret Thatcher. But that’s understandable. She couldn’t show weakness. Imagine what the men would have said.” She added: “In parts of England now it’s a transgression even to consider her as a human being. She’s that monster woman, the she-devil. For me the point of the film was to find the human side.” And though hardly a Tory, she said she vividly recalled the moment when Mrs. Thatcher came to power. “Just as I remember not voting for her, I remember sitting in my room at university when the radio announced that she had been asked to form a government, and I went ‘Yes!’ It felt like one for our team.”

Ms. Streep nodded and said: “I did the same thing. We all thought if it can happen in England, class bound, socially rigid, homophobic — if they can elect a female leader over there, then it’s just seconds away in America.”

Sam Miguel
12-27-2011, 11:30 AM
From the NY Times ___

A Shady American in the Nanjing Massacre

By MIKE HALE

Eventually, it seems, every senseless waste of life gets its own gauzy tear-jerker. That’s about the only way to justify “The Flowers of War,” in which the veteran Chinese director Zhang Yimou revisits the Nanjing massacre of 1937 by making something resembling a backstage musical, with breaks for the occasional ghastly murder or rape.

There’s nothing that says the atrocity blockbuster has to be a disaster in its own right; films like “Gone With the Wind” and “Gallipoli” have their good points. But long before its two and a half hours are up, “The Flowers of War” is sunk by the disproportion between the events being portrayed and Mr. Zhang’s distanced, strangely frivolous treatment of them — in essence, his refusal to take a point of view on one of the most gruesome chapters in Chinese history.

“Flowers” has received bountiful publicity for being expensive, state-approved and Oscar-submitted, buzz that got louder last week when the film’s British star, Christian Bale, was forcibly prevented from visiting a Chinese activist lawyer being held under house arrest.

But fears that Mr. Zhang would take a one-dimensional, patriotic approach to the Japanese invasion and occupation of Nanjing (formerly Nanking), while not entirely unfounded, are misplaced. Other recent Chinese films have displayed more sentimental nationalism, jingoism and demonization of the Japanese enemy.

His real approach to the events of 1937 is to use them as a backdrop for the kind of deluxe, Hollywood-inspired melodrama that has made him an art-house favorite. In the process he fails to deliver on most of the elements — grandeur, historical sweep, genuine pathos — that would have made the film worthwhile.

Given the right story, as in “Raise the Red Lantern” or “House of the Flying Daggers,” Mr. Zhang’s almost clinical attention to pretty surfaces and soap-opera mechanics can have entertaining results. In “Flowers,” though, you can feel him at war with his material, never settling on a tone or a compelling or even coherent narrative. (The screenplay is by Liu Heng and Geling Yan, based on a novel by Ms. Yan.)

Mr. Zhang’s distance from the larger story of the massacre is embodied in his decision to set most of the film within the compound of a fictional European church. The result is an artificial, back-lot atmosphere; the opening scenes, set in the streets, take place in an actual fog of war, with smoke (and at one point the dust from a large mound of flour) isolating the characters from the real world of Nanjing.

Mr. Bale plays John Miller, a disreputable American vagabond who happens to be a mortician; as the film begins he is making his way through the fighting toward the church, where he is to be paid to conduct a burial. Also on the move are two groups of a dozen or so young women, the flowers of the title. They are, as a matter of production design if not credible history, visually coded: convent students in severe blue jackets and prostitutes in seductive, rainbow-hued silken dresses.

All of these parties take refuge in the church, with Miller, who dons the robes of a dead priest, bridging the Manichaean divide between the suspicious students upstairs and the contemptuous, defensive prostitutes hiding in the basement. (They quickly transform their cellar into a seraglio; you can practically smell the perfume.) It’s a contrived, hothouse state of affairs, summed up in a scene Mr. Zhang likes so much that he repeats it: the laughing prostitutes sashaying across the churchyard in slow motion, oblivious to the impending tragedy.

There will be tragedy, of course, though when it comes it takes a weirdly oblique form. One group eventually performs what appears to be an ultimate sacrifice, full of sexual and social overtones, but this happens off-camera, if it happens at all. The coyness can be explained, perhaps, in terms of the film’s structure — the story is narrated by one of the students, and what we see may correspond to her selective, romanticized memories — but it cannot really be excused.

On-screen, meanwhile, the camera ventures into the outside world in occasional scenes that seem timed to goose the action and remind us that we’re watching a war movie. In one of Mr. Zhang’s few outright concessions to the notion of Chinese supremacism, a lone officer (Tong Dawai) draws a contingent of Japanese soldiers away from the church in an act of hyperbolic heroism. Later, in a surrender to gross sentimentality, two prostitutes leave the church on the sort of insane mercy mission that happens only in movies, with particularly disturbing consequences. Aside from that sequence Mr. Zhang is restrained in his depictions of Japanese brutality, which mostly take the form of threats and intimidation.

Mr. Bale, turning in a respectable if oddly chipper performance under the circumstances, has the unfortunate task of playing a character who doesn’t really add up. Miller’s conversion from opportunist to savior may be another stock element of this sort of movie, but the scene meant to showcase his transformation is rushed and ineffective. Having made an American the central figure in his film, Mr. Zhang reduces him to wrangling flocks of nubile women, like Cary Grant in a much more violent “Father Goose.”

“The Flowers of War” suffers greatly in comparison to several far superior, less hyped movies about the Nanjing massacre, including the harrowing drama “City of Life and Death,” directed by Lu Chuan, and the documentary “Nanking,” by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman. Those filmmakers came armed with points of view. Mr. Zhang, retreating into the mists of old movies, has declined to take the field.

Sam Miguel
12-27-2011, 11:32 AM
From the NY Times ___

In a Fractured Society, Ethnic War Kindles Both Hatred and Desire

By MANOHLA DARGIS

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” tells the story of two acquaintances who become enemies, lovers and each other’s mirror during the Bosnian war. The movie opens in 1992 right before the fighting started and soon after Ajla (Zana Marjanovic), an artist and a Muslim, goes on a date with Danijel (Goran Kostic), a cop and a Bosnian Serb. Recently acquainted, the two meet up at a club, where they fall into each other’s arms, dance and flirt, nestled in an exuberant, raucous humanity, a communion that abruptly ends when a bomb detonates inside the club. The old world falls away and in its place there is dust, blood and Ajla and Danijel staggering toward their newly divided worlds.

The war comes fast and the director, Angelina Jolie, sets its terms ruthlessly. Ajla, along with several dozen other Muslim women, is grabbed by Serbian soldiers and put on a bus. It’s a short, hellish ride — from the bus, one of the soldiers guns down a passerby as casually as if he were skeet shooting — that ends when the convoy arrives at a military base. The women are lined up and stripped of their possessions, and a soldier asks if any can cook. A few nervously raise their hands, making anxious bargains for their lives. One woman says she’s a doctor while another says she can sew. The soldier asks the second woman about her sexual abilities instead and then grabs her and rapes her in front of the others.

The scene is, in one obvious respect, something of a didactic illustration of rape as an instrument of war, but it’s also undeniably and rightly disturbing. It rattles the movie and you along with it, and it also introduces the idea that war is very much about the violent domination of women and not just about nation-states, ethnic conflicts, historical grudges and men killing men. Ms. Jolie literalizes this theme by bringing Ajla and Danijel together again at the military camp, where he is a commander. He sees her shortly after the other woman is raped, saving Ajla from being similarly assaulted, a decision that has the quality of a moral choice but may in fact be purely mercenary.

The question of whether Danijel saves Ajla because he is fundamentally good or because circumstances have made him essentially selfish colors everything that comes after. In a perverse twist made believable by the surrealism of war and by the persuasiveness of the lead performances, Danijel takes Ajla as his lover. He saves her, but doesn’t shield her entirely from the terrors of imprisonment. Time slips away amid small cruelties, brutal assaults and a harrowing passage in which the soldiers use the women as shields during a raid on a Muslim enclave. In this scene, with her cinematographer, Dean Semler, Ms. Jolie manages the tricky feat of creating a chaotically violent vision, in which the focus remains intently on those who, in many war movies, are often an afterthought: the women.

This is Ms. Jolie’s directing debut — she also wrote and co-produced the movie — and there’s a somewhat awkward instructional, at times almost proselytizing aspect to the story that seems of a piece with her laudable humanitarian work. That’s especially true in the scenes in which Ms. Jolie switches into full-on expository mode, putting dry, plodding words into the characters’ mouths that would work better in the kind of on-screen textual explanations, with their snippets of history and politics, that open and close the movie. When, for instance, in an early scene, Danijel’s father, a Serbian general (Rade Serbedzija), instructs his son on military matters, he also provides a short history lesson on the region that’s clearly meant for the benefit of those watching the movie.

Moments like these pull the movie down and you temporarily out of it. For the most part, though, it moves briskly and easily holds your attention, largely through a perverse love story that doesn’t suffer for being such an obvious metaphor for the larger battle raging beyond Ajla and Danijel’s relationship. Both Ms. Marjanovic and Mr. Kostic are very fine (like the rest of the cast they deliver their dialogue in Bosnian) and they navigate the contradictions of their characters’ feelings, the flashes of hate, the surrender to desire, with delicacy. There’s madness in this relationship. But as the glimpses of the outside world show, particularly in some tough scenes involving Ajla’s sister, Lejla (Vanesa Glodjo), there is madness everywhere.

Sam Miguel
12-27-2011, 11:37 AM
From the NY Times ___

Innocence Is Trampled, but a Bond Endures

By A. O. SCOTT

There is no combat in the early scenes of “War Horse,” Steven Spielberg’s sweeping adaptation of the popular stage spectacle, but the film opens with a cinematic assault as audacious and unsparing as the Normandy landing in “Saving Private Ryan.” With widescreen, pastoral vistas dappled in golden sunlight and washed in music (by John Williams) that is somehow both grand and folksy, Mr. Spielberg lays siege to your cynicism, bombarding you with strong and simple appeals to feeling.

You may find yourself resisting this sentimental pageant of early-20th-century rural English life, replete with verdant fields, muddy tweeds and damp turnips, but my strong advice is to surrender. Allow your sped-up, modern, movie-going metabolism, accelerated by a diet of frantic digital confections — including Mr. Spielberg’s just-released “Adventures of Tintin” — to calm down a bit. Suppress your instinctive impatience, quiet the snarky voice in your head and allow yourself to recall, or perhaps to discover, the deep pleasures of sincerity.

If you can fake that, the old Hollywood adage goes, you’ve got it made. But while “War Horse” is, like so many of Mr. Spielberg’s films, a work of supreme artifice, it is also a self-conscious attempt to revive and pay tribute to a glorious tradition of honest, emotionally direct storytelling. Shot the old-fashioned way, on actual film stock (the cinematographer is Mr. Spielberg’s frequent collaborator Janusz Kaminski), the picture has a dark, velvety luster capable of imparting a measure of movie-palace magic to the impersonal cavern of your local multiplex. An Interview With the “War Horse” Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski

The story, in its early chapters, also takes you back to an older — you may well say cornier — style of entertainment. Joey, the fleet-footed, headstrong half-Thoroughbred of the title, is purchased at auction by Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan), a proud and grouchy Devon farmer with a tendency to drink too much. His household includes a loving, scolding wife, Rosie (Emily Watson); a cantankerous goose; and a strapping lad named Albert (Jeremy Irvine), who forms an immediate and unbreakable bond with Joey. The teenage boy trains the horse to pull a plow and together they ride through the stunning scenery.

But this pastoral is darkened by memories of war — Ted fought the Boers in South Africa, an experience so terrible he cannot speak of it to his son — and by social divisions. The Narracotts are tenant farmers at the mercy of their landlord (David Thewlis), and if “War Horse” pays tribute to solid British virtues of decency and discipline it also, like a Thomas Hardy novel, exposes the snobbery and economic oppression that are, if anything, even more deeply rooted in that nation’s history.

So it is not entirely a simpler, more innocent world that is swept away by the war but rather a way of life whose contradictions are as emphatically presented as its charms. And what follows, as Joey is taken across the English Channel to the battlefields and trenches of Flanders and France, is a nightmare of cruelty that is not without its own sinister magic. Like most movies with an antiwar message, “War Horse” cannot help but be enthralled by the epic scale and transformative power of military conflict. “The war has taken everything from everyone” — the truth of this reckoning, uttered more than once by characters on screen, is self-evident, but it is complicated by the visceral charge and cathartic relief that an effective war movie gives to its audience.

The extreme violence of the slaughter in World War I is implied rather than graphically depicted. Mr. Spielberg steps back from the bloody, chaotic naturalism of “Saving Private Ryan” — this is an animal fable for children, after all, with echoes of “E. T.” and Carroll Ballard’s “Black Stallion” — but his ability to infuse action sequences with emotional gravity has hardly diminished.

An early battle scene dramatizes the modernization of warfare with remarkable and haunting efficiency. A British cavalry unit attacks a German encampment, charging through the enemy ranks with swords in what appears to be a clean and devastating rout. But then, at the edge of the field, the German machine guns begin to fire, and the British horses crash into the forest, suddenly riderless and instantly obsolete. Joey, who of course never sought out heroism in the first place, is relegated to a life of brutal labor that seems fated to end in an ignoble death.

He is kept alive by instinct, human kindness and the companionship of a regal black horse named Topthorn. Joey’s episodic journey takes him from British to German hands and back again, with a sojourn on a French farm owned by an elderly jam-maker (Niels Arestrup) and his young granddaughter (Celine Buckens).

Albert, meanwhile, makes his own way to the war, and his and Joey’s parallel experiences — harrowing escapes, the loss of friends, the terror and deprivation brightened by flickers of tenderness or high spirits — give the story texture and momentum, as well as giving Mr. Spielberg an opportunity to show off, once again, his unmatched skill at cross-cutting. (The large cast, mostly British and almost entirely male, acquits itself admirably, with a few moments of maudlin overacting and many more of heartbreaking understatement.)

Mr. Spielberg and the screenwriters, Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, have wisely avoided attempting to reproduce the atmosphere and effects of the stage production, in which Joey and the other horses are portrayed by huge puppets. He prefers to translate the tale, which originates in a novel by Michael Morpurgo, into a fully cinematic idiom. And “War Horse” turns out to have a central Spielbergian theme — perhaps the dominant idea in this director’s body of work — namely the fraught and fascinating relationship between the human and the nonhuman. An Interview With Steven Spielberg

What do they — sharks, horses, aliens, dinosaurs, intelligent machines — mean to us? What are we supposed to do with them? The boundary can be hard to maintain: sometimes, as in “E. T.” and “A. I.,” nonhuman beings are virtually impossible to distinguish from humans; at other times, as in “Amistad” and “Schindler’s List,” self-evidently human beings are denied that status. Sometimes the nonhuman is a threat, at other times a comfort, but it always presents a profound ethical challenge based in a stark existential mystery: Who are we?

Mr. Spielberg’s answers to this question tend to be hopeful, and his taste for happy, or at least redemptive endings is frequently criticized. But his ruthless optimism, while it has helped to make him an enormously successful showman, is also crucial to his identity as an artist, and is more complicated than many of his detractors realize. “War Horse” registers the loss and horror of a gruesomely irrational episode in history, a convulsion that can still seem like an invitation to despair. To refuse that, to choose compassion and consolation, requires a measure of obstinacy, a muscular and brutish willfulness that is also an authentic kind of grace.

Sam Miguel
12-27-2011, 11:42 AM
From the NY Times Blogs ___

What Do ‘Dragon Tattoo’ and ‘Iron Lady’ Have in Common? Ask the Grousers

By MELENA RYZIK

It’s time for the holidays and, as ever, it’s time for eggnog recipes and disgruntlement over holiday movies.

First up, The Wall Street Journal reports that Margaret Thatcher’s biographers are unhappy with her portrayal – by no less a grande dame than Meryl Streep — in “The Iron Lady.”

“I was strongly against the film depicting a living person with dementia,” Charles Moore, Ms. Thatcher’s authorized biographer, told Julie Steinberg of The Journal. He added that it was upsetting for those close to Ms. Thatcher, who, as her daughter revealed in a 2008 memoir, is suffering from Alzheimer’s. “It’s an extremely unkind thing to do,” he said. (Mr. Moore’s book will be published only upon Ms. Thatcher’s death.)

Some members of Parliament even called for a House of Commons debate about the movie. Rob Wilson, a Conservative member who is also a parliamentary private secretary to Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, called for the debate on “respect, good manners and good taste,” the BBC reported. Mr. Wilson, the BBC reported, saw the film at a private screening – it is to open in Britain next month – and said it was “well made” and “brilliantly acted” but wondered why it had to focus so much on Ms. Thatcher’s frailties.

Eva Gabrielsson has issues with “Dragon Tattoo” tie-ins.“It left me wondering about the humanity of the filmmakers who are very subtly denigrating someone who was a great prime minister,” he told the BBC.

In other anger news, Eva Gabrielsson, the longtime companion of Stieg Larsson, author of the Lisbeth Salander series, said he wouldn’t have approved of marketing tie-ins to David Fincher’s adaptation of “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” The film, which stars Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, has spawned a clothing line at H&M, created by Trish Summerville, the movie’s costume designer, among other tie-ins.

“We would never have sold any rights for merchandising,” Ms. Gabrielsson told The Associated Press in Stockholm. “It has nothing to do with books.”

Ms. Gabrielsson and Larsson, who died in 2004, were together for more than 30 years but never married; his father and brother inherited the rights to his best-selling series. Ms. Gabrielsson worried that English translations and Hollywood remakes minimized the point that her feminist partner wanted to make, about the prevalence of violence against women. “The oppression of women exists everywhere, this incomprehensible discrimination,” she told The AP. (Fans may know that the Swedish title of the first book in the series translated to “Men Who Hate Women.”)

Some rape survivors, too, have taken issue with the H&M line. Natalie Karneef posted an open letter to the retailer, accusing it of “putting a glossy, trendy finish on the face of sexual violence and the rage and fear it leaves behind.”

H&M responded with an apology, posted at Fashionista, which read, in part: “We do not view this collection as provocative — it contains pieces that are staples in many people’s wardrobes: jeans, biker jackets and T-shirts. It’s all about how you wear them.”

There is always a way to spin a controversy.

genom222
12-27-2011, 06:53 PM
I thought the last Mission Impossible was really good, full of action and lots of cool gadgets plus great locations. Probably my 2nd favorite in the MI series after MI3.


Sam - I really felt like there were not a lot of good movies this year because I could recall only a handful that I watched in the cinema. People are more into downloading movies now which is great because its free. You can download HD films and with a good size TV that should be enough. The drawback there is that when people stop paying to watch movies, producers wont have the money to produce great movies or even come up with the movie itself. For me, it if its a movie that's highly anticipated (like Dark Knight Rises) then I dont mind shelling out a few hundred pesos for IMAX to watch it.

Sam Miguel
12-28-2011, 08:35 AM
From the LA Times, about as close to Hollywood as one can get ___

Oscar nominations race to pit power players against underdogs

Imagine, if you will, a Hollywood version of fantasy football pitting the likes of Margaret Thatcher, J. Edgar Hoover, Marilyn Monroe and F. Scott Fitzgerald in a head-to-head battle with, well, a bunch of nobodies.

Daunting, to say the least. Yet these powerful, iconic, often historical figures are likely to be doing just that this film award season, in a competition that squares them off against such characters as a nebbishy lawyer and an illegal immigrant gardener.

It seems evident from the start just who will come out on top: Anecdotally, audiences and voters seem to naturally gravitate toward big-screen portrayals of the powerful, the movers and the shakers, and celebrity types. Last year, both groups were moved to put "The King's Speech" up on top at the Academy Awards and at the box office, with a $427.3-million worldwide gross.

"'King's Speech' was a double-whammy," says Chris Weitz, director of "A Better Life," which features a man on the lower end of the totem pole — that gardener just mentioned (played by Mexican actor Demián Bichir, who did just pull in a SAG lead actor nomination last week, so perhaps the tide is shifting). "Grand stuff with lovely vistas, nice rooms for people to walk through and big historical events, and a guy who's at a disadvantage. That, as well as Colin [Firth's] amazing performance. You may ask why did he win for that and not 'A Single Man' [the year before]. Well, it has something to do with scale."

There are a number of factors that go into the desire to watch the powerful strut their stuff on the screen; Abi Morgan, screenwriter of "The Iron Lady" (the Thatcher story), says there's a voyeuristic appeal on some levels. "It's fascinating to see any historical or public figure off-camera, when they don't know they're being watched," she says. "A good film gives us the sense that we're seeing someone we think we know behind the scenes."

Actors leap at these kinds of roles too, says "J. Edgar" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (who won a 2009 Oscar for "Milk," about another kind of powerful historical figure), because the roles tend to emphasize character over extensive plot: "Any big biopics or stories about great men or great women focus on character rather than story," he says. "It allows the actor to get incredibly specific — there's a focus on them that they don't get in fictional pieces."

Does that mean the little guy (or girl) in a film that features an original character in ordinary situations has no chance this time? There's no clear trend: Just two Oscars have gone to films focusing on powerful or real-life individuals since 2000 ("A Beautiful Mind" and "King's Speech"), while the "little guy" pops up in such winners as "Slumdog Millionaire," "Crash" and "American Beauty" in recent years. Actors fare about the same — for every "Speech" (Firth) or "Capote" (Philip Seymour Hoffman) biographical performance winner there's a "Crazy Heart" (Jeff Bridges) and "There Will Be Blood" (Daniel Day-Lewis) fictional role that is honored; actresses do slightly better proportionately in recent years when playing famous or powerful figures, such as "The Queen" (Helen Mirren) and "La Vie en Rose" (Marion Cotillard portraying singer Edith Piaf).

One advantage the little, powerless guy may have this year could come from the headlines, which have made much of the 1% versus the 99% in tough economic times. In this climate, it would seem the doors may widen for an undocumented gardener, the "invisible man in America," as Weitz puts it — or even for Paul Giamatti's underdog lawyer in "Win Win."



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"I think the little guys have a fighting chance more and more," says "Win" director-writer Thomas McCarthy. "Who are the 99%? What are their stories? But the question now is does anyone want to see them?"

Still, films about the big guys come with advantages that are hard to overcome with sheer earnest storytelling. "My Week With Marilyn" director Simon Curtis says, "Audiences come with expectations to films [like "Marilyn"], feeling they've already done the first bit of work by knowing the history behind some of these stories."

Such a shortcut, hazards Morgan, is actually a potential problem: "People can think they 'own' a historical character. You have to be able to allow someone [else] to unpack those assumptions for a while."

But Letty Aronson, producer of "Midnight in Paris" — which features a bevy of famous literary and artistic greats — points out one reason that could make the whole 99% factor irrelevant: "The people who vote are the 1%," she says with a chuckle. "People are usually attracted to something they identify with in their own lives."

Next year may be different, says Black. "We're probably lagging behind just a touch; films next year may speak to those issues. But in troubled economic times like these, people are looking for people to grab the reins and create order. Right now, it's about escapism and finding something larger than us."

Either way, whatever films end up in the Oscar nomination hopper, they all have a common theme: Finding the big person in the little guy's story, or the little guy in the big person's history. Regardless of what history — powerful or insignificant — is being told, a script without that layering isn't likely to move voters or audiences.

"We're always going to be interested in the little guy because the little guy is us," Morgan says. "If you can't find the little guy in the powerful figure, there's no point in writing. You have to find some basic human connection. That's what we're looking for in a film — everything else is marketing really."

Sam Miguel
12-28-2011, 08:37 AM
I thought the last Mission Impossible was really good, full of action and lots of cool gadgets plus great locations. Probably my 2nd favorite in the MI series after MI3.


Sam - I really felt like there were not a lot of good movies this year because I could recall only a handful that I watched in the cinema. People are more into downloading movies now which is great because its free. You can download HD films and with a good size TV that should be enough. The drawback there is that when people stop paying to watch movies, producers wont have the money to produce great movies or even come up with the movie itself. For me, it if its a movie that's highly anticipated (like Dark Knight Rises) then I dont mind shelling out a few hundred pesos for IMAX to watch it.


Maybe when Hollywood stops doing things like paying Tom Cruise $20 million a picture and tickets in our country don't cost P200 a pop then people will stop dowloading free movies, hahaha!

Sam Miguel
01-04-2012, 09:31 AM
From the NY Times ___

Women of Steel

By JULIA BAIRD

It had to happen. For female politicians, invoking the name of Margaret Thatcher at a crucial time in your campaign is one of the canniest, most clichéd and most predictable of tactics.

What’s surprising about Michele Bachmann is that it took her so long.

As America’s “iron lady,” Bachmann told Iowans several times during the run-up to the caucuses, she would “stand up for the free market, stand up for job creation, and turn our economy back round so that we also can have tremendous job growth.” You can turn the economy around, Bachmann says, if you just have “the will and the resolve to do it.” Easy.

Now her most recent ads, broadcast at the conclusion of her campaign in Iowa, also claim that Bachmann is not only made of iron, but has a “titanium spine.” It seems unlikely that Bachmann remembers that Thatcher once accused a Conservative colleague of having a spine that did not reach his brain, but who knows?

Michele Bachmann is certainly not the first wannabe Margaret Thatcher. The nickname Iron Lady — not so affectionately bestowed by the Soviets — quickly spawned imitations around the world in the 1980s and 1990s, inspiring labels that juxtaposed femininity with strength: the Steel Magnolia, the Iron Butterfly and even, in Australia, the Steel Sheila.

In the 1980s, few women could enter politics in western countries without being asked if they were like Margaret Thatcher. The very term “iron lady” reveals a basic discomfort with women in power – they must not be like other women to succeed, they must be like steel, iron, titanium. Just like another great cliché – the iron fist in the velvet glove – metal is somehow encased in the softness of a woman’s body.

It’s part of our grand Western tradition of taming, patronizing or marveling at female politicians. Their authority and exercise of power is too often depicted as surprising, secondary, or, in this case, appropriately severe. Toughness and decisiveness, it is implied, do not come naturally to women.

The problem is that when most women compare themselves to this Thatcher it is usually a reminder of how unlike her they are. Thatcher was actually a pragmatic world leader who was deeply schooled in free-market philosophy and kept her faith largely private. As a young politician, she did not balk at supporting the legalization of homosexuality, nor at widening access to abortion (she voted for it “under controlled conditions” in the early months). She was not a moral crusader – unlike Bachmann.

We also forget that Thatcher was a chemist and a barrister who was in politics for 16 years before leading her party, and 20 before leading the country. Bachmann has served in Congress for five.

Thatcher simply outworked and outshone those alongside her. She thrived on work, and was fond of grilling disheveled, tipsy cabinet colleagues at 3 a.m. on some of the finer points of policy. Journalists cooed about her legs and porcelain skin endlessly – Christopher Hitchens described her as surprisingly sexy — but this meant little. One member of her cabinet, John Biffen, described her as a “tigress surrounded by hamsters.”

Thatcher won an intellectual battle with a consistently coherent free-market capitalist political philosophy that conflated, defined and rebranded classic liberal ideas in her own name, as Thatcherism: low taxes, low spending, free markets, anti-union, pro-deregulation and privatization. Yet in so many discussions in American politics, Thatcher is described simply as a cartoonishly tough, freakishly successful woman.
Now her specter is looming even larger given Meryl Streep’s dazzling performance in the film “The Iron Lady.” In an attempt to humanize her, the film depicts an extraordinarily successful leader as a demented, forlorn and slightly regretful old woman.

If Bachmann has seen the movie, she will know that despite Streep’s fine efforts, the film is a travesty, reducing the longest serving British prime minister of the past century to a tetchy political anomaly. As she suffers from dementia, her entire career is viewed through flashbacks of a woman who sees apparitions and hears things. The moments of her greatest triumph – winning the leadership of the Tories in 1975, and her three consecutive election victories – are glossed over or forgotten. She seems merely cranky and determined.

In fact, she was stroppy, as the British say — rather belligerent and easily annoyed.

The film focuses not on the acuteness of Thatcher’s mental faculties, but the loss of them. So much so that rather than providing an inspiring example of what women can do, it serves as a cautionary tale about women who work, who might in their old age wonder if their families suffered for their now foggily remembered achievements. It was depressing.

Bachmann’s bid for the title of Iron Lady is understandable given the desire of the American public for effective, strong leadership at a time of recession, the longstanding love of Republicans for Churchill as well as the fact that we don’t want any politicians to be spineless. “The lady’s not for turning,” Thatcher defiantly told her Conservative colleagues in 1980, when she refused to change course on the economy. But we hardly hanker for a lady who is for turning.

Perhaps Bachmann will need to rely on some of the former prime minister’s resolve as the primaries roll on in the coming weeks. “Defeat?” Thatcher said. “I do not recognize the meaning of the word.”

Dark Knight
01-04-2012, 01:07 PM
Some movies to look forward to this 2012

Ghost Rider : Spirit Of Vengeance
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
The Amazing Spiderman
Madagascar 3 : Europes Most Wanted
Ice Age 4 : Continental Drift
GI Joe : Retaliation

Joescoundrel
01-06-2012, 11:10 AM
^ I'm looking forward to the Avengers movie as well. I'm curious to see if they can oull it off because so far they've pulled off the individual hero stories ably enough. I wonder however who else other than the mainstay Avengers like Thor, Ironman and Captain America will be on the team. They need a woman there, a known mainstay from the comins, and I'm not sure if Wasp or Captain Marvel (not Shazam) or Scarlet Witch are in the works.

fujima04
01-10-2012, 11:52 AM
More Movies to look forward in 2012
Source: Read ME

1. The Dark Knight Rises

This is the number one most anticipated film on a number of lists on the web at the moment, and with good reason. With the last two Batman films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, being such big hits, and with the latter being left on such a cliffhanger, it's no wonder that fans are eager for the conclusion.

This one is set eight years after the last. Batman has not surfaced since taking the blame for Harvey Dent's crimes, though he is forced to return after terrorist leader Bane arrives, overwhelming Gotham City and pushing the police force to its limits.

2. The Hunger Games

Slated for a March release, The Hunger Games is one of the most talked about films of the moment, it being based on the Suzanne Collins novel of the same name.

The movie is set in a dystopian future in the nation of Panem, which lies atop the ruins of what was once North America. The regime randomly selects a boy and a girl between the ages 12 and 18 from each of the 12 districts, and pits them against each other in a ruthless kill-or-be-killed competition until only one is left standing.

It should certainly offer as much drama as the harrowing novel does.

3. Skyfall

The 23rd James Bond film is set for release this October, following its suspended production throughout 2010 due to film studio MGM's financial problems.

Daniel Craig, who has won plenty of acclaim for his performance as the iconic agent, will reprise the role for this film, while Judi Dench is confirmed to take on the role of M once again.

Craig has stated that the Skyfall plot will be unrelated to the previous two Bond films, and will instead see 007 question his loyalty to M after the ghost of her past come back to wreak havoc in the present-day MI6.

4. The Avengers

Many of the recent Marvel Comics releases (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man) have been setting the scene for this, the movie that will bring these characters together as a super-human fighting force known as SHIELD.

Robert Downey Jr. will reprise his role as Tony Stark, meaning that the film is almost guaranteed to have at least one good performance. Much is riding on this super-film, given that the last few Marvel releases have seen lackluster reviews.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man

Despite the last Spider-Man film having only wrapped things up in 2007, Hollywood has seen fit to re-boot the franchise and start again, from the moment Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, with an entirely new cast and crew.

In contrast to the lighter tone offered by the previous films, The Amazing Spider-Man promises to be darker in mood, with Peter Parker grappling with the traumas of his past and coming to terms with the responsibilities of possessing his amazing abilities.

6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Ever since Peter Jackson's epic Lord of the Rings trilogy ended in 2003, fans and critics have been crying out for a film version of the preceding story, The Hobbit. After much toing and froing, and another director agreeing to joing the project and then dropping out, production began with Jackson at the helm last year.

The story follows a younger Bilbo Baggins, played by Marting Freeman, as he joins Gandalf on a new adventure that will change him forever. Much of the production crew from The Lord of the Rings has returned for this film, meaning it should be evry bit as enjoyable as the original trilogy was.

7. Prometheus

The premise of Ridley Scott's lastest science fiction epic was originally intended to be a prequel to 1979's Alien, though massive script changes resulted in this film taking a form of its own. Scott has said that the plot will share elements with the Alien universe, though it also has its own mythology to explore.

The trailer is particularly sketchy in details, offering only the premise that the crew of the Prometheus are exploring what appears to be the ruins of an extraterrestrial race, uncovering a dark horror that threatens humanity. However, the story pans out, though, it's almost certain that the film will be one of the summer's biggest blockbusters.

Dark Knight
01-11-2012, 11:54 AM
More Movies to look forward in 2012
Source: Read ME

1. The Dark Knight Rises

This is the number one most anticipated film on a number of lists on the web at the moment, and with good reason. With the last two Batman films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, being such big hits, and with the latter being left on such a cliffhanger, it's no wonder that fans are eager for the conclusion.

This one is set eight years after the last. Batman has not surfaced since taking the blame for Harvey Dent's crimes, though he is forced to return after terrorist leader Bane arrives, overwhelming Gotham City and pushing the police force to its limits.

2. The Hunger Games

Slated for a March release, The Hunger Games is one of the most talked about films of the moment, it being based on the Suzanne Collins novel of the same name.

The movie is set in a dystopian future in the nation of Panem, which lies atop the ruins of what was once North America. The regime randomly selects a boy and a girl between the ages 12 and 18 from each of the 12 districts, and pits them against each other in a ruthless kill-or-be-killed competition until only one is left standing.

It should certainly offer as much drama as the harrowing novel does.

3. Skyfall

The 23rd James Bond film is set for release this October, following its suspended production throughout 2010 due to film studio MGM's financial problems.

Daniel Craig, who has won plenty of acclaim for his performance as the iconic agent, will reprise the role for this film, while Judi Dench is confirmed to take on the role of M once again.

Craig has stated that the Skyfall plot will be unrelated to the previous two Bond films, and will instead see 007 question his loyalty to M after the ghost of her past come back to wreak havoc in the present-day MI6.

4. The Avengers

Many of the recent Marvel Comics releases (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man) have been setting the scene for this, the movie that will bring these characters together as a super-human fighting force known as SHIELD.

Robert Downey Jr. will reprise his role as Tony Stark, meaning that the film is almost guaranteed to have at least one good performance. Much is riding on this super-film, given that the last few Marvel releases have seen lackluster reviews.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man

Despite the last Spider-Man film having only wrapped things up in 2007, Hollywood has seen fit to re-boot the franchise and start again, from the moment Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, with an entirely new cast and crew.

In contrast to the lighter tone offered by the previous films, The Amazing Spider-Man promises to be darker in mood, with Peter Parker grappling with the traumas of his past and coming to terms with the responsibilities of possessing his amazing abilities.






Sadly Dark Knight Rises will be the last of the Cris Nolan series. He should make 1 more and feature Manbat and Hush as the villains.

I dont think the Hobbit will generate earnings.

Im eagerly waiting for Skyfall. I have all the James Bond films and they should BRING back Q for goodness sake. Plus they also should revert to the 60's style Bond complete with painted Bond movie posters. Sean Connery is still the best.

Sam Miguel
03-20-2012, 01:26 PM
From Yahoo Entertainment ___

'John Carter' Loss Expected to Be $200M

By Joshua L. Weinstein

"John Carter" is now an official flop.

The Walt Disney Co. on Monday acknowledged in a statement that the movie's poor performance at the box office likely will force Disney to take a $200 million writedown. The company expects its studio divison will post an operating loss of as much as $120 million in the second fiscal quarter of this year.

"John Carter," based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs character, was made for about a quarter-billion dollars;marketing costs were another $100 million on top of that. But the movie grossed only $30.2 million domestically during its first weekend of release, taking in a measly $13.5 million its second.

The picture was brighter overseas, grossing around $126 million abroad in the 10 days since its March 9 release.

“In light of the theatrical performance of John Carter ($184 million global box office), we expect the film to generate an operating loss of approximately $200 million during our second fiscal quarter ending March 31," the company said in a statement. "As a result, our current expectation is that the studio segment will have an operating loss of between $80 and $120 million for the second quarter."

The writedown means "John Carter" is one of history's biggest flops.

It rates alongside such stinkers as "Mars Needs Moms," a 2011 movie that cost $150 million to make and grossed $39 million worldwide; "Ishtar," the 1987 disaster that cost $55 million to make and grossed $14 million domestically and "Heaven's Gate," the 3 hour 39 minute 1980 bomb that cost $44 million to make and grossed $3.48 million domestically.

Even before "John Carter" arrived in theaters, Hollywood had labeled it a bomb. Early on, there were wide reports that the sci-fi extravaganza had gone over budget and required many costly reshoots. An uninspired trailer only made the situation worse.

The costly reshoots, lack of a recognizable star, the director's inexperience with live action -- "John Carter" is director Andrew Stanton's first live-action movie -- and Disney's marketing compounded the problems. Disney's former marketing chief MT Carney exited a few months before the movie's release, leaving it to incoming marketing chief Ricky Strauss to usher the movie into theaters.

"John Carter" stars Taylor Kitsch as a Confederate soldier who finds himself transported to Mars, where he becomes involved in an alien war. The movie had long been in development with several filmmakers deeming it unfilmmable before Stanton got the project.

Taking the hit, the studio pointed to upcoming movies with presumably happier fates in store.

"As we look forward to the second half of the year, we are excited about the upcoming releases of 'The Avengers' and 'Brave,' which we believe have tremendous potential to drive value for the Studio and the rest of the company,” Disney said.

Sam Miguel
03-20-2012, 01:35 PM
^^^ John Carter's biggest problem is that it is a remake.

Of Scorpion King.

Check it out:

1. Big bad-arsed buff good guy who basically is a reluctant hero, who gets forced into being a hero because of his big fluffy do-gooder heart, although he was actually looking to score on abig pay day, played a by a relative unknown in the big epic action hero genre

2. Enigmatic female lead sporting a gratuitously bikini-edition outfit thr entire time she is onscreen, who sort of uses the unwilling hero first to further her own personal agenda but in actuality a huge "big picture" greater good kind of deal

3. Pure evil, seemingly invincible / unbeatable over-the-top bad guy with some sort of special power that must be overcome with not just brawn but brain and big brass balls

4. Lots of sword play over lots of desert, with an oppressed and/or unimportant tribe who later on act as the cavalry for the lead character, led by a chieftain who somehow befriends or becomes a surrogate father for the lead character

IT IS THE SAME MOVIE!

reforms
03-20-2012, 04:18 PM
I just don't get it- John Carter's antagonists, which has god-like powers- were just killed by a bullet.

Sam Miguel
03-21-2012, 02:09 PM
From the Los Angeles Times ___

Movie review: '21 Jump Street'

The only thing "21 Jump Street" takes even remotely seriously is high school. Everything else is punch line material — including the Johnny Depp TV series that was its inspiration and the two undercover police rookies now at its center, played with a great goofball gusto by Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.

As Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum), this odd couple is inept from the beginning and ideal for the slap-happy sensibility of co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The college filmmaking buddies have turned their off-center humor into a full-time job more innocently with 2009's animated adaptation of kids' book "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," more provocatively with the mind-melding irreverence of the MTV animated series "Clone High." Miller and Lord clearly understand the push-and-pull and hyper-competitiveness that make guy friendships both complex and stupid. That it comes to life so fully in "21 Jump Street" is what gives the film an endearing, punch-you-in-the-arm-because-I-like-you-man charm.

In a slow wind-up that fortunately doesn't last too long, we get a glimpse of the guys in their own high school daze. Schmidt the nerd with bleached hair and braces, Jenko the cool jock with failing grades. A few disappointments later they reconnect during their cop training days, this time joining forces so Schmidt can pass the physical stuff and Jenko the written exams.

Once the background business is finally over — including their inglorious bike patrol assignment and a botched arrest — the now best buddies get assigned to 21 Jump Street, an undercover operation housed in the sanctuary of a condemned church with its Korean Jesus above the altar keeping an eye on things and a trash-talking Ice Cube as the captain running the show. For those who don't know the basics of the legendary series that launched Depp, the boys are sent back to high school disguised as students to catch bad guys trying to corrupt kids.

Depp's "Street" was more crime-and-punishment drama, though his brow was slightly arched even then. The reimagined "21" is total comic farce, with Schmidt and Jenko assigned to ferret out the supplier of a new designer drug that is incredibly potent — its crazed effect chronicled by one student YouTube style. Written by the very busy Michael Bacall, the quirky mind who had a hand in the current"Project X" nerd party and co-wrote the inventive"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," "Jump Street" features his peppery sarcasm and his trademark fourth-wall breaking antics with pop-art splashes dropped in as commentary/context for fun.

As fate and the filmmakers would have it, Jenko and Schmidt are assigned to the very high school they graduated from, which means a second chance to do things differently. Always the jokester, Jenko switches their identities during their meet-and-greet with the principal, with Jenko playing the science nerd and Schmidt the track star and drama club king. Oh, and they're supposed to be brothers, which means they move back in with Schmidt's mom and dad.

Tatum and Hill turn out to be even better partners than Jenko and Schmidt. Though Tatum is rock hard and Hill is squishy soft, both bring a kind of vulnerability to their characters that makes whatever mayhem they are up to OK. Hill, in particular, knows how to swing between pretension and panic with the greatest of ease.

Those qualities serve to bring an unexpected introspection as the guys rewind and replay their high school experience with all the ego and angst of the first time, and theoretically the wisdom of age. Just about everything on the teen issue checklist turns up at some point — the out-of-control party, the cute girl (Brie Larson) whom Schmidt wants to take to the prom, the cool dude (Dave Franco) who deals on the side, and all the big, bad bruisers the boys are supposed to take down.

That the school play that Schmidt tries out for is"Peter Pan"is not a random choice. Indeed there are sly, knowing references scattered throughout the film that reward you for paying attention even as lunacy and total anarchy unfold. Which brings us to the freewheeling action excesses that director of photography Barry Peterson ("Starsky & Hutch") captures with such comic verve.

As Jenko and Schmidt struggle with their shifting emotions and the pressures that the high school role-playing puts on their relationship, the conflicts nearly always trigger some kind of major action episode with wild car chases, shootouts and a lot of wrestling of the exceedingly awkward sort that boys do. But then things never quite turn out as planned for this bumbling pair, which is actually just fine.

Sam Miguel
03-21-2012, 02:10 PM
^^^ We had Miami Vice, The A Team, and now 21 Jump Street.

I wonder when we will have The Equalizer?

Sam Miguel
03-21-2012, 02:14 PM
From the Los Angeles Times ___

'The Hunger Games' fuels Hollywood's appetite for North Carolina

From “Blue Velvet” to “Bull Durham,” North Carolina has a long filmmaking tradition. With the release of this weekend’s much-anticipated debut of “The Hunger Games,” state film officials are hoping the state will re-emerge as one of the top shooting destinations outside of California.

The post-apocalyptic tale based on the first of three bestselling novels by Suzanne Collins is expected to be one of the highest grossing movies of the year -- a major selling point for the state that hosted the production last summer.

“The Hunger Games,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, is one of the biggest productions North Carolina has hosted. With the film’s budget exceeding $80 million, Santa Monica studio Lionsgate spent an estimated $60 million in the state, employing 180 crew members and more than 4,000 extras.

“This is going to impact us in the way that ‘Dirty Dancing’ and ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ did,” said Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office. “It shows the industry that North Carolina can handle these large films and that we have the talent and resources to make it work.”

The film office has wasted no time taking advantage of the hype surrounding the Lionsgate movie, sending out an email blast to filmmakers proudly touting the locations used in “The Hunger Games.”

Over four months last summer, the crew filmed throughout the Charlotte area, including at an old cotton mill outside of Hildebran that was transformed into a coal-mining village that is home to the movie’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen. They also shot at a former Philip Morris cigarette manufacturing plant in Concord and in the dense forest areas near Asheville and Black Mountain that served as the backdrop for “The Hunger Games,” in which teenagers fight to the death on live television.

“The Hunger Games” contributed to North Carolina having a record year for production in 2011, generating $220 million in film and TV spending, up from $75 million in 2010. Other productions in the state included such TV series as Showtime’s “Homeland” and the CW's young adult drama “One Tree Hill,” as well as several movies, among them “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which filmed partially in Wilmington.

This year, North Carolina will host another big film, Marvel Studios’ “Iron Man 3,” starring Robert Downey Jr. The production, which will soon begin filming, is expected to spend $80 million in the state.

North Carolina’s film office attributes the increase in activity mainly to the decision by the state legislature to beef up its film tax credit in January of last year. The state, which offers a 25% refundable tax credit on qualified production expenses, increased the cap on how much individual projects could receive to $20 million from $7 million.

Although North Carolina provided ideal locations for “The Hunger Games,” the film tax credit was a key factor, said Todd Christensen, the movie's location manager, who also worked on the Oscar-nominated picture “Moneyball,” which filmed in California.

“They hadn’t done a big film in North Carolina for some time, but they had a great attitude toward us as a film crew and letting us do what we needed to do,” Christensen said.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, North Carolina was one of the busiest states for filming outside of California and New York, thanks to a string of movies including the baseball drama “Bull Durham” and Academy Award-winner “The Last of the Mohicans,” which filmed in the Pisgah National Forest among other locations.

Despite its reputation for being film friendly and a so-called right-to-work state where non-union crews are welcomed, North Carolina lost its competitive edge when Canadian provinces and other states such as Georgia and Louisiana began to grab larger shares of the business by offering generous film tax credits. Now the state is enjoying a comeback, industry officials say.

“The industry is seeing us as a serious filmmaking state,’’ said Bill Vassar, an executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems, which operates a 10-stage production facility in Wilmington that will be rented to Marvel for “Iron Man 3.” “It’s elevating us again.”

Sam Miguel
03-22-2012, 08:16 AM
From the New York Times ___

Review: 'The Hunger Games' a Winning Story of Sacrifice and Survival

When you're talking about "The Hunger Games," it all comes down to Katniss.

Like other strong-minded women who have driven book sales into the stratosphere — think Lisbeth Salander of the "Dragon Tattoo" triology and even Bella Swan of the "Twilight" series — ace archer Katniss Everdeen is an indomitable heroine whom nothing fazes or flusters for long.

Making a successful "Hunger Games" movie out of Suzanne Collins' novel required casting the best possible performer as Katniss, and in Jennifer Lawrence director Gary Ross and company have hit the bull's-eye, so to speak.

An actress who specializes in combining formidable strength of will with convincing vulnerability, Lawrence is the key factor in making "Hunger Games" an involving popular entertainment with strong narrative drive that holds our attention by sticking as close to the book's outline as it can manage.

As those who've seen Lawrence's Oscar-nominated work in "Winter's Bone" know, playing Ree Dolly in that film gave the actress a head start on Katniss. Not only was Ree similarly determined and intrepid, she paralleled Katniss in growing up poor in blighted surroundings and having to head the family after the departure of her father hampered her mother's ability to cope.

Ree's story, however, was set in the present, while Katniss' tale unfolds in a bleak future where a nation called Panem exists where the United States once stood. Every year, to mark the anniversary of a peace treaty that ended a bloody rebellion, each of Panem's districts has to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18, known as tributes, to the Capitol to participate in a brutal kill-or-be-killed event called the Hunger Games. Only one child comes out alive.

"This is how we remember our past," intones the official propaganda for this, the 74th annual games, set in a sizable wooded area that functions as an outdoor arena. "This is how we safeguard our future." So that no one misses the message, numerous concealed cameras turn the Hunger Games into the ultimate in must-see TV for Panem's residents.

Collins came up with the idea for "Hunger Games" while switching between a reality TV show and coverage of the Iraq war. And the finished film, though it combines elements familiar from short stories "The Lottery" and "The Most Dangerous Game," does come off as a lethal "Survivor" or even"American Idol" with deadly weapons.

In District 12, where coal mining is a way of life and the people dress like characters from "The Grapes of Wrath,"16-year-old Katniss is primarily concerned with getting food for her family and bonding with her hunky best friend, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).

But when her 12-year-old sister gets chosen as a tribute, Katniss impulsively volunteers to take her place and heads off to the Capitol clutching a pin in the shape of a mockingjay (the visual symbol of both book and film) as a good luck charm.

On the train to the Capitol, Katniss exchanges glances with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), her fellow District 12 tribute, and spends quality time with key players like the ebullient Effie Trinket (an unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks) and the inebriated Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), a former champion who is supposed to mentor both Peeta and Katniss.

At the Capitol, an effete, decadent place that looks like a 1930s image of futuristic architecture, more characters materialize, including Stanley Tucci's foppish host and Lenny Kravitz's sensitive pageant stylist. Preliminaries out of the way, the games begin with roughly an hour gone and 90 minutes left on the clock.

Since what happens during the Hunger Games should stay in the Hunger Games, specifics of the combat will not be revealed here, except to mention the presence of young actress Amandla Stenberg, who makes a powerful impression as 12-year-old Rue.

Though the film is faithful to the book, the trio of practiced screenwriters (Ross, who has a trio of Oscar script nominations, author Collins and Billy Ray) have made some changes. The biggest one is elimination of the book's first-person structure, which allows for scenes — such as private conversations between President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and head gamemaker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) — that were not in the novel.

Ross also makes the shrewd choice to have us frequently glimpse the unfolding games action on the huge TV screens the citizens of Panem are watching, enhancing the uncomfortable intertwining of violence and voyeurism that is one of the story's themes.

As to the kid-on-kid violence that has been the subject of so much talk, Ross has managed to adroitly downplay that, keeping the mayhem to a PG-13 level. Most of the children in the film want nothing to do with killing, and the ones who do look considerably older than the heroines of previous ultra-violent films like "Hanna" and "Kick-Ass."

Katniss, of course, is one of the reluctant participants, and Lawrence's ability to involve us in her struggle is a key to the effectiveness of "Hunger Games." The film's strengths are not so much in its underlying themes or its romantic elements, (the weakest aspect, in fact) but its recognition of the book's narrative strengths and its ability play them straight. If, as the ads suggest, the whole world will be watching this, viewers will likely be satisfied with what they see.

Sam Miguel
03-22-2012, 08:42 AM
From the Los Angeles Times ___

Jack Kirby, the Abandoned Hero of Marvel’s grand Hollywood adventure, and his Family’s Quest

You’d be hard-pressed to find a recent comic book that didn’t have the stylish scrawl of the artists somewhere on the cover, but that was not the case when Jack Kirby was making pop culture history back in the 1960s with his wildly kinetic drawings of the X-Men, Hulk and the Fantastic Four. “I think I have a highly unique and unusual style, and that’s the reason I never sign my drawings,” the proud Kirby told an interviewer in 1987, seven years before his death. “Everybody could tell any of my covers a mile away on the newsstand, and that satisfied me.”

The satisfaction was fleeting. The artist may be reverently referred to as “King” Kirby by the pop scholars and younger artists who celebrate his genre-defining work but Kirby is, in some ways, an overlooked figure in the broader view of American culture. He didn’t live to see his creations fly across the movie screen over the last decade and his four children made nothing from those lucrative films, although they are now pursuing legal action to claim some of the future Hollywood wealth. “There is,” daughter Lisa Kirby says, “a bittersweet legacy to my father’s work.”

On a recent afternoon, in Beverly Hills, a different man was autographing a giant lithograph reproducing one of Kirby’s classic Fantastic Four covers. It was Stan Lee, the writer who was Kirby’s most famous collaborator until they became estranged over creative credit, artwork custody and money. An art dealer had brought stacks of limited-edition lithos, some to be priced at $850, to Lee’s Santa Monica Boulevard office along with a check in his pocket to pay the 86-year-old Lee for his autographs.

Lee had written the stories for the classic comics, of course, but considering all the history, it was still odd to see his name etched on the cosmic Kirby tableau from 1966.

“Yes, there was a time when there was some hard feeling on his part ... but he got over that and we were friends,” Lee said. “It really is sad that he didn’t get to see all the big movies. None of us could predict that we would get to this point with the films. I don’t dwell on it too much because I’m always so busy doing what I am doing today. Unfortunately the guys back in the day did not make as much as they do today. Years ago also you had artists doing these comics who, well, there was nothing else they could have done. Their style wasn’t right for advertising or magazines like Saturday Evening Post or Collier’s. And as for us writers, well, we weren’t qualified to write for the New Yorker. Comic book writers were considered hacks, and artists weren’t really thought of as much beyond that.”

Lee studied one of the other art pieces, a dazzling revisiting of a Kirby cover for Captain America. “Wow, look at this one.” The pieces are being sold by the Santa Monica gallery called Every Picture Tells a Story as part of a new licensing deal with Marvel to create high-end wall art from illustrations that were, in their day, the most gaudy and disposable entertainment imaginable. “As far as I’m concerned,” Lee said with his endless zeal, “it is fine art.”

The story of two “hacks,” as Lee would frame it, will be scrutinized much more considering recent events. Last month, the Walt Disney Co. paid $4 billion to scoop up Marvel Entertainment and its vault of florid characters who over the last decade have become Hollywood box-office heroes. Many of the most valuable properties in that vault were created by the wildly prolific tandem of Lee and Kirby in the 1960s; there are two big-budget movies now in the pipeline for Marvel Studios that are based on Lee-Kirby creations (“The Mighty Thor“ and “The Avengers”) and a third (“First Avenger: Captain America”) based on the work of Kirby and writer Joe Simon. The Kirby brood watched the Disney deal happen and within days were conferring with attorneys and accelerating their bid to reclaim copyright.

A day after Lee sat signing that artwork, attorneys representing the four children of Kirby sent out 45 notices of termination to Hollywood studios and players with an interest in assorted Marvel films; it was the opening salvo in a legal battle to gain copyright control of certain characters and the name on the legal letterhead was Toberoff & Associates, the same firm that last year won a intriguing victory by reclaiming a share of the copyright for the first Superman story for heirs of that character’s co-creator, Jerry Siegel.

Under copyright law, creators or their heirs can seek to regain copyrights they previously assigned to a company 56 years after first publication, so the Kirby family is starting that process now with hopes of gaining an interest or, perhaps, a settlement. Lee, meanwhile, struck assorted deals through the years with Marvel and has been an executive producer on every Marvel film made to date, movies with worldwide box office now in the billions of dollars, and has had prominent cameos in many of them.

Lee is by far the most famous creator in comics history thanks to his longevity, success and a Barnum-like flair for self-promotion. He became a media figure in the 1960s when journalists jotted down his dizzying hyperbole about Marvel’s brightly hued, counterculture ethos. Kirby, laboring at home with far less credit, looked on and chafed about his status as a freelancer, essentially working for Lee, whose family connections by then had taken him to the top of the small and scruffy publishing venture. By 1970, Kirby had had enough and defected to rival DC Comics. Lee would go on to accumulate considerable wealth and fame, sometimes selling comics, sometimes selling his own persona with a long list of splashy but short-lived ventures. Kirby’s fortunes were not as grand; when he talked about his old creations he had the weary tone of a man who long ago watched the family coin collection scatter on a crowded street.

Lee knows that fans like to set up the partners as rivals. Kirby is portrayed as the irascible purist with staggering imagination and Lee reduced to the tireless huckster — the pop-culture prophet versus the corporate profiteer. From Lee’s present vantage point, though, he prefers to look back on their shared tale as the unexpected odyssey of two kids who grew up in a business of cruel deadlines and lowbrow aspirations and found in each other a go-to guy.

“My favorite thing about Kirby’s artwork was his storytelling,” Lee said. “He was really a film director doing comics.”

In that, Kirby was certainly ahead of his time. Comics are a huge part of Hollywood now, thanks to the modern era of computer-generated special effects that, finally, can match the galactic visions and super-powered mayhem that Kirby put to paper in the 1960s. Kirby’s influence is nothing less than massive on several generations of artists and filmmakers.

“There was power in the work of Jack Kirby that changed the way I looked at things,” said Guillermo del Toro, writer-director of “Pan’s Labyrinth.” “There was no one else like him and there never will be.”

Nevertheless, Kirby remains a distant second to Lee in name recognition, which Lisa Kirby said rankles. “A lot more people know the name Stan Lee than the name Jack Kirby,” she said. “I’m not putting down Stan Lee’s talents but it’s difficult for us to see that he does dominate the credit. That doesn’t reflect the work or the reality. To see Jack Kirby in small letters and Stan Lee in big letters, that’s hard for us.”

Mike Richardson grew up under the thrall of Kirby’s drawings and was inspired to found his own comic-book company, Dark Horse, which has grown into a Hollywood player after seeing titles such as “The Mask,” “Hellboy” and “300“ jump to the screen. Through the years, he reached out to the Kirby family to help them find some sort of compensation.

“There was a lot of anger in the Kirby family with the way that Jack was treated, more than they will express in public,” Richardson said. “There’s no way you can say enough about the impact of those Marvel comics in the 1960s. They changed the rules. Lee and Kirby were the Lennon and McCartney of comics and Stan Lee became a well-known figure in popular culture and Jack did not. Neither were as great on their own, it’s true, but Jack had decades of work that was really special. To me, there’s no doubt that Jack Kirby was the truly brilliant creative genius behind the success of Marvel.”

If there’s a battle to come, it’s one Kirby never took on in life.

“Jack didn’t have the resources or the stomach lining to fight Marvel over copyrights, character ownership or past contractual sleights that he believed he suffered,” says Mark Evanier, who was Kirby’s assistant in the early 1970s and later his biographer. “He fought to get back his pages of original art. That was the fight he believed he could win.”

Evanier, now a comics historian and creator, testified in the Siegel suit and it seems certain that he would be in the deposition seat for any Kirby legal case. A longtime friend to Kirby and respectful acquaintance of Lee, he spoke glowingly of the partnership as lightning in a bottle, the zenith of each man’s career.

Kirby contributed mightily to the plots and character creation; the workload at Marvel was so intense in the 1960s that there were no “scripts” handed to Kirby, he would just draw the story and Lee would go back and craft dialogue that fit the action. Still, Evanier said, while it’s now fashionable to view Lee as the lesser figure, he also had the separate success of Spider-Man (with artist Steve Ditko) and set the singular tone and culture of Marvel.

The pair had met in the Roosevelt years. In late 1940, Jacob Kurtzberg, 23, drawing under the name Kirby, had his first taste of real success in the young comics industry, which soared after the debut of Superman in 1938. Kirby and writer Simon’s Captain America was a hit for Timely Comics, which would later morph into Marvel. There was an eager assistant in the office named Stanley Lieber, just 18, who had gotten the job through a family connection (and would later shorten his name).

“In those days they dipped the pen in ink, I had to make sure the inkwells were filled,” said Lee. “I went down and got them their lunch, I did proofreading, I erased the pencils from the finished pages for them.

Whatever had to be done. I remember Jack would always be sitting at a table puffing on his cigar, kind of talking to himself as he was doing those pages.”

Lee’s first credited work was a 1941 Captain America story where the hero threw his shield for the first time. That would become a trademark for decades, suggesting an instant flair for the medium. Kirby left Timely not long after. Years later, with comics in the doldrums, Lee and Kirby would reunite and create a new sort of comic book, with frenetic energy, mutant outsiders and misunderstood monsters. Superman and DC Comics instantly seemed like boring old Pat Boone; Marvel felt like the Beatles and the British Invasion. It was Kirby’s artwork with its tension and psychedelia that made it perfect for the times — or was it Lee’s bravado and melodrama, which was somehow insecure and brash at the same time?

“Jack was the best partner you could ask for, dependable and imaginative,” Lee said, sitting in an office cluttered with all those old heroes and villains. “And it was never dull. Nothing with us was ever dull.”

Sam Miguel
03-22-2012, 08:44 AM
^^^ In the era of the blockbuster superhero movie, Jack Kirby may finally get his due, or at least his family. I certainly hope Stan Lee and the new Marvel-Hollywood Axis give due credit and show the money for the heirs of Kirby. Without him there would really be no Marvel Universe to begin with. Comis AND film are all the better because of Kirby. His family deserves now what Kirby never got in life.

Joescoundrel
03-23-2012, 10:55 AM
From MSN Movies - - -

‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ director: Disney Turned us Down

Snow White has undergone many makeovers since her Brothers Grimm incarnation in 1812, and none persists in the American imagination of today more than Walt Disney’s warbling beauty. But “Snow White and the Huntsman” gives the raven-haired princess a treatment far bleaker than the current rival versions in “Mirror Mirror” and “Once Upon A Time.” A five-minute trailer, which aired Saturday at WonderCon, teases a dark epic in which Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth, who play the film’s title characters, and a band of dwarfs lead a battle against Charlize Theron’s evil queen. It’s a bold feature film debut for director Rupert Sanders, whose previous work is primarily commercial. Hero Complex writer Noelene Clark caught up with Sanders to talk about the film’s magic, mythology and star power.

NC: We see such a bleak world in the new trailer for “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Can you tell us about creating this particular brand of dark magic?

RS: I wanted to make a big, epic medieval film with lots of knights in shining armor. I used to love history books as a kid, and so I was really kind of creating those massive films, and then within that, I wanted to create a sense of believable magic, so this is a world where people believed that the dark forest was inhabited by creatures. It’s not a fantasy movie, it’s definitely a fairy tale movie, but kind of that was the time when people felt these things existed.

NC: You make a distinction between fairy tale and fantasy. How would you say they’re different?

RS: Fantasy, to me, I think is anything goes. The world is fantastic; it’s not a real world. Whereas ours is a real world where magical things happen and people believe in them. It’s much more historic, I think. Our world, for all intents and purposes, could have happened in 1480 when they believed that these things existed. And that was where most of these stories came from — in that period in the Middle Ages. Whereas fantasy, to me, it never existed; it’s a parallel world. This is our world, as it was in that time.

Charlize Theron in a movie poster for "Snow White and the Huntsman." (Universal Pictures)
NC: Charlize Theron seems a terrifying as the evil Queen Ravenna. How did you develop this villain?

RS: I think what we really tried to do is make her a realistic character. It’s a hard character to play because everyone has their perception of what the evil queen is and what the villain should do, but I think what was great about what Charlize wanted to do, is she wanted to find a very believable, very realistic, very wounded character. People who are wounded are much more dangerous. You look at nature, people who are protecting their young, or an animal that is wounded is far more vicious and violent than something that is just strong. And I think that she found this incredible pain within herself that made the brutality of what she was doing far more resonant.

NC: And Kristen Stewart is your Snow White.

RS: She’s quite stunning. She’s really good. First thing I saw her in was probably “Panic Room,” and then I saw her in “The Runaways” and “Into the Wild.” She’s an incredibly talented actor. I think a lot of people think that she’s Bella Swan because she played that part so well, and she really epitomized that character from the books. She was really strict with herself that she’d wear brown contacts, which is hard to act with those things in, because so much is coming from the eyes, but that’s what Bella Swan had. She’s very serious about what she does, and she’s incredibly gifted, and she’s incredibly intuitive, and she’ll just try different things. It was great to work with her. She’s a very one-of-a-kind actor.

NC: We’re familiar with Chris Hemsworth from his performance in “Thor” and the upcoming “Avengers” movie. You’ve said that he delivers a very emotional performance in “Snow White.”

RS: When I saw “Thor,” I thought, you know, he’s got the charm, he’s got the presence, he’s got the physicality. But when I met him, he’s got this kind of great broodingness to him. He’s got this amazing deep voice. He sounds like Morgan Freeman or something. He’s just so versatile, and he loves this kind of film. This is the kind of film he grew up on. He’s endlessly talking about “Legend” and “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth” and all the fantasy films he loves. There are a couple of scenes where he has to really go there, and he’s totally willing to bare his soul, which is rare to find all those things — I call it the beauty of the Australian actor, because they have the British training and the American diet. He’s massive and muscle-y, but he’s as good of an actor as some of those British actors. He’s kind of got it all, Chris. He’s a lucky man, and he’s very busy because of it.

NC: I understand the eight dwarfs in your film are different than previous incarnations of the classic characters. Can you tell us a little about your dwarf mythology?

RS: They’re not called Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy and Dopey. In our film, they used to noble gold miners because they could see light in the darkness, and they see that light in Snow White. But while they were down in the caves, the Queen took over, and when they came up, the land was blackened, and all of their tribe was lost. So they’ve lost everything, and they’ve become highwaymen, basically. So they meet our characters by trying to rob them. They basically beat the … out of both of them, and lynch them, and then try to take all their money. And then she kind of bonds them together, and they all go off together and continue the journey.

NC: And your dwarfs are portrayed by an incredible lineup of British actors, including Nick Frost.

RS: We’ve got Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Johnny Harris and Brian Gleeson — really amazing. Another actor I think is stunning in the film, who really plays more of the villain, ironically, than the Queen, is her younger brother. He’s called Sam Spruell, who plays Finn, who’s the one with white hair. He’s incredible. I saw him in a small British gangster movie called “London to Brighton,” and I was like, I gotta get that guy. He’s stunning in it.

NC: In the five-minute WonderCon trailer (below), we hear the Queen’s mirror telling her to consume Snow White’s heart. Is the mirror a major character?

RS: Really, it’s in her mind. There’s a scene where Finn’s watching her from the shadows, and we see the mirror pour out, and it starts to talk to her, and she’s ranting at it. And then we cut to Finn, and we see his point of view, and there’s nothing there. The mirror has so much psychological background to it. It’s great to play with those themes. He is ultimate truth; he’s telling it like it is. He scares her, and he excites her. He’s a great character.

NC: Have you received any pushback from Disney?

RS: It’s not their property. They can whistle as loud as they like. Ironically, we went to Disney first with the project. They didn’t want it. It’s not owned by Disney. It’s public domain. There is no copyright. There are things they did to the story that are Disney, but the story is for everyone, which is great. So I haven’t heard from Walt.

NC: “Snow White” seems to be undergoing a pop culture revival with “Once Upon A Time” and “Mirror Mirror.” What sets your film apart?

RS: I think you go to a gallery and see a lot of different paintings, and they’re all different. I think ours is very different from all of those things. I think ours has a massive scale to it. I think it has a very rich, emotional web to it. There’s a lot of times people cry when they watch the film, which I’m very happy with. And there’s a lot times when they’re like, “Holy … !” It’s very intense, the world comes at you, and you’re like, “Whoa!” I really try to immerse people in that world and put them right in the thick of it. I think it’s a lot visceral and a lot more grounded than the other renditions.

NC: Is it too scary or heavy for kids? Would you say it’s a family film?

RS: It is a family movie. It’s intense. I think it’s great — a lot of people who’ve watched it are like, “I really want to show this to my kids, because I really believe it’s something they should think about.” I wouldn’t bring, like, a 3-year-old. I mean, my kids are 5 and 7, and they’ve seen most of it. I was read those stories at that age, and it terrified me. Look, it’s gonna scare them, but it’s gonna excite them. Maybe sit in an aisle seat.

Joescoundrel
03-26-2012, 10:14 AM
From the LA Times - - -

'Hunger Games' to Deliver more than $300 million in Profit to Lions Gate

The blockbuster opening weekend of "The Hunger Games" — which debuted with an estimated $155 million — will ultimately lead to more than $300 million in profit for independent studio Lionsgate, analysts predicted Sunday.

And with three sequels to come, the franchise as a whole is expected to deliver $1.5 billion or more to the Santa Monica company's bottom line.

That's a significant success for Lionsgate, which has posted net losses in its last four fiscal years and struggled to up its game in film production. While it has scored with a variety of genre and prestige pictures like "Saw" and "Precious" and has a growing television division, the studio last year took losing bets on several high-profile flops, including "Conan the Barbarian" and the Taylor Lautner action-thriller "Abduction."

Media analyst Monica Dicenso of JP Morgan predicted that the first "Hunger Games" film will produce $310 million in profit and the series as a whole will generate $1.5 billion. James Marsh of Piper Jaffray said the numbers could be even higher, with more than $400 million from the first movie and $2-billion-plus for the entire series.

This weekend's release, which cost a little more than $80 million to make (after a tax break) and $45 million more to market, needed to reach about $100 million in domestic box office receipts to break even, according to a person familiar with the picture’s economics who was not authorized to speak publicly. The picture reached that milestone on Saturday.

The ultimate success of the franchise will depend largely on how the movie performs on DVD when it's no longer in theaters as well as the sales of licensed products.

Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns noted Sunday that he had just received an email informing him that "Hunger Games" T-shirts were already selling out in many Hot Topic chain stores.

"The panacea in the movie business is to find franchises," he said when asked to reflect on the meaning of "The Hunger Games" to the studio, which he and chief executive Jon Feltheimer have run since 2000.

"The idea that we can create some predictability around the most unpredictable part of our business is fantastic," he added.

There are several factors in Lions Gate's favor that should help the company generate even higher profits from the sequels than the first film. The movie's international opening, for instance, was solid but not spectacular, particularly outside of the English-speaking world, where author Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" novels are not as well known.

Just as the popular"Twilight" sequels did much better overseas than the original, the same might hold true for Lionsgate's new franchise.

In addition, with the success of the first film, Lionsgate will be in a position to demand more favorable terms from foreign distributors for the sequels. The independent studio does not handle the release of its movies outside of the U.S. and Great Britain.

One challenge the company faces, however, is the pending departure of motion picture group president Joe Drake. While Feltheimer gave the movie the greenlight, it was Drake and his team who oversaw the development, production and marketing.

Drake and several of his key executives are being replaced by the team from "Twilight" studio Summit Entertainment, which Lionsgate acquired in January.

Lions Gate stock has more than doubled in value since September in part because of anticipation for "The Hunger Games" (as well as the exit of dissident shareholder Carl Icahn). The shares closed at $14.53 on Friday. But with the movie outperforming even the most optimistic expectations this weekend, they could rise again Monday.

Sam Miguel
04-06-2012, 10:58 AM
From the Los Angeles Times ___

Girl Power: Hollywood's Young Heroines Come to their own Rescue

Not without fanfare, Katniss Everdeen has taken her place in a pop culture lineage of new millennial vintage. Like Harry Potter and Bella Swan before her, the protagonist of “The Hunger Games” transfers from the pages of young-adult fiction to the big screen as nothing less than a pre-engineered box-office phenomenon. And as with all such YA juggernauts, the merits of the first adaptation of novelist Suzanne Collins’ trilogy are debatable (and for many fans, beside the point).

Less in doubt is Katniss’ place at the forefront of a growing number of movie characters who happen to be tough young women and who don’t need to be rehabilitated for it.

From the no-nonsense muscularity of her name to her peerless skills as an archer, Katniss (portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence) is an avatar of strength and purpose — without the once-requisite “for a girl” qualifiers. That’s no small thing in an age of Kardashians as role models (one of Collins’ most penetrating conceptions is the way “Hunger Games” pushes reality-TV inanity to the darkest extreme), or at a time when even educated people still use such antediluvian phrases as “woman doctor.”

It also marks the stirrings of a potential sea change for Hollywood, which in recent decades has tended to punish female independence or temper it with the ribbons and bows of romantic bliss.

Even among the frillier and more tradition-steeped elements of this emerging band of heroines, girls are engaging in hand-to-hand combat as they take on injustice, hypocrisy and all-around evil. Whether they’re ordinary girls thrust into extraordinary circumstances or princesses cast out of the castle, they’re not waiting for a shiny-armored knight to save the day.

No less an iconic princess than Snow White is flexing muscle in her latest big-screen incarnations, one of which finds Kristen Stewart transitioning from Bella’s mooning and swooning in the “Twilight” series — essentially a Gothicized romance novel — to an action hero. They’re in works of disparate tone, but Lily Collins’ Snow White in the recently released “Mirror Mirror” and the one played by Stewart in the upcoming “Snow White and the Huntsman” are both evolutionary leaps from the folk-tale character’s angelic passivity. Righteous and wronged, Grimm’s Snow White spends a considerable length of time preserved in a glass coffin — “as still as a gold piece,” as the poet Anne Sexton described her.

Such suspended animation is not a viable option for Katniss, who’s forced into gladiatorial combat. But even for characters facing less violent coming-of-age struggles, sitting pretty is not an option. The headstrong teen at the center of the summer release “Brave,” a cartoon princess who’s also an archer, will do nothing less than “challenge destiny to change her fate.”

And in “Pennyroyal’s Princess Boot Camp,” a kids’ fantasy book optioned for the screen by Reese Witherspoon, girls learn to be warriors, the better to battle a coven of wicked witches. No doubt they’re picking up the fiery baton of grass-roots grrl power, but rocking a crinoline and tiara isn’t enough for today’s princesses.

In our fictions, if not in our tabloids, to be blinged out is to be less than genuine. Katniss, a character defined by her unwavering inner compass and not her appearance, stands in opposition to those who worship at the church of fashionable conformity and celebrity-branded consumerism.

It’s not merely because she lacks the means to indulge, but because she has the intelligence and self-possession to see through the vanity. The garishly girlie Effie Trinket is her antithesis. Humanized on the pages of “Hunger Games,” she’s a gargoyle of a government stooge in Gary Ross’ film, portrayed by Elizabeth Banks with the frenzied emptiness that puts Katniss’ old soul in sharp relief.

These girls grow up fast. “Huntsman” costume designer Colleen Atwood has said that her guiding concept was “someone who is tough and who had had a journey already at a very young age.” That notion of hard-earned wisdom so early in life is the essence of Katniss Everdeen, a character famously summarized by another as “sullen and hostile.”

It’s hardly an unusual description for a 16-year-old girl, but the particulars of Katniss’ situation turn an intended insult into a compliment of the highest order. How else would a thinking, feeling person respond to the realities of a brutal authoritarian state and a devastated home front? Katniss’ unsentimental edge is her most striking quality, more so in Collins’ books than in the first installment of the four-movie franchise. She’s a hunter, in sync with nature, her instinct for survival a rebuke to the cruelty of the man-made world. But although she’s guarded, she hasn’t lost the capacity for kindness.

Her maternal side — though she would cringe to hear it described that way — is expressed primarily in her tenderness toward younger children, not in a fussy way but with a sturdiness that’s grounded and reassuring. It’s one of Katniss’ chief strengths and surely her most poignant.

Like the Ozark teen Lawrence played in “Winter’s Bone,” she had to step into the void left by the loss of a father and a mother’s inability to cope. She does it without complaint, even as she’s fueled by anger. She possesses a marrow-deep understanding of the rottenness that surrounds her and is understandably wary.

For characters facing life-defining tests, like Katniss, such suspicion is key to self-preservation. It can also be a defining strategy of adolescence, a way of gauging not just external truth but personal identity, which is no doubt a big part of why the “Hunger Games” books have connected so resoundingly with tweens and teens, both male and female.

Translated from inner monologue to onscreen action, Katniss’ untamed quest for justice has lost some of its potency, which is no surprise in an event movie like “Hunger Games.” The risk remains that Katniss — and her inevitable imitators — could turn into distaff versions of gunslinger clichés, their very particular fury traded in for a more generic and accessible brand.

The outrage that drives unlikely Katniss compatriot Lisbeth Salander, a.k.a. the girl with the dragon tattoo, has so far defied reduction in the move from bestsellers to screen (particularly in the ferocity of Noomi Rapace in the trilogy of Swedish films). Lisbeth is by no means a YA heroine, but she is, like Katniss, an unprecedented creation of take-no-prisoners intensity. And she, too, is a kind of hunter in a world gone mad.

For this new breed of young female characters, the serious business of resisting malevolent or controlling forces is not all dystopian doom, however, and it doesn’t have to express itself in stoicism, ruthlessness or murderous rage.

There’s magic, too, in those trials and tribulations. Emma Watson’s Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” films might not seem an obvious precursor of Katniss — a wand-wielding witch to her coal miner’s daughter. But she, more than the adolescent killing machines of “Hanna“ and “Kick-a$$,” is a paradigm of strength in conflicted emotional territory.

Hermione never tunes down her braininess for the sake of being more unthreateningly “ladylike” or less annoying, no matter how many rolled eyes she provokes. She stands her ground, learns to focus her exceptional powers and proves essential to Harry’s, and Hogwarts’, epic struggle against darkness.

Hermione finds romance, too, but it’s not the grand prize that satisfies all her longings. And when Collins makes romantic yearning a key thread in “The Hunger Games,” she gives it a postmodern twist by adding layers of reality-TV performance and self-awareness: young love as both media fodder and real awakening. But romance sells, and in the big-screen version that angle is sweetened, its edges smoothed, even if Katniss isn’t awaiting a princely kiss as the final, puzzle-solving piece of her story.

From her ravaged future world, Katniss arrives in the multiplex as a fresh emblem, if not a fully realized cinematic creation. Through the books she already has staked a claim in the imaginations of girls and boys, women and men. And for now, she holds the mainstream movie spotlight as a vision of youthful defiance — feminine, unorthodox and unapologetic.

Sam Miguel
05-02-2012, 10:03 AM
Ironman rocks!

Sam Miguel
05-11-2012, 02:03 PM
From the LA Times - - -

They don't call it "Tim Burton's Dark Shadows," but they might as well have.

Nominally based on the cult favorite 1960s daytime soap opera, this film has much more to do with what goes on inside director Tim Burton's head than with any TV show, no matter how beloved. In fact, "Dark Shadows" is as good an example as any of what might be called the Way of Tim, a style of making films that, like the drinking of blood, is very much an acquired taste and, unless you're a vampire, not worth the effort.

Blood, of course, figures prominently in both the original "Dark Shadows,"which ran on ABC for 1,225 episodes between 1966 and 1971, and this new version, for both focus on the character of Barnabas Collins, an 18th century vampire who reappears in today's world. Back in the day, having a contemporary vampire on a daytime soap was unheard of, and "Dark Shadows" soon developed a devoted following that extended into reruns, including two youngsters who grew up to wield great power in Hollywood, filmmaker Burton and his frequent star, Johnny Depp.

With Depp onboard as Collins, the director was free to construct his own version of "Dark Shadows," which plays much more fang in cheek, so to speak, than the more straight-ahead original. As a result, the film turns out to be an uncertain combination of elements that unsuccessfully tries to be half-scary, half-funny and all strange, a project that offers examples of the three Ws that make up the Way of Tim.

The first W, is, as always, wonderful production design, which comes courtesy of Burton's longtime collaborator Rick Heinrichs, who won an Oscar for his work on the director's "Sleepy Hollow." Heinrichs has two worlds to deal with in the Seth Grahame-Smith script, starting with the rocky seacoast of Maine in the 1770s. Here resides the Collins family, grown great on the wealth fishing provides, who've founded the town of Collinsport and who live in a looming mansion called Collinswood Manor.

The Collinses' only son Barnabas (Depp) is something of a ladies' man, but when he toys with the affections of servant Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) he finds he literally has hell to pay. For Angelique is a practicing witch who brings a bleak end to Barnabas' love for Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote) and turns the man himself into a vampire. Then, just to rub it in, she has him buried alive "so that his suffering would never end." Ouch.

Eternity doesn't last as long as it used to, and a mere 200 years have passed when some unwary and unfortunate construction workers unearth Barnabas' coffin and set him free. "You can't imagine," he says after he's done his worst, "how thirsty I am...."

Barnabas soon makes his way to Collinswood Manor, where he's passed off to the locals as a distant relative visiting from England. Very distant. The only person Barnabas freely takes into his confidence is the lady of the manor, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (a welcome part for Michelle Pfeiffer, another youthful devotee of the TV series). Together they plot to return the Collins family to prominence.

Standing in their way is the latest incarnation of Angelique, the ageless witch of yore who still lives in the area and runs a fish company called Angel Bay. Similarly, a young governess named Victoria Winters who's employed at Collinswood Manor is an incarnation of Barnabas' old love Josette. And so it goes.

Helping to make all this folderol initially palatable is the second W of the Way of Tim, a certifiably weird performance by Depp, who likes nothing better than to disappear into the odd creatures that his director creates for his delectation. Burton and Depp have worked together so often — this is their eighth collaboration — that they are in danger of becoming a mondo bizarro version of John Ford and John Wayne. Still, Depp's performance is so unwavering in its commitment to eccentricity that it is hard not to be fitfully entertained.

Depp amuses himself and others as a man out of time, a priggish, somewhat effete individual who is astounded at his first glimpse of television ("Reveal yourself, tiny songstress," he says to singers on the screen) and, as many dieters have before him, mistakes the M in a huge McDonald's sign for the entrance to hell.

But as engaging as Depp can be, he and the rest of the ensemble (which includes Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Grace Moretz and Jackie Earle Haley) are tripped up by the third W, which is Burton's woeful lack of concern with story and drama.

A director of moments rather than wholes, Burton is prone to wander off point and engage with peripheral concerns (like a pointless concert cameo by Alice Cooper) rather than such pedestrian matters as plot coherence. "Dark Shadows" is all over the place, getting more grotesque and less involving the longer it goes on, and that, as even the undead would admit, is a damned shame.

Joescoundrel
06-05-2012, 10:44 AM
By Michael Cavna

“The Dark Knight Rises” may be on the horizon, but Disney/Marvel’s “The Avengers” can now look at “The Dark Knight” in the rear-view mirror.

“The Avengers” grossed $20.3-million this weekend to lift its total domestic take to $552.7-million — rocketing it past Warner Bros./DC’s ”The Dark Knight” ($533.3-million) for third all-time in the record books. The Marvel-superheroes-assembled blockbuster is now the most successful superhero film ever.

James Cameron’s twin titans “Avatar” ($760.5-million) and “Titanic” ($658.5-million) still hold down the top two domestic slots.

Grossing an additional $12.4-million globally, “The Avengers” also vaulted to the third spot all-time overseas with $1.36-billion — past the final “Harry Potter” ($1.33-billion) but far, far back of those same two box-office behemoths “Avatar” ($2.8-billion) and “Titanic” ($2.2-billion). (Figures not adjusted for inflation.)

DC will soon set its sights on “The Avengers,” though — the much-anticipated release of “The Dark Knight Rises” looms for July.

Universal Pictures’ “Snow White & the Huntsman” won the North American weekend with a surprisingly strong $56.3-million debut, according to studio estimates released Sunday — far outpacing expectations, since the princess-with-a-punch film wasn’t expected to gross more than $40-million. (What most surprised the studio: The boys showed up in almost equal numbers.)

And fun fact: The Brothers Hemsworth have dominated the box office since March, thanks to former box-office champs “The Avengers” (Chris Hemsworth is Thor), “The Hunger Games” (co-starring Liam Hemsworth as Gale) and now ”Snow White” (Chris again).

Final domestic numbers are expected Monday.

Joescoundrel
06-05-2012, 10:47 AM
^ Thank the maker for advances in technology that allowed Hollywood to put the Avengers together on screen. Considering all of the sueprhero stuff they had to do, this would not have been possible, or at least would not have looked this good, had it been done in a less technologically capable time. Still, good directing and editing played critical roles here, without which this blockbuster would not have been as big a success.

Joescoundrel
09-28-2012, 10:11 AM
After Venice, Manuel Conde’s ‘Genghis Khan’—believed to be long lost—premieres at SM Mall of Asia on Sept. 29

By Bayani San Diego Jr.

Philippine Daily Inquirer
September 26, 2012 | 8:25 pm

After a roundabout journey, “Genghis Khan” finds its way home.

The original prints of Manuel Conde’s “Genghis Khan,” the same ones used in its screening at the Venice Film Festival in 1952, will be returned to the Philippines. As bonus, the restored version of the film, in DCP (Digital Cinema Package) and HD (High Definition) format, will be sent here as well.

Believed to be long lost, “Genghis” turned up at the Venice vaults recently.

“Genghis” was restored at the L’Immagine Ritrovata, a renowned laboratory based in Bologna, Italy. It was unveiled in Venice to a packed theater on Sept. 6 as part of a special retrospective of cinema classics.

After the Venice screening, slight revisions were made for the Manila premiere.

A joint undertaking of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and the Venice fest, the restoration and repatriation of “Genghis” will mark the official launching of the National Film Archive of the Philippines (NFAP).

Formal turnover of the “Genghis” prints and DCP is set at the SM Mall of Asia on Sept. 29. A screening will follow after the repatriation ceremony.

Stefano Francia di Celle, retrospective curator of the Venice fest, will attend the ceremony—along with Davide Pozzi, director of L’Immagine Ritrovata, and Luca Fornari, Italian ambassador.

Actor-director Jun Urbano, Conde’s son, has also been invited to represent the Conde family.

Art repatriation

Briccio Santos, FDCP chair, said it was vital to return “Genghis” to the Philippines.

“It is an affirmation of our cinema’s tradition of excellence,” he pointed out. “Ours is among the oldest film cultures in Asia and we take pride in this historic fact.”

Venice’s repatriation of the “Genghis” prints will send a strong signal to the world cinema community and will hopefully inspire other foreign archives to turn over our old films, said Santos.

After “Genghis,” the FDCP will pursue its campaign for the return of National Artist Gerry de Leon’s “Dyesebel” and “Banga ni Zimadar” from the Thai film archives.

Santos also hopes to retrieve the Henry Francia collection from the Berkeley archive in California. Francia was a Filipino filmmaker who made films in New York in the 1960s, Santos recounted. One of Francia’s works is “On My Way to India Consciousness I Reached China.”

“We’ve already spoken to Francia’s relatives and they’ve given their consent,” said Santos.

Restoration projects

The FDCP has other restoration projects in the offing.

Two films by National Artist Ishmael Bernal, “Manila By Night” and “Tribute to Rita Gomez,” have been lined up for preservation, too.

“We got the Rita movie, which was Bernal’s only docu, from the UP film archives and the French institution CNC will work on it,” Santos said.

The CNC (National Center of Cinematography and the Moving Image, as translated in English) will also take charge of “Survivor,” a docu on the Philippine Republic’s first President, Emilio Aguinaldo, made by another National Artist, Lamberto Avellana.

Quin Baterna and Leonardo Q. Belen’s “Ginauhaw Ako, Ginagutom Ako,” the first Ilonggo film made in 1975, is at the CNC as well.

Another restoration project involves National Artist Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag.”

“We will use the master negatives at the British Film Institute. We will initiate this project with Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation,” Santos said.

Joescoundrel
09-28-2012, 10:14 AM
September 26, 2012 | 5:18 pm

MANILA, Philippines—Fifteen years ago, two girls went missing and set off a series of events that led to what would later be called “ Cebu ’s trial of the century.”

While waiting for their father to pick them up, sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong disappeared at a mall in Cebu . Accused of their rape and murder was Paco Larrañaga, a culinary arts student whose whereabouts that day had been confirmed by dozens of witnesses and photographic evidence. He was in Manila, 300 miles away from Cebu , and couldn’t have been anywhere near the victims.

There was a deafening clamor for immediate justice, not just in Cebu but throughout the country. So in a dramatic turn of events, the judge favored the plea of the Chiong sisters’ family and convicted Paco and six others for life imprisonment, a verdict which was eventually raised to death penalty due to pressure from the public and widespread media attention.

The trial became a game of chess where many players were involved and people kept moving their pieces. In the end, Paco was checkmated—he was imprisoned in Bilibid for years, his fate celebrated by many as it was seen as a triumph. He was not given a chance to speak or defend himself.

More than a decade since, filmmakers Marty Syjuco and Michael Collins give him a voice. They revisit old wounds and step into the many thorns of the Philippine justice system in their critically acclaimed documentary, Give Up Tomorrow. In addition to building a strong case for Paco’s innocence, the film exposes the messy scheme of events that surrounded the trial, revealing the interconnected complexities that permeate Philippine politics and culture.

Disclosing a collection of interviews with forensic experts, political analysts, and major players in Paco’s case, not to mention controversial pieces of evidence that were left uncovered for a long time, Give Up Tomorrow brings to light the lack of due process and the elaborate frame-up done through a shameless display of political favors.

The documentary begs the terrifying question: What if the so-called Cebu ’s trial of the century was actually a mistrial?

Due to the film’s controversial subject, Syjuco and Collins had some trouble finding local venues for a commercial screening. In fact, no cineplex dared to screen it in Cebu , even for a premiere night. So the filmmakers, together with a small group of undaunted people, worked hard to bring it to Cebu , where it all began under the worst of circumstances. Finally, after touring the world’s film festivals and reaping laurels left and right, Give Up Tomorrow came home to Cebu and had its very first screening there last Wednesday, September 26, at the Marcelo B. Fernan Press Center.

In Metro Manila, some theater managers fortunately realized how important it is for many Filipinos to see this eye-opening documentary.Give Up Tomorrow will be screened exclusively at Robinsons Galleria and Robinsons Ermita from October 3 to 9, and at Trinoma, Greenbelt 3, and Alabang Town Center from October 5 to 7.

A regular theatrical run in Cebu may yet happen if enough Cebuanos are ready to revisit a traumatic past and call into question what has long been considered there as justice served.

With theatrical playdates in New York City on September 28 and Metro Manila on October 3, Give Up Tomorrow is screening in New York , Manila and Cebu all in the same week.

Joescoundrel
09-28-2012, 10:14 AM
By Teresa Cerojano

Associated Press

September 27, 2012 | 10:13 am 6

Filipino writer and director Jun Robles Lana poses after an interview with the Associated Press in suburban Quezon City, north of Manila, Philippines on Wednesday September 26, 2012. Lana’s film “Bwakaw”, an indie drama that explores the loneliness and missed opportunities of an ailing, 70-year-old gay man has tested the local sensibilities about sexuality and, if it passes the Academy Awards’ nomination process, may get a shot as the country’s entry for the best foreign-language film next year.AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — An independent drama that explores the loneliness and missed opportunities of an ailing, 70-year-old gay man is testing Philippine sensibilities about sexuality and hoping to advance in the Academy Awards’ foreign-language film competition next year.

“Bwakaw,” or “Voracious,” has received positive reviews and local awards and is doing the rounds of international film festivals in Toronto, New York, Hawaii and Tokyo.

Writer and director Jun Robles Lana says the movie is named after a stray dog with a voracious appetite for life that has a bond with the main character, Rene. Bwakaw’s zest for life contrasts with Rene’s grumpy disposition.

Rene came out of the closet in his twilight years, thinks it is too late for love and only awaits his own death. He has made a will and labeled his few possessions to be given away to friends. He even bought a coffin at a funeral home’s closing-out sale.

But when Bwakaw dies after an illness, Rene, played by veteran actor Eddie Garcia, finds new appreciation for life. “It’s the dog that basically teaches him to live life to the fullest,” Lana said in an interview Wednesday.

“It’s really more about loneliness, although you can’t help that some people or critics are branding it a gay film simply because the character is gay, but that’s really beside the point,” he said.

Lana admits that while Filipinos are generally gay-friendly — the most popular movie star is Vice Ganda, an out-and-out gay comedian — local mainstream audiences might not be too receptive to a serious take on homosexuality in the conservative and predominantly Roman Catholic society.

“We tend to look at gay characters as iconic, funny characters,” he said. “So when you make a movie like this, you really have to market it in such a way that it would be more appealing to them.”

He said that the movie focuses on the comedy aspect in order to appeal to a wider audience.

But the filmmaker hopes that between the laughs, moviegoers will find that it is more than a comedy.

He said he made the film with the intention to honor his mentor, writer Rene Villanueva, who died in 2007. He described Villanueva, who came out as gay later in his life, as generous and harsh at the same time, and an inspiration for the main character, Rene.

Lana said the drama “eventually became a story about growing old, missed opportunities, about how desire is inextricable from our lives.”

For Lana, who started in art house films but has for the last few years been mainly involved in commercial movies, “Bwakaw” was also “a return to my roots.”

“I did not expect this film which I made for very personal reasons would resonate with so many people and not just Filipinos,” he said. “I’m really just thankful for all the wonderful things going our way.”

The Philippines has submitted entries to the Academy Awards for many years but has never been nominated or even short-listed.

“Bwakaw” is one of around 40 films entered in the foreign-language category this year. The list is to be pared to 10 late this year and to the final five nominees by January.

Sam Miguel
10-10-2012, 08:41 AM
Marilou Diaz-Abaya in her last hours high on a ‘starry, starry night…’

By Marinel R. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

October 10, 2012 | 12:55 am

“Starry, starry night…”

Actor Cesar Montano sang Don McLean’s “Vincent” softly to his dear friend, filmmaker Marilou Diaz-Abaya, as she lay on her deathbed early evening on Monday.

“I cried so hard, I had a hard time finishing,” Montano told the Inquirer by phone yesterday. “The song is an ode to (19th-century Dutch artist) Vincent van Gogh and was our favorite—she was a painter, like me.”

Montano was one of a few friends that Abaya had asked to be around in her last hours. She succumbed to breast cancer at 6:30 p.m., at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Global City, Taguig.

Abaya was already “heavily sedated” when he arrived at 10 that morning, Montano said; yet she was able to mouth “I love you” to him and his wife, actress Sunshine Cruz.

The actor recounted: “I told her, ‘Dito lang kami (We’ll be close by).’ She could only make feeble gestures by then. I sang worship songs to her the entire day. When I started singing ‘Vincent,’ she made this abrupt movement that surprised all of us. I think she wanted to sing it with me.” Among those present in the hospital suite were Abaya’s sons, Marc and David, filmmaker Olivia Lamasan, and ABS-CBN executives Malou Santos and Enrico Santos.

Montano added: “It was painful to see her go. I held her hand; David held the other.”

The award-winning director was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2007. Her health improved in 2008, but the cancer returned the following year. It went into remission again in 2010 and recurred in 2011. Abaya’s son Marc told the Philippine Daily Inquirer last month, “It’s stage 4 now, but she’s fighting.”

In a TV interview shortly after his mother passed on, Marc said, “She was ready; it was up to us, the family, to be ready, too—to be there [and] give her love in the final moments.”

Ate Vi’s ‘mom’

Actress and Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos, who first worked with Abaya in the controversial sex-thriller, “Baby Tsina,” last saw the director at the wake of actor Johnny Delgado, who also died of cancer, in 2009.

Santos recalled: “Direk Marilou was already sick then, but she told me, ‘Kaya ko ‘to (I can handle this)!’ Her face never showed she was in pain. She was just very excited about the movie she was working on, a tribute to Our Lady of Peñafrancia.” The movie, “Ikaw Ang Pag-Ibig” was Abaya’s last. It was released in 2011, distributed by Star Cinema. The actress said she had lost someone she considered “a mother” with Abaya’s passing.

For Montano, Abaya was a “personal adviser—my mentor, my most trusted director.” Abaya directed him in the landmark films “Jose Rizal” (1998), “Muro Ami” (1999) and “Bagong Buwan” (2001).

The actor related: “She called me Pepe—from my role in ‘Rizal.’ As a filmmaker, she was very learned and highly technical—and very organized, especially during pre-production. She was very thorough.”

For “Muro Ami,” Montano said Abaya “challenged” him to get in shape in just three months. “She made me practice deep-sea diving even with heavy rains that resulted in zero visibility. She explained that if I prevailed in the worse conditions, actual filming would be a piece of cake.”

But he was happy that his friend had “died filled with so much love for everyone in her life. I’m lucky to have met and shared fond memories with her.”

Deathbed promise

A few months ago, in an interview with broadcast journalist Jessica Soho, Abaya spoke of realizations resulting from her affliction: “We tend to take love for granted. We don’t show it enough. It’s because we don’t have enough time. What cancer has given me is time… to think about my mortality and what my life is worth and what I can still make of it.”

Award-winning writer Ricky Lee said he made a deathbed promise to Abaya that he would finish the book they had been working on for months. “It’s a double memoir,” he said, “about our life and work during the ’80s.”

Lee said Abaya was still working on several scripts, but that when she was already too weak to write, she turned over a few to him. One of these, Lee said, was a bio pic of painter Juan Luna; another is about Maria Rosa Henson, the first Filipino woman to tell her story as a comfort woman in World War II.

“Another script in progress is ‘One Last Cigarette Before I Go,’” said Lee. “It’s Marilou’s line—she would always say that after a long brainstorming session. The story is of a dying man who tries to set things right, make amends.”

Art and good food

Santos said she used to hang out at Abaya’s house in Quezon City. “She liked showing me her paintings. She served good food. I would stay there for hours.” In the end, Santos said, though they seldom communicated, “I was constantly updated by colleagues of her condition. I know how hard she fought [but] at least she’s resting now.”

Montano related that, among his friends, it was Abaya who grieved the most when his son Angelo committed suicide in March 2010. “Angelo was her baby. They were scuba diving buddies. She attended to everything during Angelo’s wake and burial. She told me to stay composed and not break down in public, for my family’s sake.”

During that last interview with Soho, Abaya also said: “There’s really no death. We’re just in transition from one stage to another. [These days] when I wake up in the morning, I [feel] that the Lord had nudged me. Maybe there are a few more things that he wants me to do.”

Abaya’s remains will lie at the Ateneo Chapel (Gonzaga building) in Quezon City until Friday. Masses will be celebrated everyday at 6:55 a.m., 12 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. She will be laid to rest on Saturday at Loyola Memorial Park in Parañaque City.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2012, 10:48 AM
True spaghetti fare: ‘Django’ meets ‘Genghis Khan’ meets ‘Madrasta’

2012 MovieMov Italian film fest features homage to Sergio Leone

By Amadís Ma. Guerrero

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:27 am | Monday, November 26th, 2012

It’s the second time around for MovieMov (Italian Film Festival), and it threatens to become even livelier this time, what with a slew of quality films and commercial movies and a cabal of Filipino films. These include the celebrated “Genghis Khan” of Manuel Conde and Olivia Lamasan’s “The Mistress.”

This was announced at a recent press conference in Spices at Peninsula Manila.

“Why ‘The Mistress,’” asked a media man.

“He means that movie is not of festival quality,” a colleague and self-appointed interpreter said.

“You’re putting words in my mouth,” the media man protested.

“And I agree,” the colleague concluded triumphantly.

Aba. This put the Italians present on the defensive.

“We are not only into indie films but also commercial movies,” pointed out Emanuela Adesini, cultural attaché of the Italian embassy. “This is not Cinemalaya, which has its own characteristics. Why not commercial movies? It doesn’t mean that they are not important. This is cinema.”

Besides, she added, the movie referred to dramatizes “a common Filipino situation.” Italian, too, one might add.

Another writer questioned the inclusion of the spaghetti westerns of Clint Eastwood as directed by Sergio Leone: “Have these contributed to the art of Italian cinema? Are these a good influence on the youth?”

Italian Senator Goffredo Bettini, speaking through interpreter Cristina Moritta, came to the defense of Leone, an Italian master: “He represents an innovation in the language of cinema. He has a mastery of scenes, with music, and he was followed by newer generations. He is an inspiration to them.”

(Editor’s note: Quentin Tarantino has just helmed “Django Unchained,” the American director’s tribute to Leone.)

Albert Almendralejo of the Independent Filmmakers Cooperative added: “We have our Erap Estrada and Lito Lapid; they came from Sergio Leone. We have to recognize that fact.”

The 2nd MovieMov (“movies and movement”) Festival will be held Dec. 5-9 at Greenbelt 3 cinemas in Makati City, free to the public. It will be launched by a special invitational program on Dec. 4.

Other Italian movies

Apart from the Leone retrospective, seven contemporary Italian films will be shown, headlined by “Cesare Deve Morire” (Caesar Must Die), which will compete in next year’s Oscars. Directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, and shot in a prison, “Caesar Must Die” tells the story of convicts rehearsing the assassination of the emperor Julius Caesar.

One of the main characters is an ex-convict (name not given) and he will be here for the festival.

“It is not just a movie but a social experiment,” Bettini declared.

MovieMov “is a very ambitious program,” the senator said. “We brought Italian films of high quality. We followed criteria. The films are very relevant, socially and politically. They show the violence, the industrial crisis in our country.”

Apart from the films of Conde and Lamasan, three other Filipino movies will be shown: Chito Roño’s “Dekada ’70,” Gutierrez Mangasakan’s “Limbunan”; and the winner of the National Film Festival in Davao City.

Italian Ambassador Luca Fornari said MovieMov would be different this time: “We are targeting the youth (high school and university). There will be special screenings for students (10 a.m., Dec. 5-9) and a master class, with free transportation and interaction with artists.”

The winning film will be decided by the audience. And the writer of the best feature on MovieMov will—get this—win a four-day all-expenses-paid trip to Rome.

Bettini said the film fest was reaching out to the youth because young people today “are being educated by TV, unfortunately, with its degrading language, and that is why we are bringing cinema to the youth, to educate their conscience.”

Sam Miguel
12-10-2012, 08:52 AM
‘Oro, Plata, Mata’ restored, Bacolod screening planned

By Bayani San Diego Jr.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

December 9, 2012 | 8:34 pm

After a recent private screening of “Oro, Plata, Mata,” director Peque Gallaga approached Manet Dayrit, head of Central Digital Lab—the company that digitally restored the 1982 film—and told him he wanted to correct the sound and dialogue in a scene.

Gallaga had actively participated in the restoration process. He told the Inquirer how elated he had been that a team of professionals had spent a lot of time (at least 1,500 hours) and effort restoring the landmark film to its full glory. The project was spearheaded by ABS-CBN Film Archives.

More than an award

“For me, this is more precious than an award. It says that people cared enough about the film to preserve it,” Gallaga said.

The film’s cinematographer, Rody Lacap, was also involved. “He checked the color grading,” said Gallaga. “When we shot the movie, we were going for a certain glow, a golden patina.”

Gallaga also made sure the sound quality would be as he originally intended it. “In the 1980s, movie houses didn’t have high-tech sound system. [Even] subtle background music was played too loud."

Joel Torre was a production assistant before landing the lead role in “Oro, Plata, Mata,” his acting debut.

He recalled that in those days before digital technology, editing was done manually. “With this restoration, even dust, fingerprint and scotch tape marks were removed from the film.” The new “Oro” was unveiled to the public on Nov. 28, opening the Cinema One Originals fest.

Other big plans

An earlier restoration project, Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala,” started a theatrical run on Dec. 5. Leo Katigbak, head of the ABS-CBN archives, told the Inquirer about similar plans for “Oro,” including a screening in Bacolod, the film’s setting.

There is also the possibility of releasing a special criterion edition of “Oro” on video—with special features like the director’s commentary and recollections from the cast and crew.

Gallaga remembered tapping campus theater groups: “Maids and houseboys in the film were played by student-actors from La Salle, St. Scholastica’s and La Consolacion in Bacolod.”

Joel Torre discovered

Scriptwriter Jose Javier Reyes ended up doing a cameo as a Chinese cook in the opening party scene. “I was hanging out on the set all the time,” Reyes said, and added that Joel Torre was “discovered” via the movie. “Albert Martinez was supposed to play the lead, but he was tied up with ‘Bata pa si Sabel.’ Joel, a production assistant at the time, got the part. It changed his life.”

The movie captures Torre, Sandy Andolong and Cherie Gil at their prime. After watching a preview of the restored “Oro,” Torre noted, “We had great skin…we didn’t need HD makeup.” Seriously, he said, he was reminded of coworkers who had since passed on—actors Mary Walter, Manny Ojeda, Abbo de la Cruz and production designer Don Escudero.”

For actress Fides Cuyugan-Asensio, watching “Oro” again was a “sentimental revisit, especially now that I am doing one indie film after the other.” (The movie was produced by the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines.)

First step

The restoration of “Oro” and “Himala” marks an important first step in the long journey ahead, said Gallaga. “There are 3,000 titles in the network’s library. Even if they restore one film a day, it will take them over 10 years to finish everything.”

There was a missing scene from the print used to restore the film, the result of celluloid unspooling from the projector. “It shows Sandy and Joel in a field of ferns during a storm,” Gallaga said. “I wanted to do a Celso Ad. Castillo with that scene.”

Sam Miguel
12-12-2012, 10:50 AM
Cinemanila winners, filmmakers lauded

By Marinel R. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

December 11, 2012 | 8:47 pm

Movie director Tikoy Aguiluz, also founder of the annual Cinemanila International Film Festival, paid tribute to this year’s participating filmmakers during the awards ceremony held on Saturday night at the Bonifacio High Street Central Amphitheater in Taguig City.

“We never offered any grants, nor gave a P500,000 subsidy. We don’t even give cash prizes like we used to, but still they made their films and submitted them to Cinemanila. Tonight is all about these filmmakers,” Aguiluz said during his welcome speech.

“We’ve always wanted to do and show a good film, and whether there’s an audience for them or not, we never seemed to care,” he pointed out. “We always thought that if we show a good film, the audience will come.”

Teng Mangansakan’s “Obscured Histories and Silent Longings of Daguluan’s Children” bagged this year’s Lino Brocka Grand Prize for the Digital Lokal category. Mangansakan also brought home the best director honor. The grand jury prize in this category went to Arnel Mardoquio’s “Ang Paglalakbay ng Mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim.”

In the Young Cinema category, Carl Joseph Papa’s “Ang Prinsesa, Ang Prinsipe at si Marlborita” was the best short film winner, while Bienvenido Ferrer III was the recipient of the Ishmael Bernal award for his work on “Kabilang Dulo.”

For the international competition category, Kang Yi-kwan’s “Juvenile Offender” bagged the Lino Brocka Grand Prize. See Young-ju was chosen best actor for his work in this South Korean drama.

The grand jury prize went to James Lee’s “If It’s Not Now, Then When?” of Malaysia.

Oula Hamadeh copped the best actress award for her performance in the Maryan Najafi film “Kayan,” which represented Iran, Canada and Lebanon.

The best director honor in this category was shared by Carlos Reygadas for “Post Tenebras Luz” (Mexico) and Nawapol Thomrangrattanarit for “36” (Malaysia).

The late Filipino directors Marilou Diaz-Abaya and Celso Ad. Castillo, as well as the late Italian filmmaker-producer Sergio Leone, were the recipients of this year’s Lifetime Achievement awards (posthumous).

The same honor was also bestowed upon the Malaysian production firm Sahamongkol Film International. Malaysian Panu Aree, a jury member for the international competition category, accepted the award in behalf of the film outfit.

Other members of the international competition jury board were Arlyn dela Cruz and Eduardo Alajar. Jury members for the Digital Lokal category were Jo Ji-hoon, Mike Rapatan and Prabda Yoon. The jury board for the Young Cinema category was composed of Aki Isoyama, Antoinette Jadaone and Raymond Lee.

‘Harana-inspired’

“The jury members have traveled from different parts of the world just to participate in this festival because for the past 14 years, we have shown the kind of movies they all like to see—works of young filmmakers who we think are ground-breaking,” Aguiluz said.

The awards show was a “harana-inspired” red carpet event, hosted by actor Archie Adamos and Miss World 2011 first runner-up Gwendolyn Ruais. Benito Bautista’s documentary “Harana,” about the dying Filipino tradition of serenading, was screened after the ceremony. Filipino folk singer and composer Noel Cabangon was one of the performers.

Thomrangrattanarit’s “36,” this year’s closing film, was screened at the Market! Market! Cinemas on Dec. 10.

fujima04
12-13-2012, 12:48 PM
Another upcoming Superman film next year.

Just saw the trailer yesterday. This film was produced by the director of Dark Knight - Christopher Nolan.

Man of Steel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_of_Steel_%28film%29)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/3/3f/Man_of_Steel_poster.jpg/220px-Man_of_Steel_poster.jpg

Joescoundrel
12-14-2012, 02:32 PM
Bill Murray scoffs at doubt as FDR in 'Hyde Park on Hudson'

Bill Murray stars as FDR in Roger Michell's historical tale "Hyde Park On Hudson." (December 13, 2012)

Michael Phillips, Movie Critic

2:42 p.m. CST, December 13, 2012

For Bill Murray, playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the new film “Hyde Park on Hudson” meant risking some serious derision. Now 62, Murray carries with him a huge recognition factor thanks to a host of comedies: "Stripes," "Caddyshack," "Groundhog Day," "Ghostbusters." More recently he has brought a weary, witty gravitas to more bittersweet material, a la "Rushmore," "Lost in Translation" and others.

And now here he is, the world's premier deadpan minimalist, taking on an exuberant president whose face is common currency (not just on dimes) and whose moneyed, distinctly well-bred vowel sounds are well-known.

Murray as FDR? Potential failure looms over each drag on the cigarette holder.

Whatever one thinks of director Roger Michell's "Hyde Park on Hudson," written by dramatist and screenwriter Richard Nelson, Murray's performance conveys a sly confidence in its depiction of a president orchestrating a house party for the visiting king and queen of England in 1939. Much of the picture deals, speculatively, with FDR's relationship with a distant cousin, played by Laura Linney.

The Wilmette native and I talked in a hotel room in Toronto three months ago during the Toronto International Film Festival. To ease him into a comfort zone, Murray said, director Michell shot a few days' worth of undemanding, largely dialogue-free footage of FDR driving, smiling through photo ops, that sort of thing.

"Roger was very smart about getting me into it physically," Murray said. At first he did not wear FDR's polio braces for all his scenes, but soon it became clear to both him and Michell that they were necessary. "There's never a second where you're not in discomfort," he said of the braces. "And that discomfort creates something to play."

One of Murray's sisters, who lives in Wilmette, contracted polio as a child and wore braces for years.

"I called her a couple of days into the movie and said: 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I never had any idea,'" Murray said. "She had permanent marks from those braces. To go through that, in the midst of a large family, she really had to hustle to keep up. ... It was a big struggle. But she never complained. And she's incredibly resilient. She's bouncy."

The braces brought one dose of reality to the actor's preparation. FDR's pince-nez brought another. On this topic, a different side of Murray — the sidewinding wiseacre — emerges.

"Man, I love those things," he said of the so-called pinchers. "I recommend them. I'm always breaking or losing reading glasses, but I really enjoyed those things. My distant vision's great; up close, I'm not so good. Anyway. I strongly recommend them." If anyone could bring pince-nez into general circulation in America again, it's probably Bill Murray.

"Give 'em a stab!" he said, grinning. "They're comfortable!"

Said Linney in a separate Toronto interview: "Attempting to do FDR would induce fear in anybody. Bill took it very seriously. But with a light heart. Very committed. Whatever fear he was encountering, he kept to himself."

Olivia Williams, Murray's co-star in "Rushmore," plays Eleanor Roosevelt in "Hyde Park on Hudson." Regarding Murray: "He's a man who's utterly comfortable and confident in his own skin. And he has a hint of anarchy. I think Bill and FDR share that quality."

A few days into the filming, Murray said, there was an aha! moment — a scene in which the Roosevelts usher their guests into the dining room after cocktails — that for Murray was the launching pad. For a while, he acknowledged, the actor playing FDR was aware of "everyone hearing your voice and wondering: Does it sound right? Does it sound good? Everyone's kind of judging it.

"And then there was a moment when I wasn't just saying the words, but started improvising in character. And I thought: This feels right. I've got it now."

Sam Miguel
12-26-2012, 08:18 AM
Indie joins the big league

Philippine Daily Inquirer

December 25, 2012 | 7:42 pm

In this December’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), two indie filmmakers will compete with the usual array of “Enteng,” “Agimat” and “Shake” franchise flicks.

Apart from Brillante Ma. Mendoza, a surprise addition with his “Thy Womb,” another indie director, Lawrence Fajardo, made it to the final list with “The Strangers.”

Last July, in the Directors’ Showcase section of this year’s Cinemalaya, Fajardo won best film for “Posas.” Earlier this month, “Posas” won the top prize at the Hanoi International Film Festival.

Then again, the MMFF is a big leap from Cinemalaya and Hanoi. “I am excited and pressured at the same time,” Fajardo admitted. “It’s not only my first MMFF; it’s also my first horror film.”

It’s a baptism of fire, in more ways than one. Still, his wish is to bring his style of filmmaking from the indie to the commercial circles.

He explained: “Even in the mainstream, I hope to continue making films in the same mold as my previous efforts—more dramatic, edgier, grittier.”

Role models

He named master filmmakers Celso Ad. Castillo and Peque Gallaga as the horror directors he hopes to emulate. “My favorite is Direk Peque’s ‘Manananggal’ episode from the first ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll,’” he said.

Other favorite horror flicks of his are William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”

He described horror as “an exciting genre that generates various emotions among audiences.”

He confessed, however, that he does find horror a bit daunting. “It’s challenging, but I welcome it,” he said. “[With ‘The Strangers’], I’d like to tell a horror story with a unique flavor.”

Although independently produced, “The Strangers” could also qualify as a commercial undertaking, said lawyer Joji Alonso, head of Quantum Films.

Fajardo got to stretch his directing muscles in this one. “We have stunts, effects, prostheses. We have a big cast,” said Fajardo. “It’s a whole new playing field for me. I realized it’s not easy to scare audiences”

On the set of “The Strangers,” Fajardo encountered all sorts of challenges, from inclement weather to the unwieldy schedules of the cast. His stars are among the busiest in the industry—JM de Guzman, Enrique Gil, Julia Montes, Enchong Dee, Janice de Belen and Cherry Pie Picache.

The director was happy to reunite with “Amok” and “Posas” actors Spanky Manikan, Nico Antonio, Art Acuña and Garry Lim via his MMFF entry.

“It was my first time to work with veterans Jaime Fabregas, Tanya Gomez and Johnny Revilla, too,” he related. “I’m thankful that the entire cast was very cooperative.”

He recounted that it was a difficult shoot, “but the actors had no complaints even though we had to shoot at times drenched with rain and mud.”

He was likewise all-praise for his producer Alonso. “She was very supportive. Finishing this movie wasn’t easy, but she remained steadfast and committed.”

Fajardo considers himself a “collaborative” director. He explained: “I have an efficient crew and they helped me achieve my vision. As a director, sometimes you have to attack scenes differently in order to make each one effective.”

He has a simple Christmas wish this year. “I hope viewers will appreciate ‘The Strangers,’ to make all our hard work and sacrifices worthwhile.”

After this brief fling with the mainstream, Fajardo is raring to return to his first love.

“I have a few projects in the works. Balik-indie ulit (back to indie again),” he said.

Sam Miguel
12-26-2012, 08:18 AM
Value of film preservation, restoration acknowledged

By Nestor Torre

Philippine Daily Inquirer

December 25, 2012 | 7:33 pm

For years now, we’ve been urging our film people and educators to preserve and restore our rapidly diminishing cinematic patrimony for future generations to delight in and learn from. Too many of our film classics have been lost forever due to benign neglect and clueless carelessness.

We aren’t talking just about the movies of the 1930s, of which only two or three are still extant. The films of the ’40s have also been decimated to an alarming degree, save for the output of a couple of major studios.

For instance, Sampaguita Pictures has been able to save, in one form or another, around 25 percent of its total output of 800 films.

A standout

From the ’50s onward, the standout was FPJ Productions due to its star-producer-owner Fernando Poe Jr.’s enlightened interest in film preservation, which prompted him to come up with inexpensive methods to preserve film negatives from celluloid’s nasty penchant for “vinegar rot” and spontaneously catching fire when the room temperature rises.

FPJ’s heirs have benefited a lot from his avid interest in film preservation, and so have all Filipino film buffs, because his starrers continue to be shown on TV to this day.

Until recently, however, film restoration has been done very occasionally. Even some of the movies of Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal have gone the way of all flesh—and flash of spontaneous combustion!

How woefully clueless and irresponsible of us to fail to see the value of movies, not just as entertainment products, but also as totems and the iconography of the nation’s life as it has evolved through the years!

Happily, in the past couple of years, more organizations and enlightened individuals have invested in the restoration of our film classics, like “Genghis Khan,” “Himala” and “Oro, Plata, Mata.” In fact, it’s become quite the “in” trend of late.

Knee-jerk trends

Most of the time, we ignore trends because they’re so knee-jerk and impermanent, but this one deserves our full support and encouragement.

Our own personal epiphany in the importance of film preservation and restoration hit us like a bolt of lightning when we attended the Fukuoka festival of Asian films in Japan, and learned that the festival organizers’ film vault contained well-preserved copies of Filipino cinematic gems—many of which were no longer extant in the Philippines!

Enlightened foreigners

It was a chastening moment for us to realize that enlightened foreigners cared more for our movies than we did. In many instances, where it helps or hurts us the most, we really are the last to know.

But, there’s still time to make amends, so we urge more people and organizations to restore as many Filipino movies as they can, beginning with the films of the ’30s and ’40s.

Next, we should make it a point to preserve our best filmmakers’ first movies, because they usually contain the seeds of the themes that they explore through the rest of their careers.

In addition, we should make sure that these exceptional films aren’t just restored and then hidden away, but are viewed by young filmmakers and movie buffs.

Local TV’s movie channels should showcase them, to remind everyone of our great achievements in cinema—with many more to come!

Sam Miguel
12-26-2012, 08:20 AM
‘Parade of Stars’ kicks off film fest

By Allan Policarpio

December 24, 2012 | 12:51 am

For celebrities, there’s nothing quite as exciting as being on a float and seeing a sea of fans wanting to catch a glimpse of them.

That’s why the annual “Parade of Stars” that kicks off the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF)—now in its 38th year—is an event show biz neophytes aspire to be a part of, and a tradition for seasoned actors and actresses.

On a sweltering Sunday afternoon, eight eye-catching floats representing eight competing entries delighted the fans who lined the parade route, which started at Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park and ended at SM Mall of Asia.

Despite the ominous clouds, the participants were generally upbeat, such as “Sosy Problems” star Bianca King, who was dressed comfortably in a pink tank top and shorts.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all the beautiful faces in the parade. I don’t mind if it rains or if it gets hot,” she said.

But the skies turned sunny. Smiling, the stars blew kisses, threw goodies and waved at some 300,000 people as the motorcade moved on.

Singer and former child actor Makisig Morales of “Shake Rattle and Roll XIV” said being in the parade was a dream come true. “Not a lot of actors get a chance,” he said.

Actress Mercedes Cabral of the indie drama “Thy Womb” was likewise excited about her first time joining the parade. She said the event reminded her of her college days in the University of the Philippines Diliman, where she used to help create floats for the yearly Lantern Parade.

“The Strangers” star Janice de Belen isn’t exactly new to joining the MMFF. The Kapamilya actress, who’s also in “Shake Rattle and Roll XIV,” said she couldn’t remember if she had actually ridden on a parade float before.

“This is a whole new experience for me, and I’m quite nervous!” she exclaimed.

‘A great feeling’

For veterans, the festivities have become an indelible part of their careers.

Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., a star in the fantasy-adventure flick “Si Agimat, Si Enteng at Si Ako,” said in an earlier interview: “As a celebrity, it’s my job to entertain and make people happy. Seeing the fans is such a great feeling.”

It’s been 15 years since Nora Aunor joined the festivities and the Superstar was excited to be once again part of the celebrations. She told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that “I’m happy that we were able to get in.”

Aunor holds the record for the most MMFF best actress wins with seven. This year, critics are touting the 59-year-old actress as the one to beat for her performance in the indie drama “Thy Womb,” which already has won for her acting trophies at the Venice Film Festival and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

8 floats

Dressed in traditional Badjao clothing, Aunor, “Thy Womb” director Brillante Mendoza and costar Cabral were aboard an oversized replica of a lepa, a Badjao boathouse.

They were joined on by mock rowers and dancers, who regaled the people with Badjao dances. Fans chanted “Nora! Nora!” as she ascended the float.

The float of “Si Agimat, Si Enteng at Si Ako”—reportedly worth P1 million—carried Vic Sotto, who sported a warrior costume. A monster octopus was prominently featured at the front of the float, while its sides were decked with colorful wild flowers and plants. Revilla and Judy Ann Santos joined Sotto on the float later.

Ai Ai de las Alas, Kris Aquino and Vice Ganda led the cast of “Sisterakas” on a bright and loud float adorned with photo cutouts of lipsticks, diamonds and perfume bottles.

The float of “The Strangers” was a simple red and black rectangular vessel. On it were Enchong Dee, Julia Montes, Enrique Gil and JM de Guzman.

Rose petals

Faux rose petals were sprinkled on the sides of the float of the drama “One More Try.” Angel Locsin, Zanjoe Marudo and Dingdong Dantes waved as the float inched slowly.

The fully costumed cast of “El Presidente” was led by Jeorge “ER” Estregan, Cristine Reyes, Christopher de Leon, Cesar Montano and Baron Geisler. Their float had a replica of Emilio Aguinaldo mounted on a horse.

The orange and black float of “Shake, Rattle and Roll XIV” featured an ominous-looking insect. On it were Dennis Trillo, De Belen, AJ Dee, Eula Caballero, Mart Escudero and Albie Casiño.

The 38th MMFF runs from Dec. 25 to Jan. 8, 2013.

Joescoundrel
12-30-2012, 08:11 AM
Jeers greet Metro film fest awards: Justifying crap

By Marinel R. Cruz

December 29, 2012 | 12:39 am

Online jeers, more than cheers, continue in reaction to the 38th Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) awards given on Thursday night.

The two most pointed posts on Facebook as of Friday night described the best picture citation for Star Cinema’s “One More Try” as “justifying crap with more crap” and “celebrating and rewarding mediocrity.”

Producers did not reply to the Inquirer’s query about observations, also gathered online, comparing the film to an award-winning 2008 Chinese movie.

“One More Try” is about a former couple, now with different partners, who can save the sickly child of their earlier relationship only by having another child. While working on a parallel story line, the Chinese movie, “In Love We Trust,” is seen as a commentary on China’s one-child policy.

Earlier on Thursday, Cinemanila International Film Festival director Amable “Tikoy” Aguiluz posted an “urgent message” on his personal Facebook account calling for action against cinemas pulling out one of the MMFF entries, replacing it with others that were doing better in ticket sales.

“This is a festival and the film (‘Thy Womb’) deserves a full run,” Aguiluz said. He urged “all lovers of Filipino cinema” to march to Meralco Theater in Pasig City, where the awards rites were held, “and demand the movie’s return to the theaters.” No such demonstration was noted on Thursday night.

Three other “slow-moving” entries were said to be replaced with the more popular ones.

Cited abroad

“I hope this award will make people more curious about the movie [so] we don’t get pulled out from any more cinemas,” said Brillante Ma. Mendoza, named best director for “Thy Womb.”

The movie, which has won awards for Mendoza and lead actress Nora Aunor in film festivals abroad, is the only entry that did not reach the P1-million mark when the festival opened on Christmas Day. It is reportedly still at the bottom of the box-office rankings at press time.

“Thy Womb” tells the story of a Badjao midwife who, failing to conceive, finds a second wife for her husband. The role won for Aunor the MMFF best actress trophy. In her acceptance speech, the actress said in Filipino: “I always tell people that, as a singer, I continue to sing even if only five people are listening. As an actor, I promise to keep making meaningful films, if I have to produce them myself, as long as there are even a few people watching.”

“Thy Womb” bagged the Gatpuno Villegas Memorial and the Most Gender-Sensitive Film awards. It also won best production design for Mendoza; best cinematography for Odyssey Flores; and best story for Henry Burgos.

Theater assignments

In a joint statement sent to the Inquirer on Friday, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA, which mounts the festival) chair Francis Tolentino and MMFF executive chair Jesse Ejercito insisted: “The assignment of theaters to the eight official entries [was] done fairly.”

They explained that in Metro Manila, theater assignments were determined by drawing lots. However, in the provinces, they said, the decision was “up to the theater owners.” The festival became nationwide more than 10 years ago.

No big winner

“One More Try,” directed by Ruel Bayani, won for Dingdong Dantes his second best festival actor award. Last year, he won for another Star Cinema production, “Segunda Mano.”

The film also won best editing for Vito Kahili and best screenplay for Anna Karenina Ramos, Kriz Gazmen and Jay Fernando. It received the first Fernando Poe Jr. Memorial Award and Miguel Vergara was named best child performer.

Number-wise, though, it wasn’t the big winner; this distinction went to the Emilio Aguinaldo bio pic “El Presidente,” which ran away with the most awards, starting with second best picture.

Cesar Montano, who plays Andres Bonifacio in the movie, won best supporting actor; Jamir Garcia and apl.de.ap, best theme song; and Jesse Lasaten, best musical score; Albert Idioma, best sound.

“El Presidente” also bagged the best float and Youth Choice awards. Best makeup award was given to Warren Munar, Benny Batoctoy and Virginia Apolinario.

The Wenn Deramas comedy “Sisterakas” was declared third best picture.

The criteria

For festival watchers confused by the choices, here are the awards criteria from the MMDA: “25 percent for creativity and artistic excellence, innovativeness and global appeal; 25 percent for technical excellence and innovativeness; 25 percent for content; and 25 percent for Filipino, cultural and/or historical value.”

This year’s panel of judges was chaired by Prof. Rowena Capulong-Reyes, dean of Colegio de San Juan de Letran’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Among the members were: Felipe de Leon Jr., chair, National Commission for Culture and the Arts; Mutya ng Pilipinas Camille Guevarra; Emmanuel Borlaza, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board vice chair; Joyce Bernal, filmmaker; and Ma. Carmen Syquia Musngi, MTRCB member.

Box-office winner

Wilma Doesn’t bagged the best supporting actress award for “Sisteraka,” headlined by Ai-Ai delas Alas, Vice Ganda and Kris Aquino.

The movie is this year’s box-office winner. Its listed earnings on the first festival day (it ends Jan. 8) was P39.1 million, closely followed by Tony Y. Reyes’ “Si Agimat, Si Enteng at Si Ako,” which reportedly made P29.4 million. The fantasy-adventure flick, top-billed by Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla and Vic Sotto, did not win any award.

The Chito Roño horror film “Shake, Rattle and Roll 14: The Invasion” took home one—the best visual effects trophy for Imaginary Friends and Black Burst.

Most Gender Sensitive Film award went to “Thy Womb” in the main competition; Will Fredo’s “In Nomine Matris” in the New Wave (independent films) category; and Roberto Pagotan’s “Manibela” under Shorts.

New Wave

Alan Paule won New Wave best actor for his performance in Ronaldo Bertubin’s “Gayak”; Liza Diño, New Wave best actress for “In Nomine Matris.”

Named New Wave best director was Tyrone Acierto for his work on “The Grave Bandits,” which was declared best picture in that category. Special Jury Prize went to Armando “Bing” Lao for “Ad Ignorantiam.”

Best shorts were: “Promdi” and “Monthsary” for Luzon; “License to Drive,” Visayas; “Bulgaran sa Daan” and “The Boy the Girl and the Traffic Light,” Mindanao.

(Special prizes were handed out for the first time in the festival’s history: Former president Joseph Estrada and Aunor, Male and Female Stars of the Night; Zanjoe Marudo and Bianca King, SMDC Male and Female Celebrity of the Night.)

Henry Burgos, accepting his best story trophy for “Thy Womb,” said: “I wish to see changes, even just a little, in the way we Filipinos tell our [own] stories. Let’s continue to support movies that aim to teach and enlighten us.”

Later that same night, a frustrated Netizen quipped, “Box-office results show that Filipino moviegoers have not reached that level of maturity.” With Bayani San Diego Jr.

Joescoundrel
12-30-2012, 08:12 AM
^ We really should rethink how the MMFF should be done. There is just something wrong when shit like that fag fest movie rakes it in. If it is rally just box office they want, then perhaps we should not ban foreign films during the MMFF at all and just open the tills for everyone.

abcdef
01-03-2013, 08:43 AM
Les Miserables is a good movie to watch! Watch out for that in the Philippines ;)

Joescoundrel
01-05-2013, 08:00 AM
Ang Lee’s breathtaking parable kicks off Oscar race

By Rito P. Asilo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

January 4, 2013 | 8:52 pm

“LIFE OF PI.” A film of astonishing beauty.

“Faith is a palace with many rooms,” declares Pi Patel, the protagonist of Ang Lee’s compelling big-screen parable, “Life of Pi” (showing on Wednesday, Jan. 9), as he explains his multifaceted religious persuasions: Patel’s belief in Catholicism, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam go beyond mere fascination, and grew even stronger after surviving a shipwreck that took the lives of his whole family and set him adrift at sea—for 227 days!

Patel’s ordeal happened when he was only 16 years old (he’s played as a teen by the terrific Suraj Sharma), after his father decided to sell the family zoo in Pondichery, India, and migrate to Canada.

When the North America-bound freighter carrying Pi and his loved ones sinks during a storm, the precocious teenager suddenly finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat.

Unfortunately, while his survival skills are impeccable, he has a difficult time getting along with his four “companions”—an injured zebra, a famished spotted hyena, a depressed orangutan, and a cantankerous Bengal tiger named Richard Parker!

Food chain

It doesn’t take long for Mr. Parker to demonstrate who’s on top of the food chain—but, is Pi smart enough to convince his 450-pound co-survivor that he is more useful alive than as a food source?

Lee’s latest cinematic triumph is a film of astonishing beauty. It’s a breathtaking visual spectacle that’s as entertaining as it is thematically significant. At first blush, the story of a dauntless Indian teenager embarking on a perilous journey with a tiger sounds more whimsical than realistic—but, the way the production tells its tale is what sets it apart from this season’s other films.

Swathed in gleaming colors, the movie is an allegory for survival and the triumph of the human spirit—and kicks off the Academy Awards race. (Scheduled to be shown on Jan. 11 is Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” followed by “Les Miserables,” on Jan. 16.)

The director makes the viewing experience more “relatable” by deciding not to “Disney-fy” or romanticize his film’s premise—as a terrifying scene involving Pi, his father, Richard Parker and a poor baby goat demonstrates early on.

Differences

Alas, Pi Patel isn’t Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli, and Richard Parker is no Shere Khan! Just the same, that’s no reason for them—and mankind, in general—not to tolerate each other’s differences and learn to coexist in harmony.

The movie is anchored on real emotions, intelligently and intuitively conveyed by Sharma and the other actors who portray Pi at different ages. Sharma and company invest their roles with subtle shades of humor that help leaven Pi’s core as a curious and impressionable protagonist.

This is the film to see in digital 3D—its Oscar-worthy look will remind you of Akira Kurosawa’s “Dreams” and the Robin Williams starrer, “What Dreams May Come.” Moreover, the sparkling images conjured up by Lee’s “magic wand” don’t draw attention away from the story and, in fact, help deepen the relevance of its metaphysical musings.

This is evinced by Pi’s encounter with a playful whale in the bioluminescent sea at night, and his adventure on a floating island of lush forests, edible plants, huggable meerkats—and carnivorous algae!

Sam Miguel
01-11-2013, 11:29 AM
Oscars favorites put spotlight on US history

Do you want a US history lesson? Look no further than the frontrunners for the best film Academy Award, announced Thursday.

Oscars favorites put spotlight on US history

Nearly half the movies nominated for best picture Oscar are about key events in America's past, from the abolition of slavery to the post 9/11 hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Steven Spielberg's drama "Lincoln" could also offer a lesson to current US politicians, as the 16th US president schemed to get bipartisan support in Congress.

Slavery and the American Civil War era also provide the backdrop for Quentin Tarantino's latest blood-fest "Django Unchained," about a slave-turned-bounty hunter seeking to free his wife from Leonardo DiCaprio's clutches.

Historical accuracy is not necessarily guaranteed: "Argo" allegedly takes liberties with facts about the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, and the CIA has blasted the depiction of torture in the bin Laden flick "Zero Dark Thirty."

Spielberg's latest movie, which led the field with nominations in 12 categories, tells the story of Abraham Lincoln's drive to secure crucial votes to pass the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States.

Played with uncanny realism by Daniel Day-Lewis -- frontrunner for best actor -- the Republican president stops at little beyond outright financial bribery to twist Democrats arms into backing the constitutional amendment.

Non-Americans might learn a thing or two as well: that it was the Democrats who opposed abolition seems surprising from the modern point of view, as are the political machinations that eventually ended the Civil War.

"Django Unchained" is set a few years before the Civil War, when Jamie Foxx's title character is freed by a wandering German dentist turned bounty hunter, embarking on a killing spree typical of the "Pulp Fiction" director.

Tarantino justifies relentless use of the "N" word as historically accurate, but that hasn't stopped critics slamming it for linguistic exaggeration, as well as shooting overload, notably after last month's school massacre.

Ben Affleck's Iran hostage crisis drama "Argo" tells the story of a CIA agent -- played by the actor-director himself -- bidding to free six American diplomats who take refuge in the Canadian ambassador's residence in Tehran.

Critics have included then Canadian envoy Ken Taylor, depicted as playing a clearly supporting role in the plot to get them out of the country disguised as a Canadian film crew.

"The movie's fun, it's thrilling, it's pertinent, it's timely," Taylor told Canada's Star newspaper recently. "But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner."

Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" also focuses on a CIA agent: the female one credited with tracking down bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan, where US special forces killed him in May 2011.

The movie includes graphic scenes of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," widely seen as torture, and portrays their role in pinpointing the Al-Qaeda's chief's courier who eventually led to his compound in Abbottabad.

That has earned it criticism from lawmakers including former presidential candidate John McCain and from acting CIA chief Michael Morell, claiming the film exaggerates the importance of information obtained by such techniques.

A rights group joined those voicing concern Thursday, after the movie's five Oscar nominations.

The Center for Constitutional Rights said it was "profoundly disappointed to see that Hollywood is prepared to bestow its highest honor upon a film that glorifies one of the darkest periods in our nation's history.

"This should be a moment of national shame and a commitment never to repeat the horrors depicted in the film.... We hope that members of the Academy will vote their consciences and withhold their votes from this film," it said.

Bigelow failed to pick up a best director nod Thursday, in what was seen by many as a snub.

But her "Zero Dark Thirty" producer and screenwriter Mark Boal -- who worked with her on 2008's Oscar-winning "Hurt Locker," paid tribute to her reacting to the film's other nominations.

"None of us would be so honored today without the genius and remarkable talent of Kathryn Bigelow, and to her we are forever grateful," he said.

Sam Miguel
01-11-2013, 11:33 AM
Spielberg, Ang Lee tipped as Oscar nods revealed

Steven Spielberg is hoping for good news Thursday as Oscar nominees are unveiled, with his "Lincoln" among frontrunners, albeit in a wide field as Hollywood's awards season enters the home straight.

Taiwan-born Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" and Osama bin Laden manhunt movie "Zero Dark Thirty" by Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow are also expected to rack up Academy Award nods, as is actor-director Ben Affleck's Iran hostage drama "Argo."

Amid no overwhelming favorite so far -- Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" and musical "Les Miserables" are also in the running -- Tinseltown is holding its breath for the pre-dawn Oscar announcement.

Best actor tips include Daniel Day-Lewis for "Lincoln," Hugh Jackman in "Les Miz" and Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings Playbook," while Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty") and Helen Mirren ("Hitchcock") lead on the actress side.

Spielberg's political drama "Lincoln," about the 16th US president's drive to abolish slavery during the American Civil War, already picked up most nods for the Golden Globes, competing in seven categories in the show this weekend.

The film has also garnered top nominations for the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America and Britain's BAFTA awards, in the run-up to the Oscars announcement.

Its British-Irish star Day-Lewis will be vying to win a record third best actor Oscar, after winning the accolade in 1990 for "My Left Foot" and in 2008 for "There Will Be Blood."

Visually stunning 3D adventure "Life of Pi," about an Indian boy cast adrift with a Bengal Tiger, will be Lee's third bid for Oscars glory after a 2001 nod for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and a best director 2006 win for "Brokeback Mountain."

The movie secured three Golden Globe nominations, nine BAFTA nods and was on the DGA's five-strong best film shortlist.

"Zero Dark Thirty," about the decade-long manhunt for bin Laden after 9/11, has drawn criticism -- including from the CIA -- for its hard-hitting depiction of how enhanced interrogation, or torture, helped find the Al-Qaeda chief.

Chastain is widely seen as a best actress favorite for playing a relentless CIA agent who tracked bin Laden down to his Abbottabad, Pakistan hideout, while Bigelow could get more gongs to go with her 2009 "Hurt Locker" best film Oscar.

Affleck has also drawn fire for taking liberties with historical accuracy in "Argo," about a CIA mission to extract six US diplomats who took refuge in the Canadian ambassador's residence during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

But the film is up in five Golden Globe categories, and Oscar watchers say it may win over voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences too.

Tarantino's latest bloodfest "Django Unchained," with Jamie Foxx as a slave shooting his way to free his wife from Leonardo DiCaprio's clutches, had to delay a red-carpet premiere after a pre-Christmas school shooting in Connecticut.

Romcom "Silver Linings Playbook" has also drawn lots of Hollywood buzz, notably for "Hangover" star Cooper but also for being a relatively light-hearted film in a field heavy on drama and history.

For Hollywood veteran Spielberg, a best film or best director Oscar would go with his two top-drawer Academy Awards for 1993's "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" in 1999.

The nominees will be revealed around 5:30 am (1330 GMT) Thursday -- the early hour to fit in with East Coast and other global viewers, waiting to hear who's up for the famous golden statuettes, to be handed out on February 24.

Sam Miguel
01-11-2013, 11:35 AM
'Amour' is Oscar foreign film frontrunner

Cannes festival winner "Amour" ("Love") is tipped as the frontrunner for the best foreign language film Oscar -- although it may have to put up with digs from Oscar host Seth McFarlane.

The film by Austrian director Michael Haneke was among five nominees revealed Thursday ahead of the Academy Awards show next month, along with candidates from Norway, Chile, Denmark and Canada.

The heart-wrenching tale of a man and his dying wife won Haneke the prestigious Palme D'Or top prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and has long been talked about as a possible Oscar winner.

But that didn't stop "Family Guy" creator MacFarlane making a provocative joke when he and co-host Emma Stone unveiled the nominees at a pre-dawn announcement in Beverly Hills.

"I read 'Amour' was co-produced in Austria and Germany. The last time Austria and Germany got together and co-produced something it was Hitler, but this was much better," he deadpanned.

The Cannes prize for "Amour" was the second for 70-year-old Haneke -- he had received the award in 2009 for his Oscar-nominated "The White Ribbon."

The other films nominated for best foreign language movie are: "Kon-Tiki" (Norway), "No" (Chile), "A Royal Affair" (Denmark) and "War Witch" (Canada).

Sam Miguel
01-13-2013, 02:18 PM
Lincoln and trapo politics American style

By Benjamin Pimentel

3:43 pm | Saturday, January 12th, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO—Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is the leading contender for top honors at this year’s Academy Awards.
It’s an engrossing film and I encourage everyone to see it.

The movie offers a compelling way of viewing history, politics and social change that’s relevant to Filipinos.

Take the scenes in which members of the U.S. House of Representatives were debating the proposed constitutional amendment that would finally make slavery illegal in the United States. Leading the fight was Thaddeus Stevens, a maverick Republican congressman, who was both an ally and a critic of Lincoln.

He was branded a radical. Why? Because he believed all men and women of all races should be considered equal. In 19th century America, that was a radical idea! In fact, to some defenders of slavery who think whites were meant by God to rule over blacks and other races, it’s even blasphemous.

That reality forced Lincoln and his allies to be more creative in their political tactics. In their bid to win the votes needed to eradicate slavery, they urged Stevens, who is totally disgusted with the advocates of slavery, to tone it down a bit.

How? By backing off his argument that blacks were, in fact, equal to whites. Instead, they wanted him to embrace a vaguer, lamer position: that everyone should be equal in the eyes of the law.

Reluctantly, Stevens, played brilliantly by Tommy Lee Jones, gave in. But even as he compromised on his position, he managed to hit back with a vengeance at the extremist opponents of the anti-slavery movement who were eager to pounce on Stevens, Lincoln or anyone who would even suggest that blacks were equal to whites.

“How can I hold that all men are created equal when here before me stands stinking the moral carcass of the gentleman?” Stevens snapped. “Proof that some men are inferior, endowed by their maker with dim wits, impermeable to reason, with cold pallid slime in their veins instead of hot red blood. You are more reptile than man… so low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you.”

That was a great scene and I found myself chuckling as I watched it. For it underscored a fact many Americans tend to forget — that there was a time when freedom and equality were limited to a privileged few in a society that prides itself on being the beacon of freedom and equality for all.

But then the movie also drives home an equally important point: that throughout U.S. history there have been people like Stevens, who truly really believed in all the talk about freedom and equality, who simply could not stand those who saw themselves as being superior to others and were willing to fight powerful forces of intolerance.

And these mavericks, who endured isolation, ridicule, condemnation, often made a difference.

Lincoln has been portrayed as a brilliant, but also complex politician, and I was glad to see him not glorified in the movie. In fact, politics itself is not glorified in “Lincoln,” the movie.

Lincoln prevailed in his bid to end slavery partly by bribing some of his opponents, including politicians who couldn’t care less if slavery remained part of the fabric of American society. As Stevens said, “The greatest measure of the 19th century was passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America.”

To win, Lincoln and Stevens had to get dirty. They had to play games with dirty politicians, to engage in what Filipinos would call trapo politics.

The conflict was underscored in a scene in which Lincoln, confronted by Stevens’s push for a more hard-line approach, explained his own strategy for achieving victory.

“A compass… it’ll point you True North from where you’re standing, but it’s got no advice about the swamps and dessert and chasm that you’ll encounter along the way,” he says. “If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp… What’s the use of knowing True North?”

The journey depicted in “Lincoln” turned out to be longer than the people who succeeded in getting rid of slavery in the U.S. expected.

Lincoln eventually paid for that victory with his life. And while his triumph meant blacks could no longer be owned as slaves, it took another hundred years for African Americans to win their right to vote and be treated with dignity at least according to the law.

But watching ‘Lincoln’ reminds you of how far the United States has traveled.

Sam Miguel
01-15-2013, 10:13 AM
Jackman Globe best actor, Hathaway best supporting actress

Agence France-Presse

January 14, 2013 | 11:56 am

LOS ANGELES – Australian actor Hugh Jackman won the Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy Sunday for his all-singing role in musical adaptation “Les Miserables.”

Jackman beat fellow nominees Jack Black in “Bernie,” Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Ewan McGregor in “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” and Bill Murray in “Hyde Park on Hudson.”

In his acceptance speech, Jackman – praised for his vocal skills in the movie – revealed that he almost gave up the starring role of Jean Valjean only a few weeks before it started filming.

“Three weeks before we started filming, we had a terrible day of rehearsal. Humiliating day,” he said, adding he told his wife: “‘It’s time. I have to ring (the director), tell him someone else should play the role. I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.’

“My wife talked me off the cliff like she talks me (down) most days. Baby, I will say it in front of the entire world – thank you for always being right, baby. I love you.”

Anne Hathaway, meanwhile, won best supporting actress Golden Globe on Sunday for her role as the young mother and prostitute Fantine in musical adaptation “Les Miserables” by British director Tom Hooper.

Hathaway beat fellow nominees Amy Adams in “The Master,” Sally Field in political drama “Lincoln,” Helen Hunt in “The Sessions” and Nicole Kidman in “The Paperboy.”

Thanking Globes organizers the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), she said: “Thank you for putting me, my work in this category with great and gutsy actresses. Amy, Nicole, Helen and Sally.

“Thank you for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self-doubt” she added, clutching the golden award.

She also paid tribute to fellow cast member Hugh Jackman and director Tom Hooper. “Hugh Jackman, my friend, you are brilliant in this role. I love you. Tom Hooper,” she said.

Sam Miguel
01-15-2013, 10:13 AM
List of Golden Globe winners

Associated Press

January 14, 2013 | 12:42 pm

Winners of the 70th annual Golden Globe Awards, announced Sunday in Beverly Hills, California:

MOTION PICTURES

— Picture, Drama: “Argo.”

— Picture, Musical or Comedy: “Les Miserables.”

— Actor, Drama: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln.”

— Actress, Drama: Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty.”

— Director: Ben Affleck, “Argo.”

— Actor, Musical or Comedy: Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables.”

— Actress, Musical or Comedy: Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook.”

— Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained.”

— Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables.”

— Foreign Language: “Amour.”

— Animated Film: “Brave.”

— Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained.”

— Original Score: Mychael Danna, “Life of Pi.”

— Original Song: “Skyfall” (music and lyrics by Adele and Paul Epworth), “Skyfall.”

TELEVISION

— Series, Drama: “Homeland.”

— Series, Musical or Comedy: “Girls.”

— Actress, Drama: Claire Danes, “Homeland.”

— Actor, Drama: Damian Lewis, “Homeland.”

— Actress, Musical or Comedy: Lena Dunham, “Girls.”

— Actor, Musical or Comedy: Don Cheadle, “House of Lies.”

— Miniseries or Movie: “Game Change.”

— Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Julianne Moore, “Game Change.”

— Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Kevin Costner, “Hatfields & McCoys.”

— Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey.”

— Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Ed Harris, “Game Change.”

Previously announced:

Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award: Jodie Foster.

Sam Miguel
01-15-2013, 10:27 AM
Saved by the CIA

By John Nery

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:51 pm | Monday, January 14th, 2013

The controversy over “Zero Dark Thirty”—specifically, over whether Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-nominated movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden accurately depicts the truth about the use of torture—has revived the old debate about the movies’ debt to the historical record. Another Oscar-nominated, based-on-a-true-story, starring-a-persistent-agent-from-the-Central-Intelligence-Agency movie that takes some liberties with the historical record, is also very much in the news, but except for the occasional critical story or post, Ben Affleck’s “Argo” has largely escaped the kind of scrutiny trained on “Zero Dark Thirty.”

I enjoyed “Argo” for the political thriller that it was, but (fair warning, the first of many spoilers coming up!) felt somewhat manipulated by the contrived ending. Every possible angle of a thrilling escape from an airport was included: the last-minute change in reservation status, the encounter with brusque and seemingly uncomprehending guards, the authorities’ timely piecing together of evidence, the belated chase after the passengers in the terminal, the armed-men-in-jeeps-speeding-after-a-plane sequence. As it turns out, none of these airport-escape clichés happened. The most that the American diplomats disguised as Canadian movie-making crew members endured at the Tehran airport in 1980 was a brief, surprising encounter with an immigration official who took all of their passports—and then came back with tea. As Tony Mendez, the CIA agent Affleck himself plays in the movie, recounted in his memoirs: their transit through the airport went “smooth as silk.”

* * *

Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador portrayed sympathetically in the film as the courageous host of the six American diplomats hiding from Iranian revolutionaries, expressed his concern to Maclean’s magazine after the movie came out “that we’re portrayed as innkeepers who are waiting to be saved by the CIA.”

In truth, much of the help the Canadians extended to the beleaguered Americans was written out of the movie.

The pivotal role of another Canadian diplomat was completely ignored, for example. After several days on the run, the American diplomats finally called John Sheardown, first secretary at the Canadian embassy. Joshuah Bearman, whose 2007 feature story for Wired magazine, “How the CIA used a fake sci-fi flick to rescue Americans from Tehran,” became the main basis for the movie, describes the response of the man the Americans later took to calling Big Daddy: “‘Why didn’t you call sooner,’ Sheardown said. ‘Of course we can take you in’.”

Sheardown died two weeks ago at the age of 88; the New York Times obituary remembered his bracing response in a different way: “‘Hell, yes, of course,’ the diplomat, John Sheardown, answered. ‘Count on us’.”

Sheardown hosted four of the American diplomats at considerable personal risk. The Times gave a brisk summary of what hosting fugitives at that time meant: “He bought groceries at different stores to disguise his household’s suddenly larger appetite. He bribed the garbage collector with money and beer for the same reason. Surveillance, including tanks at the end of the street, was constant. Strangers knocked on the front door, suspicious calls were commonplace, their car was repeatedly searched.”

None of this was depicted in “Argo.”

The movie also scanted the official involvement of the Canadian government. The fake passports the American diplomats used were real Canadian travel documents, and acquiring them for use with assumed names was a complicated process. As Bearman writes: “Canadian law prohibits such falsification, but the country’s parliament held an emergency secret session, the first since World War II, to make an exception.”

There was more that was left out. “All the documentation to authenticate the diplomats as Canadians, the business cards, credit cards, the passports, the academic credentials, everything came out of Canada” (Taylor, interviewed by Jim Coyle of The Star). A Farsi-speaking Canadian staffer helped prepare the American diplomats for their airport transit through “mock interrogations” (Bearman). And “once the plan was decided on, Canadians ‘scouted the airport, sent people in and out of Iran to establish random patterns and get copies of entry and exit visas, bought three sets of airline tickets’” (Slate’s David Haglund, quoting an irate Bernie Fletcher).

To be sure, not everything the Canadians did was up to scratch. In the situation-room scene where Affleck’s character is informed about the fate of the diplomats, the bicycle plan is presented: Essentially, the diplomats in hiding would be provided with bicycles, which they would then ride the 300 miles to the Turkish border—in the middle of winter. As it turns out, the ridiculous plan had Canadian origins; according to Bearman, the “antsy” Canadian minister of external affairs made the suggestion to the US Secretary of State at a Nato meeting, in December 1979.

* * *

Did Affleck play fast and loose with the truth? The answer must be yes and no. The movie is faithful to the general sense of the Wired story, even as it compresses events and conflates personalities. Taylor would likely disagree that the truth of the situation was fairly depicted. “But look,” Taylor told the Star. “Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”

That the CIA became the star: Is this art or entertainment?

Sam Miguel
01-28-2013, 08:32 AM
‘Hansel & Gretel’ tops N. America box office

Agence France-Presse

January 28, 2013 | 7:06 am

LOS ANGELES – A horror-movie twist on the classic “Hansel and Gretel” fairy tale broke out in the top slot at the North American weekend box office, industry estimates showed Sunday.

“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” in which the once lost brother and sister have grown up to become grim-faced bounty hunters, debuted in first place with $19 million, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The supernatural thriller screamed past fellow horror flick “Mama,” which fell into the second slot in its second weekend in theaters.

“Mama,” in which a shadowy being trails two young children rescued after being lost in the woods when their parents died, took in $12.9 million.

The dark romantic comedy “Silver Linings Playbook,” still riding a boost after its star Jennifer Lawrence scored a best comedy actress Golden Globe, stayed in third place, pushing the Oscar-tipped bin Laden manhunt movie “Zero Dark Thirty” down to fourth.

“Silver Linings,” which was in 10th place just two weeks ago before the Globe win, was set to earn $10 million this weekend.

The acclaimed but controversial “Zero Dark Thirty” was just behind with $9.8 million in box office sales.

Another new release, “Parker,” starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez as an unlikely pair working together on a heist, opened in fifth place, with $7 million in its opening weekend.

Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino’s blood-soaked spaghetti Western tribute “Django Unchained,” which took home two Globes and four Oscar nominations, rose to sixth place, earning slightly more than $5 million at the box office.

That put it just barely ahead of the third new release to open in the top ten this week. Star-studded “Movie 43,” a comedy featuring interconnected short films that follow three kids’ search for the most banned movie in the world, earned $5 million in ticket sales.

Trailing just behind were Sean Penn action flick “Gangster Squad,” with $4.2 million, and crime drama “Broken City,” at $4 million.

And rounding out the top 10 was musical adaptation “Les Miserables,” which took in $3.9 million.

Sam Miguel
01-29-2013, 09:43 AM
Miserable

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:37 pm | Monday, January 28th, 2013

First off, the interview, which, to go even by local reaction, was quite miserable. Friends drew my attention to it last week saying, it had become the talk of the town, or of blogosphere, it had appeared in YouTube and gone viral. That was Ricky Lo’s interview with Anne Hathaway.

I watched it, and had pretty much the same reaction as most Filipino viewers. As pretty much everyone knows by now, that interview didn’t go very well, Hathaway sounding a little putoff down the road. Though to her credit, she remained polite and smiling throughout while answering some of the questions with bite. My heart went out to Lo who looked completely lost at one point wondering what had gone wrong.

It’s not hard to see, and even appreciate, what he was trying to do, which was to relate his interview to a Filipino audience. But there are ways of doing it without sounding intrusive, or superficial, or “Pinoy show biz.” Some of Lo’s questions could have elicited less than zinger responses if they had been phrased in a different way, or given better contexts.

For example, the question about weight loss. You put it in terms of, “How did you lose the 25 lb and how did you get it back?” you’ll get the answer, “I’d rather not talk about weight loss please.” But you put it in the context of American actors going to extremes to lose or add weight to do a role—Robert de Niro putting on all those pounds in “Raging Bull” and Christian Bale and recently Matthew McConaughey becoming emaciated to act out a sleep-deprived and AIDS-ravaged person respectively—you’ll get a different answer. Same concern, but the second is a question about professionalism, the first only about vanity.

Again, you ask the question, “Have you ever experienced (what it is) to be hungry, to be poor?” you’ll get the answer, “That’s very personal.” A bit earlier, Hathaway was just talking about the lengths she went to to learn about her character, researching what it meant to be poor in early 19th-century France, and indeed what it meant to be a sex slave at the time. You want to pursue the idea you can always suggest that surely research only goes so far, does the subject have any personal experience to draw from to identify with her character? The second is a question about acting process, the first is, well, just personal.

Still again, you ask, “Do you have any special message for Lea?” you’ll get the answer, “We’ve already talked about that.” Because indeed they already had. The first time Lo brought it up, Hathaway enthused over Lea suggesting there was no comparison. Lea was the real singer, she had one of the best voices in the world, while she (Hathaway) was just an actress trying to sing. You bring that up a second time, you’re wearing your hospitality thin. You want Lea, you interview Lea. There’s really no other way you can rephrase the question or contextualize it without sounding like you were rubbing in the comparison.

I thoroughly loved Lea’s own take on things, writing from the perspective of the interviewee. She has great advice for interviewers, which is for them to do their homework. The advice takes on special urgency when the interviewee is someone of note and if the interview is being videoed. Part of the homework, or preparation, I would imagine, is learning about differences in cultures, differences in sensibilities, differences in ways of thinking.

Or else you’ll end up miserable.

* * *

I enjoyed the movie thoroughly and am amused by the snobbery of comparing it to the stage versions and finding it wanting. I’ve seen “Les Miz” a couple of times abroad, and I have both the 10th anniversary and 25th anniversary performances, and I can say with much conviction that this is as best as they come. I guess you can always make comparisons between stage and movie if you want to, but you should also be aware of the differences in medium.

Nothing shows it more than Hathaway’s version of “I Dreamed A Dream”—Lo is right to praise Hathaway for it, it’s brilliant. That is a despairing song, and Hathaway sings it profoundly despairingly. Hers is easily one of its best interpretations. But it wouldn’t have been so if it had been sung that way on the stage. Not least because it wouldn’t have been heard—all those emotional nuances wouldn’t have gotten through. That’s where you appreciate Hathaway’s statement that she’s just an actress trying to sing. That’s not naturally a disadvantage—in a movie, that can be a perfect advantage.

I’ll leave the rest to the potential viewer. I’ll just say here that I’ve always wondered why “Les Miz” has not been translated into Filipino. I’ve suggested it to some people actually, that story is a melodrama (like opera by the way) which could be dear to a Filipino’s heart. Not quite incidentally, you should watch the movie with a couple of handkerchiefs or a box of napkins as you’d be hard-hearted not to be tearful at many moments there. Additionally, the story line does have humongous parallels with our own situation, with our vast divide between rich and poor, with the utter miserableness of our poor, with our student activists/revolutionaries filled with high ideals who once tried to do something about it and perished in the effort. I myself shed a tear or two at “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables.”

The theater was fairly full when I watched it, a bit surprising for a musical. Star power might have done the trick. But not being blessed with a sunny disposition, I left wondering if the wet-faced crowd recognized what they saw in film with what they see in real life. I remembered specifically Tolstoy’s story about an aristocratic lady who wept as she felt for the character in a tragedy while her coachman waited outside freezing in the cold.

Miserable.

Sam Miguel
01-29-2013, 09:43 AM
^^^ That paragraph I highlighted in bold-face, that indeed.

Sam Miguel
04-08-2013, 08:56 AM
Bembol Roco revisits ‘Maynila’

By Bayani San Diego Jr.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

April 7, 2013 | 9:44 pm

Bembol Roco candidly recounted that he was not the first choice to play Julio Madiaga, the hapless hero in Lino Brocka’s 1975 film, “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Light).”

The film is currently being restored digitally by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in tandem with the World Cinema Foundation (WCF), chaired by Oscar-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese. FDCP has announced that the new “Maynila” will have a world premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival in May.

“Lino had shot several scenes with Jay Ilagan as Julio,” Roco told the Inquirer. “But when Lino and the producers viewed the rushes, they thought Jay was too chubby.”

Madiaga, after all, was supposed to be a probinsiyano (rural lad) who encounters all sorts of hardships in the big bad city.

Roco previously had a small role in the Brocka movie “Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa” (in the episode that top-billed Ilagan) and costarred with the director in the Peta (Philippine Educational Theater Association) play, “Hanggang Dito na Lamang at Maraming Salamat.”

He related, “We toured the play, and we had just gotten back from Mindanao when I got the call about ‘Maynila’ from Lino.”

Instant promotion

He was ecstatic, naturally, but fear eventually set in.

“I was very insecure. But it worked in my favor because Lino wanted rawness.”

Originally, he was supposed to play a minor role, as a callboy. But the instant promotion meant the 22-year-old neophyte had to carry an entire movie on his slim shoulders. Plus, he was practically in every scene.

“We had to shoot in different places,” he said. “The provincial scenes were shot in a beach area in Batangas, but the city scenes were far from idyllic. “We shot in the slums of Tondo, in Smokey Mountain—the dump site. It was exhausting, but I savored every moment.”

It was an eye-opener, too, he owned up. “Lino captured the harsh realities in the country in the 1970s.”

The director took Roco and other actors to an actual construction site in Quezon City, where the Bureau of Internal Revenue building now stands.

Second father

“Lino insisted on shooting in real places,” he said. “He wanted us to get immersed in the construction site. He encouraged us. “He also gave me one of his old polo shirts. He said it was his favorite.”

Roco considered Brocka a “second father.” “I could always run to him when I had problems about work or even my personal life,” he said. “He was frank, open-minded and always objective. He wouldn’t think twice about reprimanding me if he didn’t agree with my impulsive decisions.”

As a filmmaker, Brocka was “the best in motivating actors,” Roco said. Like other so-called Brocka babies, he benefited greatly from “acting workshops” that the acclaimed director gave right on the set.

“He knew what he wanted from actors but knew their limits, too. He would pull me aside and carefully explain each scene. He would tell me: ‘What would it be like if you lost the woman you loved?’”

Roco recalled that, when it was time to shoot a pivotal scene in a decrepit motel along Avenida, Brocka guided him and costar Hilda Koronel intently. “We were sweating profusely because it was hot and the room was cramped,” he remembered. “But it was Hilda’s moment to shine.”

Personal drama

According to urban lore, Koronel had quarreled with Ilagan, her real-life boyfriend, the night before the motel scene was shot.

For Brocka, the personal drama was propitious, as the director was able to harness Koronel’s emotions fully in that dramatic scene, Roco noted.

Among all the filmmakers he had worked with in his 37-year-career, Brocka stood out, the actor said. “Lino was a genius, a master storyteller.”

As such, Roco expressed elation that Scorsese’s WCF, the movie’s producer and cinematographer Mike de Leon, and the FDCP decided to digitally restore “Maynila.”

“I’m honored that Scorsese, a respected director in Hollywood, considered it an important film,” Roco said. “Today’s young people should be able to watch ‘Maynila.’”

He cited three reasons for this: “The social problems Lino tackled still exist today,” he said. Moreover, he added, the film has “historical significance because the Manila in the film has changed a lot. For example, Binondo looks completely different now.” On top of this, he said, Manila’s famous neon lights (the film’s titular “claws”) are no more, having been replaced by billboards.

Outstanding

He pointed out that “Maynila” is the only Filipino film in the book “1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.” “It’s heartening that our film continues to be appreciated… then and now,” he said.

During its premiere in 1975, the film was given a rousing ovation in the theater, Roco said. “It was received well at the tills, too. It proved that a movie could be a critical and commercial success at the same time.”

Sam Miguel
05-06-2013, 09:41 AM
‘Iron Man 3′ has second best box office debut in history

Agence France-Presse

May 6, 2013 | 8:30 am

LOS ANGELES – Super-hero blockbuster sequel “Iron Man 3″ smashed to the top at the US box office with a mega $175.3 million take – the second best opening weekend ever – industry estimates showed Sunday.

The film starring Robert Downey Jr as the title character now sits behind just “The Avengers” – another Walt Disney comic book superhero flick- which earned $207.4 million when it opened a year ago.

“‘Iron Man 3′ is definitely playing like a pseudo-sequel to last summer’s mightiest flick, ‘The Avengers,’” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock.

It “may be the top movie of the summer, unless the ‘Man of Steel’” – an updated take on the ever-popular Superman story set for release in June- “has anything to say about it.

The US opening of Iron Man 3 demolished the franchise’s previous debuts, with $98 million for the first movie and $128 million for the sequel, according to industry tracker Exhibitor Relations.

In second place for this weekend’s box office was action-comedy “Pain and Gain,” starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, with $7.6 million in ticket sales, Exhibitor Relations said.

Not far behind was “42,” a biopic about trailblazing black baseball star Jackie Robinson, which made $6.2 million

The fourth spot, with $5.8 million, went to “Oblivion,” the post-apocalyptic action flick starring Tom Cruise, followed by “The Croods” – a stone-age cartoon— in fifth, with $4.2 million.

“The Big Wedding” – a star-studded comedy featuring Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton and Robin Williams – came in sixth place, taking in $3.9 million.

“Mud,” a coming-of-age story starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, earned an estimated $2.2 million, for seventh place, the film’s first week in the top ten after going into wide release a week earlier.

And in eighth, Walt Disney’s 3D fantasy adventure flick “Oz the Great and Powerful” earned $1.8 million, for a nine-week total of $228.6 million.

“Scary Movie 5,” the latest installment in the slasher-comedy franchise, took the ninth spot with $1.4 million.

Rounding out the top 10 at $1.3 million was “The Place Beyond the Pines,” starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in a drama about a motorcycle stunt rider who resorts to bank robbery to provide for his lover and their newborn child.

Sam Miguel
05-06-2013, 09:44 AM
‘Iron Man 3′ has second best box office debut in history

Agence France-Presse

May 6, 2013 | 8:30 am

LOS ANGELES – Super-hero blockbuster sequel “Iron Man 3″ smashed to the top at the US box office with a mega $175.3 million take – the second best opening weekend ever – industry estimates showed Sunday.

The film starring Robert Downey Jr as the title character now sits behind just “The Avengers” – another Walt Disney comic book superhero flick- which earned $207.4 million when it opened a year ago.

“‘Iron Man 3′ is definitely playing like a pseudo-sequel to last summer’s mightiest flick, ‘The Avengers,’” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock.

It “may be the top movie of the summer, unless the ‘Man of Steel’” – an updated take on the ever-popular Superman story set for release in June- “has anything to say about it.

The US opening of Iron Man 3 demolished the franchise’s previous debuts, with $98 million for the first movie and $128 million for the sequel, according to industry tracker Exhibitor Relations.

In second place for this weekend’s box office was action-comedy “Pain and Gain,” starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, with $7.6 million in ticket sales, Exhibitor Relations said.

Not far behind was “42,” a biopic about trailblazing black baseball star Jackie Robinson, which made $6.2 million

The fourth spot, with $5.8 million, went to “Oblivion,” the post-apocalyptic action flick starring Tom Cruise, followed by “The Croods” – a stone-age cartoon— in fifth, with $4.2 million.

“The Big Wedding” – a star-studded comedy featuring Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton and Robin Williams – came in sixth place, taking in $3.9 million.

“Mud,” a coming-of-age story starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, earned an estimated $2.2 million, for seventh place, the film’s first week in the top ten after going into wide release a week earlier.

And in eighth, Walt Disney’s 3D fantasy adventure flick “Oz the Great and Powerful” earned $1.8 million, for a nine-week total of $228.6 million.

“Scary Movie 5,” the latest installment in the slasher-comedy franchise, took the ninth spot with $1.4 million.

Rounding out the top 10 at $1.3 million was “The Place Beyond the Pines,” starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in a drama about a motorcycle stunt rider who resorts to bank robbery to provide for his lover and their newborn child.

Sam Miguel
05-07-2013, 08:58 AM
36th Gawad Urian bets all indies

By Bot Glorioso

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 7, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - With no single mainstream film included in this year’s list of nominees for the 36th Gawad Urian, it may appear that the members of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP) solely gave their nod to independent films. Not even last year’s box-office top-grossers or the one that was named Best Picture secured a spot in any of the categories.

“Nangibabaw lang talaga yung mga pelikulang nilabas outside the studio houses,” said National Artist for Literature and MPP member Bienvenido Lumbera during a presscon held recently at the 14th floor of ELJ building of ABS-CBN. Also present were MPP president Tito Genova Valiente, Beni Santos, Mario Hernando and Butch Francisco.

Baybayin, directed by Aureaus Solito, bagged the most number of nominations with nine including Best Director and Best Film. Mater Dolorosa and the Nora Aunor starrer Thy Womb each received eight nods while Posas and Oros followed with seven.

Sisters Assunta and Alessandra de Rossi for Baybayin will be competing for the Best Actress plum with Nora, Gina Alajar (Mater Dolorosa), Jodi Sta. Maria (Aparisyon), Liza Diño (In Nomine Matris) and Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino (Requieme).

And compared to previous years, the number of nominees under each category in this year’s list has noticeably increased. Sixteen nominees made it to the Best Cinematography category, 14 in Best Screenplay and 13 in Best Director.

Valiente shared that he and the rest of MPP members had a hard time trimming the number down during the discussion. “Actually, sa dami ng napanood namin ang hirap i-trim down because at a certain point parang nasayangan kami i-drop yung ibang entries. On the one hand, maganda din kasi andaming pagpipilian during the process of selecting the winners.”

Santos, for her part, said, “Sa lahat ng meeting namin, I don’t think we had the impression that these are many. From the start, I thought we were just fine with the numbers we got; there’s no magic number. I think the process itself is evolutionary. It means we can change (the number of nominees) depending on the number of films we have. Kaya sa tingin ko nung nagpasya kami at naibigan yung mga pelikula na yun, wala sa usapan na mag-eight, seven o 10 lang tayo. It depends on the kind of harvest we get per year and I think we have a good harvest this year.”

Here’s the official list of nominees for this year’s Gawad Urian:

Best Film — Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim; Baybayin; Bwakaw; Colossal; Diablo; Florentina Ubaldo, CTE;Mater Dolorosa; Oros; Posas; and Thy Womb

Best Director — Arnel Mardoquio (Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim), Aureaus Solito (Baybayin), Ian Loreños (Alagwa), Whammy Alcazaren (Colossal), Mes de Guzman (Diablo), Lav Diaz (Florentina Ubaldo, CTE), Sigfreid Barros Sanchez/Racquel Zaballero-Sanchez (Huling Biyahe), Adolfo Alix Jr. (Mater Dolorosa), Maribel Legarda/Maria Isabel Legarda (Melodrama Negra), Paul Sta. Ana (Oros), Lawrence Fajardo (Posas), Emmanuel Quindo Palo (Sta. Niña) and Brillante Mendoza (Thy Womb)

Best Actor — JM de Guzman (Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino), Nico Antonio (Posas), Kristoffer King (Oros), Dominic Roco (Ang Nawawala), Eddie Garcia (Bwakaw), Coco Martin (Sta. Nina), Joem Bascon (Qwerty), Jericho Rosales (Alagwa), Bembol Roco (Thy Womb), Adrian Sebastian (Baybayin), Ananda Everingham (Kalayaan), Anthony Falcon (Requieme) and Deuel Raynon Ladia (Anac ti Pating)

Best Actress — Assunta and Alessandra (Baybayin), Nora (Thy Womb), Gina (Mater Dolorosa), Shamaine (Requieme), Jodi (Aparisyon),Liza (In Nomine Matris), Ama Quiambao (Diablo) and Olga Natividad (Mga Dayo)

Best Supporting Actor — Joross Gamboa (Intoy Syokoy), Carlo Aquino (Mater Dolorosa), Art Acuña (Posas) and Dax Alejandro (Qwerty)

Best Supporting Actress — Alessandra (Mater Dolorosa and Sta. Niña), Mylene Dizon and Raquel Villavicencio (Aparisyon), Joy Viado (MNL 143), Clara Ramona (In Nomine Matris) and Annika Dolonius (Ang Nawawala)

Best Cinematography — McRobert Nacario and Arnel Barbarona (Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim), Jun Pereira (Intoy Syokoy), Louie Quirino (Baybayin), Carlo Mendoza (Bwakaw), Albert Banzon (Kalayaan), Whammy Alcazaren (Colossal), Tristan Salas (Diablo), Lav Diaz (Florentina Ubaldo, CTE), Albert Banzon (Mater Dolorosa), Rommel Sales (Oros), Louie Quirino (Posas), Ming Kai Leung (Ang Nawawala), McRobert Nacario (Qiyama), Alex Espartero (The Animals), Odyssey Flores (Thy Womb) and Nor Domingo (Sta. Niña)

Best Screenplay — Layette Bucoy and Allan Lopez (Melodrama Negra), Jerry Gracio (Mater Dolorosa), Zig Dulay (Posas), Paul Sta. Ana and Obet Villela (Oros), Mes de Guzman (Diablo), Jun Lana (Bwakaw), Sigfreid Barros Sanchez (Huling Byahe), Whammy Alcazaren (Colossal), Ian Loreños (Alagwa), Henry Burgos (Thy Womb), Lav Diaz (Florentina Ubaldo, CTE), Emerson Reyes (MNL 143), Jeff Stelton (The Animals) and Arnel Mardoquio (Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim)

Best Sound — Diwa de Leon (Baybayin), Addis Tabong and Wildsound Ami (Posas), Wildsound Ami (Oros), Ditoy Aguila (Kalayaan), John Barredo (Qiyamah), Jonathan Hee Kai Chung (Colossal), Mark McCullie (MNL 143) and Willy Fernandez, Bong Sungcang and Ferdinand Marcos Sabarongis (Florentina Ubaldo, CTE)

Best Music — Diwa de Leon (Baybayin), Mikey Amistoso, Diego Mapa and Jazz Nicolas (Ang Nawawala), Diwa de Leon with OST-Nix Damn P! (The Animals) and Teresa Barrozo (Thy Womb)

Best Editing — Mikael Angelo Pestaño (Baybayin), Benjamin Gonzales Tolentino (Mater Dolorosa), Lawrence Fajardo (Oros), Marie Jamora and Edsel Abesames (Ang Nawawala), Aleks Castañeda (Kalayaan), Dempster Samarista (Alagwa), Chuck Gutierrez (MNL 143), Lav Diaz (Florentina Ubaldo, CTE) and Kats Serraon (Thy Womb)

The 36th Gawad Urian awarding ceremonies will be held on June 18 at the Rockwell Tent, Makati City and will be aired on Cinema One shortly thereafter. The cable channel has been the award-giving body’s partner since 2011.

“Cinema One and the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino both espouse progressive filmmaking, highlight emerging and intelligent cinema talent and desire to move Philippine cinema forward,” Ronald Arguelles, Cinema One Channel head stated in the press release.

Sam Miguel
05-07-2013, 09:06 AM
After Iron Man 3′s wild box office success, get ready for Iron Man 15

Posted by Alexandra Petri on May 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Well, Iron Man 3 had a wildly successful opening-weekend box office – the second-highest ever, in fact, just behind “The Avengers,” with 175.3 million, putting it on track to be the most smashing superhero threequel of all time.

And, of course, trapping Robert Downey, Jr., inside the suit forever.

Downey calls himself “one of the best actors” of his generation in an interview with GQ, although he notes “it’s not that big a deal. It’s not like this is the greatest swath or generation of actors that has ever come down the pike.” In the same interview, though, he states that an Oscar is inevitably in his future.

The trouble with a superhero suit is that it gives you unlimited powers but, at a certain point, only as long as you wear it. You become synonymous with the suit. Christopher Reeve becomes Superman. Adam West becomes Batman. William Shatner becomes Captain Kirk. You aren’t the guy who plays Spock; you’re Spock. It’s a subtle but meaningful distinction. Robert Downey, Jr., is well on his way to becoming Iron Man, especially if they keep being this successful. Will they ever stop? What does it take to stop them?

Wolverine, which almost everyone acknowledges was freakishly awful, kept its claws in Hugh Jackman long enough to force him to come out with Wolverine II, even when he wanted to be running around 19th-century France, singing high A’s.

Some people are complaining about the quality of the new Iron Man movie, which is at 78 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, as we speak. But not enough people — indeed, fewer than than the first sequel. It looks likely to bring in a billion overseas.

This is quickly turning into Shrek, which started out as the quintessential Fun Fairytale for Kids That Your Parents Will Chuckle Along With but was so successful that in order to put itself out of its misery it had to come out with Shrek 4, otherwise known as Shrek Has A Midlife Crisis And There are Kids And Please Dear Lord Let Us Stop Making These.

At the present rate, we are going to wind up with thickly layered Dickensian characters whose lives we know more deeply than our own. Here are some movies we can look forward to.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 6, where Pepper Potts becomes mysteriously allergic to anything with gluten in it and starts a lifestyle website, and the Internet gets really judgy about it. The main villain is a really weird salad, which Tony must pretend he enjoys.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 7, where, desperate to end the franchise, Iron Man purposefully destroys the earth and drifts into the vastness of space, everyone he loves having perished horribly. “Are you not satisfied?” he asks. “Please, we’ve run out of plots.”

– “I wonder how he’ll get out of this one,” millions of loyal viewers wonder, showing up for Iron Man 8, which pretends that the whole preceding movie was a bad dream and doesn’t really address it satisfactorily at all. Tony Stark stops something from exploding something else, but you can tell his heart’s not in it.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 9, a musical directed by Baz Luhrmann.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 10, a straight biopic of Pope John Paul II.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 11: Day of Judgment, in which self-aware JARVIS is no longer content with his menial role and tries to start the Rise of the Machines, hopelessly entangling two tapped-out movie franchises forever.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark in Iron Man 12, where Tony needs a hip replacement and everyone keeps telling him to slow down. Rhodey attempts, but fails, to mandate a new flying test for superheroes, and he and Pepper cannot get the keys away from Tony no matter how hard they try.

– Robert Downey Jr. stars as Kirk Lazarus playing Tony Stark in Iron Man 13: The Artist, a silent film in black and white. Amidst all the confusion, it wins 8 Oscars and scores enough box office to recoup its tiny budget.

– Iron Man 14: Amour. Basically “Amour,” but with palladium, the entire movie is in French in an effort to dissuade people from continuing to show up. It is an intimate meditation on love, loss, aging, and the long-term effects of toxic metals.

– Iron Man 15: On Iron Pond. (“Listen to me, mister,” says Pepper Potts, “You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it. You’re gonna get back up in that suit and I’m gonna be right behind you holding on tight and away we’re gonna go, go, go.”) Another pensive meditation on love, loss, and old age, except for the part where Tony stares forlornly into the audience and whispers, “Please stop coming to these.”

Sam Miguel
05-15-2013, 10:32 AM
At Cannes, challenging the notion that black films ‘don’t travel’

By Ann Hornaday

May 15, 2013 12:23 AM EDT

The Washington Post

Wednesday, May 15, 8:23 AME-mail the writer

CANNES, France — In 1995, Will Smith begged producer Jerry Bruckheimer to let him go to the Cannes Film Festival to promote “Bad Boys,” despite the parent studio’s insistence that a black actor would not get any traction with the international fans and journalists thronging the city’s beach-side promenade, the Croisette. Bruckheimer and Columbia Pictures eventually relented: Smith traveled to Cannes, held a news conference, threw a huge MTV party and charmed dozens of interviewers — and “Bad Boys” earned $140 million, nearly half of it overseas. Smith, who would systematically repeat that model in markets from Moscow to Johannesburg, emerged well on his way to international stardom.

As the 66th edition of Cannes gets underway Wednesday, Smith’s example has taken on new resonance — and urgency. For years, black filmmakers, or anyone interested in making movies starring or about black people, have been told that “black doesn’t travel,” the assumption being that the African American experience is too specific to be comprehensible, or commercial, anywhere but in the United States.

But some films coming to Cannes this year are poised to challenge the no-foreign-market assumption: “Sexual Healing,” a drama about the personal and creative resurgence of American singer Marvin Gaye starring Jesse L. Martin, will be in the hunt for international distribution at Cannes, its production having just begun in Ostend, Belgium, where the story is set.

Producer Frederick Bestall admits that financing was difficult to pull together for “Sexual Healing” and that casting a non-superstar in the lead “has its drawbacks” for international sales. But he’s cautiously optimistic that the film will find distributors outside the United States. Noting that Gaye sold more than 100 million records worldwide and that “Sexual Healing” will center on the singer’s relationship with Belgian promoter Freddy Cousaert, Bestall said, the film’s “human-relationship aspects transcend the concept of a black movie per se. I believe if the story is powerful enough and touches the human-nature side of [the story] rather than the race aspect, the film should do well.”

At a time when figures such as Smith, Barack Obama and Michael Jordan are global superstars, the assumption that films by and about black people won’t sell feels counterintuitive, or code for more corrosive biases. “We are stars, we are athletes that are hailed and fawned over throughout the world, our music people are fawned over throughout the world, you would assume the same would apply to our culture,” said director Lee Daniels. “I think it’s some sort of scam. I think something ain’t right in the kitchen.”

The perception that black films can’t open overseas has even more impact today, when international financing has become far more crucial to getting films made and foreign box office can account for between 60 and 70 percent of a movie’s total revenue. As foreign markets gain in importance, Hollywood will be even more prone to make movies that transcend language, with explosions, superheroes and special effects that take the place of dialogue. The troubling result is that fewer films will be made and seen, inside or outside the United States, that offer diverse reflections of American life.

The film industry is rife with examples of anonymous filmmakers who couldn’t get their project off the ground because their star or subject matter was black. But it’s also happened to some of the biggest players in the business. Last year, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas complained that he couldn’t find financing for “Red Tails,” about the Tuskegee Airmen, for just that reason. “They don’t believe there’s any foreign market [for black films],” he told Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” “And that’s 60 percent of their profit. . . . I showed it to all of them and they said, ‘No. We don’t know how to market a movie like this.’ ” The independent drama “Blue Caprice,” which stars Isaiah Washington in a story based on the 2002 Washington-area sniper case, will not be coming to the Cannes market this year, having failed to secure a high-end international sales agent.

For years, the conventional wisdom that black doesn’t travel has taken on the force of myth. Increasingly in recent years, it looks like the myth might be beginning to crumble. Not only have films starring Smith, Denzel Washington and Queen Latifah succeeded, but even relatively small films with no big names have done well. In 2011, “The Help” earned a surprisingly healthy $42 million overseas and last year “Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino’s slavery-era spaghetti Western, broke all the filmmaker’s box office records.

But by far the most impressive groundbreaker recently was “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” which Daniels brought to Cannes in 2009 as part of a far-ranging festival circuit that started with winning a grand jury award at Sundance the previous January. “Precious” featured no international stars to speak of (other than a virtually unrecognizable Mariah Carey) and was set within a highly specific urban American context. And yet the drama was a hit overseas, earning nearly a quarter of its $63 million worldwide gross there.

Daniels credits his early experience as a casting director, and later as a producer and first-time director, with helping to establish relationships with foreign distributors. He also notes that by the time he made “Precious,” he had perfected a way of subtly pushing back against the “black doesn’t travel” assumption.

“If you study my early films, ‘Monster’s Ball,’ ‘The Woodsman,’ ‘Shadowboxer,’ all had black people in them, but they also had viable white stars,” Daniels said. “Since I came from casting, I understood the concept of the value of African Americans overseas — or what Hollywood perceived to be the value of African Americans overseas — versus the white actors. So I’ve always purposely and strategically mixed it up in such a way that I can get my vision out, and at the same time keep my blackness in.”

Daniels’s strategy was never clearer than at Cannes last year: While his lurid Southern potboiler “The Paperboy” was making its wildly polarizing world debut at the festival, he was also drumming up distributors for his next project, “The Butler.” Knowing that the film’s protagonist — a White House butler played by Forest Whitaker — may not automatically garner interest, Daniels larded the production with lots of white stars — including Jane Fonda, James Marsden and Robin Williams — playing White House figures over eight presidential administrations.

“They’re really cameos in the film, but they got the movie green-lit, which was very disturbing,” Daniels said of the white actors in “The Butler.” “But it’s okay, because the script is great and it was a wonderful ‘Kumbaya’ moment for everybody who participated.”

Both Daniels and Will Smith present models worth emulating, said producer Jeff Clanagan, president of CodeBlack Entertainment. “It will take us to push the envelope,” said Clanagan, who plans to take the Kevin Hart documentary “Let Me Explain” to foreign markets where Hart has toured with his stand-up act. “Our talent has to go over there and support it.”

Similarly, Tambay Obenson, editor and chief writer at the film Web site Shadow and Act, noted that black filmmakers need to show up at international festivals such as Cannes, the better to establish the kinds of relationships with film professionals and audiences that held Daniels in such good stead. Some markets hold particularly strong potential: Obenson made a study earlier this year of black-themed films that played overseas and discovered that black American films often did well in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

“ ‘Think Like a Man’ did better in South Africa than ‘Jack Reacher,’ ” said Obenson, referring to the Steve Harvey-inspired rom-com and the Tom Cruise thriller. “It made about twice the box office compared to ‘21 Jump Street.’ When people say things like [black doesn’t travel], they’re saying the rest of world is just made up of white people. Look, there’s an entire continent called Africa with a billion black people on it, and not much of a film industry outside Nigeria and East Africa. There are black people around the world who want to see black people on-screen.”

David Glasser, chief operating officer of the Weinstein Company, which released “Django Unchained” and will distribute “The Butler” in August, believes that the notion of “black doesn’t travel” is on its way to becoming obsolete. “A good movie is a good movie, and these barriers are coming down,” Glasser said. “It’s all about quality now.”

He can point to at least one persuasive example: One of Weinstein’s Sundance acquisitions, the grand jury award-winner “Fruitvale Station,” is a movie by a black filmmaker based on the real-life case of an African American man who was shot to death by a police officer in Oakland, Calif. The film will make its European debut at this year’s Cannes’s “Un Certain Regard” section, with its international distribution territories already sold out.

Sam Miguel
05-15-2013, 10:34 AM
^^^ A reaction to the article above - - -

FishBulb wrote:

9:41 AM UTC+0800

This is the worst type of article: insinuating racism without backing any of it up.

Red Tails received awful reviews and made less than its budget, and didn't even do well in the United State. But no, blame racism rather than the fact that critics hated it and any financing probably saw the stench of death upon it when it was attached to the person responsible for the Star Wars prequels.

The writer also ignores Fast and the Furious 6, which has a remarkably diverse cast and which hasn't had any problems securing international financing. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will have Jamie Foxx playing the villain, and I haven't heard it having any problems getting funding, either.

The issues getting financing aren't based on racism - they're based on making movies marketable to a large audience. It's also hard to get financing for dramas and high-minded comedies - they don't translate, either. Every year, there's one or two movies that make a ton of money because they're good and are an antidote to summer blockbusters, but every summer the majority of movies that go international are ones with lots of explosions or broad laughs (or, ideally, both).

What's more, we are in the best possible time for marketing movies - if you've got a story, get it on Hulu or Netflix, or even start up a YouTube channel and build interest. Saying that producers won't finance your movie doesn't hold much weight when there are so many options to tell the story.

genom222
05-16-2013, 12:02 AM
anyone here in GF excited about the upcoming Superman movie, Man of Steel?

Sam Miguel
05-20-2013, 08:56 AM
^^^ I'm not sure what I feel about the upcoming Man Of Steel. Superman has always been difficult to sympathize with as a "character development" or "character study", which I think is what this new movie is trying to do. Superman is well-nigh indestructible, hence the need for such ridiculous things as Kryptonite and the need for a yellow sun, and those things were just gimmicks to make the Mna of Steel seem like someone an ordinary person canr elate with if you ask me. Plus, judging strictly by the trailers, it seems this is yet another pa-drama look at the struggles of someone who is literally the last of his kind, the last of his race. A lot of people make fun of the original modern Superman of Chris Reeves, and yet to me, that was Superman as I grew up knowing him, even Brandon Routh's Superman wasn't as bad as some critics think, rpecisely because he was still very much Superman as I know him. I'm not too sure what this Superman is going to be like.

Sam Miguel
05-20-2013, 09:05 AM
End of an era indeed ...

‘Archetypal villainess’ Bella Flores; 84

By Marinel R. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

May 20, 2013 | 5:40 am

MANILA, Philippines—The Country has just lost “the archetypal Filipino villainess,” actress Boots Anson-Roa said of the death of veteran character actress Bella Flores on Sunday.

Flores, Remedios P. Dancel in real life, passed away at Quezon City General Hospital, where she was being treated for complications following hip surgery and a stroke she suffered in September last year, according to her daughter Ruby Arcilla. Flores was 84.

Doctors at Quezon City General Hospital declared Flores dead at 1:27 a.m. after several attempts to revive her, reported Arcilla. Her remains lie at the Loyola Memorial Chapels on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.

“I thank all of her friends and fans. I hope they will continue to remember my mom and her contributions to local show business,” said Arcilla. She added that burial plans were still being finalized.

Roa said Flores was a contemporary of her late father, actor Oscar Moreno, in the now-defunct Sampaguita Pictures. She said she became personally close to Flores when the two of them joined Baliksamahan, an informal group of veteran actors formed 10 years ago.

“We attended retreats and participated in the group’s outreach projects, along with actresses Susan Roces and Nova Villa,” Roa recalled.

“I remember her as someone with a kind soul. People remember Tita Bella for her raised eyebrows and arms akimbo, but what they didn’t know was that she had a great sense of humor. She will surely be missed.”

When Flores’ health took a turn for the worse late last year, Roa said the Baliksamahan group got involved by bringing Flores to San Juan Medical Center. “The members took turns going to the hospital to visit her,” she said.

“It had been very sad during her last days. She couldn’t communicate with us anymore so we just whispered encouraging words in her ear,” Roa said. “I remember telling her, ‘Tita Bella, kulang lang sa mah-jong ’yan.’” Roa added that Flores and her late mother Belen Cristobal were mah-jong buddies.

Flores had hip-replacement surgery in September 2012. She also suffered a stroke that affected the right part of her brain, which resulted in difficulty speaking, moving and recognizing people, Arcilla said in an interview with the Inquirer in February.

Flores was born on Feb. 27, 1929, in Santa Cruz, Manila. The top movie kontrabida appeared in over a hundred films since she joined show biz at age 14 in 1950 (“Tatlong Balaraw”).

Inquirer Entertainment columnist Nestor Torre described Flores as the “really nasty villainess” who made life a living hell for the little Tessie Agana, a character in “Roberta” (1951).

Incidentally, the box office success of “Roberta” saved its producer, Sampaguita Pictures, from financial ruin after the studio was ravaged by fire, Torre added.

Flores won a best supporting actress award from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (Famas) in 1967 for her performance in “Ang Kaibigan Kong Santo Niño.” She was part of many films by Elwood Perez like “Isang Gabi, Tatlong Babae” and “Mahal Mo, Mahal Ko.” She was also seen in the 2003 hit “Crying Ladies,” by Mark Meily.

In 2008, Flores received the Diwata Award, given by the University of the Philippines Film Institute, for her extensive contributions to the entertainment industry. The UP Film Institute website called her “irreplaceable, iconic.”

She was last seen on TV in the adaptation of the komiks classic “Trudis Liit” (2011) on GMA 7. In 2012, she appeared in Jade Castro’s feature film “My Kontrabida Girl,” produced by GMA Films, and Jose Javier Reyes’ short film “Kontrabida 101: Kontrabida Pa Rin at 84,” produced by clothing company Bench.

Flores’ remains lie at the Loyola Memorial Chapels on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.

MrM
05-20-2013, 09:11 AM
anyone here in GF excited about the upcoming Superman movie, Man of Steel?

Balita ko it veers away from the Superman canon. That being said, that makes things interesting for me. Plus, I generally like movies with Amy Adams, hehe.

Sam Miguel
05-20-2013, 09:12 AM
Hilda Koronel, Lino Brocka take Cannes by storm once again

May 19, 2013 | 6:57 am

CANNES—If Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” had Kim Novak, Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag” had Hilda Koronel.

Both vintage films are featured in the world’s biggest festival, specifically in the Cannes Classics section, currently going on in this coastal city in the south of France.

The fest website reported that Novak would be the guest of honor in the premiere of “Vertigo” on May 25.

Not to be outdone, the Philippine contingent made sure that it also had a classic beauty at its own red-carpet event—the grand debut of the digitally restored version of Brocka’s 1975 film held last Friday night at the Salle Buñuel of the Palais.

As the end credits rolled, “Maynila” was cheered and heavily applauded.

Koronel told the Inquirer: “I am elated and a bit sad at the same time. I got sentimental upon seeing onscreen the old friends who are no longer with us, like (the late actor-director) Mario O’Hara. How I wish they could have been here as well.”

It was not Koronel’s first time at Cannes.

Over three decades ago, she made a splash at the Croisette, where her mentor Brocka’s “Insiang” was screened in the Section Parallèlle/Directors’ Fortnight.

Koronel has vivid recollections of that 1978 event. “I stayed only for a few days, but Lino and I were kept busy with pictorials and interviews with French, German and other European journalists.”

She told the Inquirer this latest Cannes visit “brought back a lot of wonderful memories.”

The highlight of her 1978 trip was Koronel landing on the front page of the daily, France-Soir, upstaging then Hollywood “It” girl Farrah Fawcett. The photo of Koronel, in her Christian Espiritu gown, was considerably larger, compared to Fawcett’s more modest picture.

Grand comeback

In her grand comeback at Cannes, Koronel, who is now based in Los Angeles, chose an off-the-rack gown from a US store. “Filipino designer friends wanted to make a new dress for me, but we didn’t have time.”

She was escorted by her Filipino-American husband, lawyer Ralph Moore, at the premiere.

Koronel was flown to France by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), which spearheaded the “Maynila” restoration with help from Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation (WCF) and the movie’s cinematographer and producer Mike de Leon.

Koronel said she was honored to represent Brocka, a National Artist for Film who died in a car crash in 1991. “It was a momentous occasion … inspiring.”

Sadly, De Leon and the film’s lead star Bembol Roco were unable to attend the premiere.

Scorsese sent a pretaped video message specially for the “Maynila” screening. In his message, Scorsese hailed Brocka as “a giant, a towering filmmaker whose films were “brave, extraordinary, powerful experiences.”

Scorsese said the WCF was “excited” at getting a chance to save a Brocka film. “It’s now very difficult to watch a good print of Brocka’s movies. It was urgent … to participate in this restoration.”

The dignitaries present at the “Maynila” premiere were led by FDCP chair Briccio Santos, FDCP executive director Ted Granados, consul to Monaco Patricia Zobel de Ayala, Brocka’s Cannes “discoverer” Pierre Rissient, Doug Laible and Kent Jones of WCF, Davide Pozzi of L’Immagine Ritrovata, programmers Roger Garcia, Jeremy Segay, Benjamin Illos and Paolo Bertolin, among others.

Also present were the Filipino filmmakers featured in this year’s Cannes: Erik Matti (whose “On the Job” is included in the Directors’ Fortnight) and Lav Diaz and Adolfo Alix Jr. (whose films, “Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan” and “Death March,” respectively, are competing in the Un Certain Regard section).

More restoration projects

Also present at the “Maynila” screening were actors Archie Alemania, Evelyn Vargas and Bianca Zialcita, cinematographer Albert Banzon, filmmakers Tikoy Aguiluz, Sheron Dayoc and Derick Cabrido, producers Dondon Monteverde, Raymond Lee, Arleen Cuevas, Vanessa Ulgado, and others.

The hall resounded with applause at the end of the two-hour film. The most ardent of film buffs lingered in the theater lobby, hesitant to leave.

Rissient told the Inquirer: “I hope this would be the beginning of more restoration projects. I know of at least four Brocka films—‘Insiang,’ ‘Bona,’ ‘Jaguar’ and ‘Bayan Ko’—that need to be saved.”

Festival programmer Salvatore Leocata of Brussels called “Maynila” a “masterpiece.”

Diaz said it had remained “powerful” after all these years.

“I first saw it at Coronet Theater in Cubao in 1975,” Diaz recalled. “I was in college then and our Literature teacher at the Ateneo assigned us to do a paper on it. My classmates and I kept debating about it afterward. It changed my perspective on cinema. It led me to filmmaking. It made me realize that film is not merely entertainment. Cinema could also be a potent tool for discourse.”

For Alix, “I was looking forward to seeing the film’s climax again. It is one of the most powerful endings I have ever seen in a movie.” He said he first saw the film on VHS when he was a high school student.

The restoration project, said Santos, aims to introduce Brocka to a wider and younger audience.

“Maynila” will premiere at the Cine Adarna of UP Diliman in June. A commercial release will follow in July or August, said Santos.

Brave choice of themes

FDCP also plans to release a twin-bill DVD of “Maynila” with Manuel Conde’s “Genghis Khan” (which was debuted in Venice), its first two restoration projects.

“Brocka has always been known for being brave in his choice of themes for his films,” said Santos. “He has the discipline and determination to imbue his films with social purpose.”

Santos met Brocka in Baguio in the 1970s. “He struck me as humble and unassuming, very respectful and serious about his craft. It was quite obvious that he was gifted.”

Santos praised Brocka for using his talent “to serve the Filipino people.”

Brocka said that the director’s role was to present the truth, Santos related. “Brocka said he had to make use of reality to confront the people so they wouldn’t become apathetic.”

A perfect example of Brocka’s commitment to the cause, Santos said, was “Maynila,” which was produced in the middle of martial law.

Santos praised “Maynila” for “shedding light on the plight of the exploited masses, at a time characterized by much danger and repression.”

In his speech, Santos said: “It was Brocka’s intention to make a document of this period … But through this restoration, not only did we bring a film back to life; more importantly, we restored a part of the truth for all of us to witness and remember.”

MrM
05-27-2013, 03:31 PM
It's been a good year for movies so far. Two straight weeks of blockbuster films (Star Trek and Fast & the Furious 6). Earlier this year was Iron Man 3. Coming for the US Summer season is Superman. For lighter movies, we have The Internship, Hangover 3 (interested in this one because of John Goodman, especially coming off his performance in Argo), and Despicable Me 2 for the kids and minion-lovers. Thor 2 is set for November.

Sam Miguel
05-31-2013, 09:25 AM
From Inquirer online - - -

CCP holds necrological rites for late National Artist Eddie Romero

May 30, 2013 | 8:55 pm

MANILA, Philippines—The Cultural Center of the Philippines will pay tribute to the late National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts Eddie Romero in a necrological ceremony on June 2 at 9 a.m. at the CCP Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater). Interment will be at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Romero passed away on May 28 at the age of 88.

Proclaimed National Artist for Film in 2003, Romero has been considered as the quintessential Filipino director. With a long career that spanned three generations of film makers, he produced, directed and wrote an impressive and remarkable body of work that includes landmark works “Ganito Kami Noon…Paano Kayo Ngayon?,” “Aguila,” “Kamakalawa,” “Banta ng Kahapon” and “Noli Me Tangere.”

Romero was a prolific filmmaker. He ventured into filmmaking at the age of 17 when he wrote the screenplay for the 1941 film “Ang Maestra” for Gerardo de Leon, the influential director later named National Artist for Film.

He started his directorial career as a pinch-hitter for de Leon who became unavailable while shooting “Isumpa Mo, Giliw” (1947).

Film historians divide Romero’s career into three phases.

The first, from 1947 to 1956, saw Romero writing and directing 23 films that included “Buhay Alamang,” “Ang Asawa Kong Amerikana” and “Maria Went to Town”.

In the mid-1950s, Romero made his foray into the American B movie genre, making films like “Brides of Blood Island,” “Mad Doctor of Blood Island,” “The Beast of the Yellow Night” and “Black Mama, White Mama” that were successes in the US and achieved cult status.

The third phase of Romero’s career is hailed by film historians as his great comeback to filmmaking. He made “Ganito Kami Noon…Paano Kayo Ngayon?”, “Aguila,” “Kamakalawa,” and “Hari sa Hari, Lahi sa Lahi” and other significant films—all of which are part of what is considered a renaissance of Filipino cinema that took place in the 1970s.

When Romero was conferred the National Artist Award in 2003, he was cited as a filmmaker “whose life is devoted to the art and commerce of cinema” and as an “ambitious yet practical artist” who “was not satisfied with dreaming up grand ideas.”

He found ways to produce these dreams into films. His concepts, ironically, are delivered in an utterly simple style—minimalist, but never empty; always calculated, precise and functional, but never predictable.”

Joescoundrel
06-02-2013, 08:32 AM
Yes, we Cannes

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:40 pm | Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Triumph has many faces in the celebrated annual international gathering of movie makers and enthusiasts in the south of France. Scoring a nomination, being invited for exhibition, getting there, walking the red carpet like athletes would in the Olympics, having a film sold for foreign distribution and, yes, winning the coveted Palme D’Or—any one of these is sufficient impetus for anyone to take a shot at the dream.

Thus, we are within bounds to proclaim 2013 as a “banner year for the Philippines” in the Cannes International Film Festival, even if we didn’t beat our record of a best-director win in 2009 for Brillante Ma. Mendoza (whose “Kinatay” was fielded in the big-league Main Competition) and, nine years earlier, a Palme D’Or for a short by Raymond Red, “Anino (Shadow).”

For all the stones cast at Mendoza (the late famed critic Roger Ebert pronounced the Philippine entry “the worst film” in the festival’s history), his victory was a big deal. Until the next Pinoy winner in Cannes, Mendoza and Red will continue to be looked up to by their peers.

Filipino independent filmmakers deem the Cannes fest as the one that makes the heart skip a beat. “Always special” is how Adolfo Alix Jr., who landed a slot in the Un Certain Regard section this year with the history drama “Death March,” puts it. Lav Diaz, who competed with Alix in the section pegged as the gathering’s “serious, experimental” aspect, has won the top plum twice (2007 and 2008) in that other dream fest, Venice. Yet, he says, a filmmaker who professes disinterest in screening his/her work in Cannes is a hypocrite.

The late Lino Brocka, who became National Artist for Film, was neither a hypocrite nor parochial. He saw what international exposure through Cannes could do for the sociopolitical critique in his now iconic films. In 1979, his “Insiang,” about the revenge of a rape victim in the slums, became the first Philippine film to screen in Cannes. In 1980, his crime drama “Jaguar” was nominated for the Palme D’Or. In 1981, “Bona,” about obsession and oppression, was screened in Directors’ Fortnight and distinguished for its “independent-mindedness” and noncompetitive nature. In 1985, his “Bayan Ko: Kapit Sa Patalim (This Is My Country),” deemed subversive by the Marcos regime, was smuggled out to get to the fest, which had given him a second nod for the Palme D’Or.

This year, his “Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag,” digitally restored through the efforts of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, debuted in Cannes, in the Classics Section.

Brocka’s death in 1991 spurred, more than halted, the Philippine quest in Cannes. The indie community consistently bids for slots there, past monumental production and marketing hurdles, past even the “poverty porn” tag earned, rightly or wrongly, via previous efforts. Little can be done about that; we are a poor country. But to the credit of our indie filmmakers (“independent” means not backed by mainstream studios), we’re almost beyond that sorry tag.

While poverty is still the prevalent backdrop for many films that get considered for, and often win, festivals abroad (not just Cannes), it has been creatively woven into other themes, like coming of age in “Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros” and satire in “Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank.” Both films went on to win acclaim abroad.

More and more, the poverty ingredient is impressively consigned to the background, as in other winning exports—“Busong,” “Harana,” “Bwakaw,” “Boses” and “Thy Womb.”

Our indies have been looking beyond merely supplying a perceived demand from the developed world for illustrations of squalor and sleaze. This much is clear to Diaz, whose Cannes debut with the four-hour “Norte: The End of History” was marked by a five-minute standing ovation and declared by at least two foreign critics as the best in this year’s fest. “I make films for cinema,” Diaz says, “never deliberately for any festival.”

Our indies have conquered the world, from Australia to Russia to much of the West, except Cannes. That its commercial components—film market, the hunt for distributors and future foreign partners/producers—have not dampened enthusiasm for its artistic aspect says much about the festival’s attraction. But the commercial opportunities are also a prize worth pursuing. Erik Matti’s “On The Job” was exhibited in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight, and the distribution deal that he scored is said to be the biggest ever for the Philippines. The deal guarantees, for one, screening in 12 US theaters in the fall.

Yes, we Cannes. And maybe next time: the Palme D’Or of our filmmakers’ dreams.

Sam Miguel
07-11-2013, 09:05 AM
Welcome revival of a Lino Brocka classic

By Luis H. Francia

12:44 am | Thursday, July 11th, 2013

QUEZON CITY—Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Philippine premiere screening at the UP Film Center in Diliman of the restored print of the late great filmmaker Lino Brocka’s Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag. The title has been translated as Manila in the Claws of Light, but I prefer to translate “Liwanag” as “Neon,” as in my view the latter much more accurately symbolizes the temptations of a modern city that both attract and doom all those seeking a way out of cul-de-sac lives, as happens to the two ill-starred lovers in the film who are promdis—from the province. As was Lino, and not from landed gentry either, but from the proletariat, which explains why he had the right instincts and smarts in handling his material, drawn invariably from contemporary urban realities.

The restored print had its world premiere at Cannes last May, as part of the Classics section. According to Sineng Pambansa (National Cinema), the newsletter of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), three new Philippine films were also screened at Cannes: Adolfo Alix’s Death March, Lav Diaz’s Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, and Erik Matti’s On the Job—a total of four Philippine films, the most ever shown at one of the world’s oldest, and most prestigious, film fests.

The restoration of the Brocka classic was a collaborative project of the FDCP, Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation (WCF), and L’immagine Ritrovata, the well-known restoration laboratory based in Bologna, Italy. Both Briccio Santos, chair of FDCP, and Benedict Olgado, director of the National Film Archives of the Philippines, are to be commended in their labors to bring back to the screen deserving Filipino films that have for one reason or another been out of circulation. Already their efforts have resulted in the restoration of Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan, though not the full-length two-hour film but the 90-minute version.

Maynila remains as powerful and relevant today as it was when it first was screened, in 1975, when martial law had been in place for three years. A beautiful village lass, Ligaya Paraiso (played by a luminous Hilda Koronel) is lured to Manila by the prospects of a goodpaying job by an unscrupulous and predatory recruiter. Ligaya winds up in a prostitution ring, but a Chinese businessman takes a fancy to her and keeps her imprisoned at his Binondo home. In the meantime, her hometown beau, Julio, a fisherman (played by Bembol Roco, in his debut screen role) comes to Manila in search of Ligaya. In order to keep body and soul together Julio takes on odd jobs, including as an underpaid construction worker and, briefly, as a sex worker. In his odyssey through the underbelly of the city we see the slums—and these are real slums, not some back lot or sound stage—in all their squalor and poverty. In the faded colors, the decrepit facades of homes and businesses in Binondo, in the world weariness the faces around Julio exhibit (in contrast to his soulful looks and youth), we sense the moral rot and despair that infest a city that no longer appears noble and seems royal only to those who exploit the masa. Of course, it ends tragically: that famous freeze-frame of Julio with a desperate, haunted look, a man who knows he is about to die.

I don’t know if Imelda Marcos ever saw the film, but it certainly would have infuriated her. A woman who ordered walls built so as to screen squatter settlements from Pope John Paul’s view when he first visited in 1981, would not have been a fan of Brocka’s films, nor of other filmmakers more interested in the sound of poverty and misery than in rose-tinted representations of reality. She was said to be equally dismayed by the late Ishmael Bernal’s 1981 noirist Manila By Night. For the film to be screened abroad, the title had to be changed to City By Night.

Brocka’s neo-realist sensibility directly opposed her own sense of what film should be. She espoused a philosophy, if it can be called that, that art, particularly cinema, should show the good, the true, and the beautiful, and that Philippine films should make its viewers want to be Filipinos. Not surprising that The Sound of Music was said to be one of her favorite films. Ironically, Brocka’s first film, Wanted Perfect Mother, was partly based on the Julie Andrews vehicle.

Brocka was a fearless and much-needed voice not just in cinema but also in the larger society, at a time when martial law meant a curtailment of civil liberties, including of course the fundamental right of self-expression. He co-founded Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) in 1983, since he felt that, artists being citizens as well, they too had a responsibility to speak out against social injustices as well as to represent cultural workers in their struggle to freely express themselves.

In such films as Insiang, Jaguar, and Bona, he continued to portray the lives of the hoi polloi struggling to find meaning and dignity in a society that seemed to systematically deny ordinary folk the opportunity to better themselves. Even in the post-Marcos decade, he continued to act as a gadfly. In his Ora Pro Nobis, in my view, one of his strongest films (as is Insiang), the underlying message was that while the Marcos regime had been deservedly swept from office, the new order wasn’t necessarily that much of an improvement, especially when it came to human rights. In part, it reflected his disillusionment as a member of the 1986 constitutional commission charged by President Corazon Aquino in drafting a new national charter, to replace the one put into place by Marcos. He resigned before the final version was drawn up. In 1991, his life was cut short in a road accident, and in 1997 was posthumously named National Artist for Film.

Keep an eye out for Maynila, as it will have a commercial run beginning August 7 particularly if you’ve had it with the usual mind-deadening, special-effects-laden blockbusters.

Sam Miguel
08-27-2013, 01:09 PM
From the Washington post online - - -

Eight lessons from summer movies

Written by Ann Hornaday

Published: August 24 E-mail the writer

The summer of 2013 might be remembered best as the Season of the Collapsing Tentpoles. As mega-budget spectacles such as “White House Down,” “The Lone Ranger” and “After Earth” fell apart at the box office, little engines that could — one with a name that was literally “Mud” — proved they could not only survive the competition, but thrive. As we learned last summer, which featured such debacles as “John Carter” and “Battleship,” quality still counts. Studios, which generally avoid movies that are novel or risky or not based on a comic book because they’re “execution dependent,” may slowly be realizing that everything’s execution dependent, no matter the star, source material or special-effects budget.

That goes for enduringly reliable family films as well — in the pile-up of animated kids’ movies this summer, the triumphs happened also to be the best: “Despicable Me 2” and “Monsters University.” Those victories, plus a few out-of-left-field hits and misses, made the past few months particularly instructive for anyone willing to pay attention. Before we all go back to school, here are a few lessons learned that Hollywood may want to study up on when it plans our next summer vacation.

1. Even the biggest stars burn out

Two of the biggest stars on the planet — Will Smith and Johnny Depp — got rude awakenings this summer when their movies flopped. “The Lone Ranger” proved that a dusty period Western based on a 1930s radio serial — surprise! — won’t connect with young audiences or international viewers, regardless of explosions, spectacular stunts and the magical Mr. Depp. “After Earth” has done better overseas, but probably not well enough to turn a genuine profit.

2. It’s not just about U.S.

Even if non-U.S. box-office receipts can’t save a debacle such as “After Earth,” they have tipped the scales in favor of “Pacific Rim,” especially in China: Guillermo del Toro’s science fiction fantasy underperformed when it opened domestically but has more than made up for that in other markets, largely because of del Toro’s instinctively global point of view and knack for cosmopolitan casting.

3.Women aren’t the enemy, Hollywood

One of the biggest surprise hits of the summer was “The Heat,” the only big-popcorn movie to feature a female lead (two, in fact: Sandra Bullock and Melissa Mc**Car*thy). And another dark horse can attribute its success to women: Brad Pitt’s zombie chase movie, “World War Z,” went from disasterpiece to Brad’s highest-grossing film, thanks to the women who made up a whopping 50 percent of its audience.

4.Black films don’t ‘overperform.’ They perform, period.

With successes such as “Fruitvale Station” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” this was a great summer for African American stories on screen. And they became hits not just because they were good, but also because they were made for modest budgets and marketed with savvy and sensitivity. Like the Tyler Perry oeuvre, rom-coms such as “Jumping the Broom” and “Think Like a Man” and “42” before them, this summer’s films by and about African Americans connected with just the right audiences — whether that meant the Weinstein Co. reaching out to black churches to promote “The Butler” or Codeblack Entertainment, which produced “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain,” researching Hart’s ticket sales and Twitter and Facebook followings. The result? “Let Me Explain” was one of the sleeper hits of the summer, grossing a little more than $32 million (which, coincidentally, is also the gross from ticket sales from Hart’s last tour).

5.A rising tide can’t lift all boats if the harbor is too crowded.

The movie season broke box-office records this summer, earning north of $4 billion. But John Fithian, president and chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners, suggests that studios left money on the table by crowding their movies into an already busy three-month period. “Some of those movies would have done a lot better somewhere else. A family title moved from summer to February could have increased its gross. Even some of the popcorn action movies released somewhere else could have increased their gross,” Fithian says. “There are 12 months on the calendar. We continually urge distributors to spread their movies out.” (Hear that, “White House Down”? Or “Croods”? Or “Turbo”?)

6. Ditch the cape . . .

“You don’t need superheroes to succeed,” Boxoffice.com’s Phil Contrino says. “If you look at the one studio that had one of the best summers it would be Universal — minus ‘R.I.P.D.’ — and they had ‘Fast and Furious 6’ and ‘Despicable Me 2,’ [neither] a superhero franchise. This idea that you have to take a superhero and make eight movies out of that character is not the only way to go.” That goes for franchises in general: Series installments such as “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” and “The Smurfs 2” arrived in theaters gasping for air, but original horror films such as “The Conjuring” and “The Purge” — as well as the literary adaptations “The Great Gatsby” and “World War Z” — defied Hollywood’s tired reboot-sequel-franchise paradigm. (Of course, “World War Z” has reportedly launched another franchise, and the world goes round and round.)

7. . . . And let serious dramas save the day.

One of the most profitable movies of the summer was “Mud,” an atmospheric bayou thriller starring Matthew McConaughey in the title role; after opening in theaters in April, it played all summer long, still attracting audiences even when it was available on DVD. Similar successes include “The Place Beyond the Pines,” the midlife romance “Before Midnight,” Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” the coming-of-age comedy “The Way, Way Back” and the emotionally gripping urban drama “Fruitvale Station.” All of these winners prove that “the audience is really craving classic filmmaking,” says Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions, “Mud’s” distributor. “ ‘Mud’ had Matthew McConaughey, it had some ambition, it had some scope, it was accessible for the whole country, it was not culturally exclusive. But most [important], it was a movie for grown-ups, the kind that’s not getting made anymore outside movies engineered for Oscars.”

8. We may be getting over 3-D here, but it isn’t over over there.

After a mad rush to convert movies and theaters to 3-D in the wake of blockbusters such as “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland,” the 3-D market has matured in the United States. Less than a third of box-office revenue for two of the summer’s biggest hits — “Despicable Me 2” and “Monsters University” — came from 3-D premiums. Says NATO’s Fithian, the success of 3-D “breaks down geographically as well as [by] genre. Three-D did pretty well internationally this summer, but not so hot domestically.” Genre-wise, he says, “family titles, particularly involving young children, aren’t working on 3-D as well as we thought.” Meanwhile, an adaptation of a Jazz Age novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald does gangbusters. Says Fithian, “Three-D’s not going away in the United States, but we have to be more selective in the movies where we expect it to work.”

Sam Miguel
11-20-2013, 10:09 AM
Twice ‘X’-rated film tops Cinema One fest

By Bayani San Diego Jr.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

November 19, 2013 | 8:01 pm

In his acceptance speech at the Cinema One Originals Film Festival awards, filmmaker Jet Leyco sarcastically dedicated the (Currents section) best film triumph of his entry, “Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na,” to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

That’s because the film almost got slapped with an “X” rating (it eventually got an “R18”).

“We got an ‘X’ in the first and second reviews,” Leyco told the Inquirer. “We explained our intention and [the board] allowed us to practice self-regulation. We had no time to reedit, so we just adjusted the projection of that particular scene.”

“Bukas” also won best screenplay for Leyco and novelist Norman Wilwayco. “The entire team’s efforts paid off,” said the director. “Our kind of cinema was recognized, particularly how we view history and politics.”

Jury prize

Arnel Mardoquio’s “Riddles of My Homecoming” won jury prize and four other trophies: best director, music (Gauss Obenza), production design (Perry Dizon) and cinematography (Arnel Barbarona, Bordie Carillo and Coi Nacario) in the Currents section.

(Currents section entries each received a P1-million grant; in the other section, Cinema One Plus, the movies received P2 million each.)

Davao-based Mardoquio lauded Cinema One for supporting regional cinema. “Filmmakers from the provinces have a say in this fest.”

Still in the Currents section, the best sound award went to Mikko Quizon for Whammy Alcazaren’s “Islands”; best editing to Dempster Samarista for Ian Loreños’ youth thriller, “Saturday Night Chills.”

“Night Chills” also won acting prizes for ABS-CBN heartthrobs: Rayver Cruz, Matteo Guidicelli and Joseph Marco shared best actor honors; David Chua, best supporting actor.

Chua saw the unexpected win as a reward for his perseverance. “I was jobless for years,” he said. “The award tells me I can make it in this business.”

Dream come true

Guidicelli admitted: “It’s a dream come true. I often won in car races but I never thought I’d ever get an acting award.”

Cruz similarly expressed elation. “It’s my first acting award. I’ll display it in my room to remind me to always work hard.”

Cinema One is ABS-CBN’s cable channel dedicated to Filipino movies.

The female stars of Ralston Jover’s “Bendor” topped the tilt: Newcomer Anna Luna won best supporting actress; veteran Vivian Velez, best actress.

Luna’s trophy will be displayed in her bedroom, too, “so it will be the last thing I see before I sleep and the first thing I see when I wake up.”

Velez’s trophy will go on top of her piano. “This is surreal,” she said. “After so many years… and this is my first indie, a good comeback movie for me. The role is so different, raw and unglamorous.”

Veterans hogged the acting prizes in the Plus section as well. Director Peque Gallaga won best supporting actor for Keith Sicat’s “Woman of the Ruins.” “I’m not quite sure how to respond,” Gallaga told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “It’s always good to be appreciated and validated. I’ll probably get more acting offers… many of which I won’t be able to give justice to. I will never be an Eddie Garcia.”

Gallaga plans to donate his award, like his past trophies, to the library of De La Salle University on Taft Avenue.

She’s got it, too

Best supporting actress went to Bing Pimentel for Borgy Torre’s “Kabisera.” She could retire now, she said. “But my son (acclaimed actor Sid Lucero) thinks this is only the beginning for me.”

Pimentel jested that the trophy was proof her children (Lucero and Max Eigenmann) had inherited a little acting talent from her, too… “not just from their dad (Mark Gil).”

Industry stalwart Joel Torre was proclaimed best actor for “Kabisera.” Said Torre: “This award is special because my nephew directed this film and also won best director.”

Torre, who hails from Bacolod, dedicated his victory “to the people of Bohol, Cebu, Leyte and Samar, who are recovering from recent calamities.”

His nephew said the best director triumph showed that even “indies could be genre films, too.”

Lion’s share

Kapamilya star Angelica Panganiban, best actress winner, said she jumped onboard for Adolfo Alix Jr.’s “Alamat ni China Doll” because she got antsy after being unemployed for some time. “I was clueless about acting in an indie film.”

“China Doll” won a lion’s share: best sound (Mark Locsin, Dante Cuanico, Mike Idioma and Alex Tomboc), music (Lav Diaz), editing (Charliebebs Gohetia) and cinematography (Albert Banzon).

Said Alix: “The best film win is for my second family, my crew… a pat on the back for their hard work.”

Best production design went to Marielle Hizon for “Blue Bustamante”; Mes de Guzman’s “Sitio” won best screenplay and jury prize in the Plus section.

“I gave this film a different treatment—it’s like a mystery thriller,” De Guzman said. “I wasn’t sure it would get noticed.”

Audience award went to “Woman of the Ruins”; best short to “Magic Touch” by Roxanne Robes, Leizl Senarita and Hershelyn Dimapilis, students from the University of the East-Caloocan, who were mentored by Ruel S. Bayani.

Lifetime achievement

The Philippine Cinema Original awards for lifetime achievement were given to filmmaker Elwood Perez and producer Lily Monteverde.

“This comes at a time when I need it most, now that I’m at a crossroads,” Perez said.

He said sharing the honor with his longtime producer was a fitting celebration of their partnership, which churned out such iconic films as “Problem Child,” “Ibulong Mo sa Diyos” and “Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit,” among others, in the 1970s and 1980s. “She gave me free rein during that era of fabulous filmmaking,” said Perez.

Monteverde returned the compliment, saying she learned a lot from collaborating with directors like Perez. “I gave them freedom because I believed in their talent.”

Among the previous Philippine Cinema Original honorees are Lav Diaz, Brillante Ma. Mendoza, Danny Zialcita, Nora Aunor, Mario O’Hara, Celso Ad. Castillo and Gallaga.

Sam Miguel
12-16-2013, 09:24 AM
‘Lawrence of Arabia’ star Peter O’Toole dead at 81

Associated Press

December 16, 2013 | 8:17 am

LONDON— Stage and screen actor Peter O’Toole, known on the one hand for his starring role in “Lawrence of Arabia,” leading tribesmen in daring attacks across the desert wastes, and on the other for his headlong charges into drunken debauchery, died Saturday at age 81, following a long bout with illness.

O’Toole was one of the most magnetic, charismatic and fun figures in British acting.

O’Toole, who died at the private Wellington Hospital in London, was nominated a record eight times for an Academy Award without taking home a single statue.

He was fearsomely handsome, with burning blue eyes and a penchant for hard living which long outlived his decision to give up alcohol. Broadcaster Michael Parkinson told Sky News television it was hard to be too sad about his passing.

“Peter didn’t leave much of life unlived, did he?” he said.

A reformed—but unrepentant—hell-raiser, O’Toole long suffered from ill health. Always thin, he had grown wraithlike in later years, his famously handsome face eroded by years of outrageous drinking.

But nothing diminished his flamboyant manner and candor.

“If you can’t do something willingly and joyfully, then don’t do it,” he once said. “If you give up drinking, don’t go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt.”

International stardom

O’Toole began his acting career as one of the most exciting young talents on the British stage. His 1955 “Hamlet,” at the Bristol Old Vic, was critically acclaimed.

International stardom came in David Lean’s epic “Lawrence of Arabia.” With only a few minor movie roles behind him, O’Toole was unknown to most moviegoers when they first saw him as T.E. Lawrence, the mythic British World War I soldier and scholar who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks.

His sensitive portrayal of Lawrence’s complex character garnered O’Toole his first Oscar nomination, and the spectacularly photographed desert epic remains his best known role. O’Toole was tall, fair and strikingly handsome, and the image of his bright blue eyes peering out of an Arab headdress in Lean’s film was unforgettable.

Playwright Noel Coward once said that if O’Toole had been any prettier, they would have had to call the movie “Florence of Arabia.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday the movie was his favorite film, calling O’Toole’s performance “stunning.”

In 1964′s “Becket,” O’Toole played King Henry II to Richard Burton’s Thomas Becket, and won another Oscar nomination. Burton shared O’Toole’s fondness for drinking, and their off-set carousing made headlines.

O’Toole played Henry again in 1968 in “The Lion in Winter,” opposite Katharine Hepburn, for his third Oscar nomination.

Four more nominations followed: in 1968 for “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” in 1971 for “The Ruling Class,” in 1980 for “The Stunt Man,” and in 1982 for “My Favorite Year.” It was almost a quarter-century before he received his eighth and last, for “Venus.”

Seamus Peter O’Toole was born Aug. 2, 1932, the son of Irish bookie Patrick “Spats” O’Toole and his wife, Constance. There is some question about whether Peter was born in Connemara, Ireland, or in Leeds, northern England, where he grew up, but he maintained close links to Ireland, even befriending the country’s now-president, Michael D. Higgins.

Ireland and the world have “lost one of the giants of film and theater,” Higgins said in a statement.

After a teenage foray into journalism at the Yorkshire Evening Post and national military service with the navy, a young O’Toole auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and won a scholarship.

He went from there to the Bristol Old Vic and soon was on his way to stardom, helped along by an early success in 1959 at London’s Royal Court Theatre in “The Long and The Short and The Tall.”

Serious health problems

The image of the renegade hell-raiser stayed with O’Toole for decades, although he gave up drinking in 1975 following serious health problems and major surgery.

He did not, however, give up smoking unfiltered Gauloises cigarettes in an ebony holder. That and his penchant for green socks, voluminous overcoats and trailing scarves lent him a rakish air and suited his fondness for drama in the old-fashioned “bravura” manner.

A month before his 80th birthday in 2012, O’Toole announced his retirement from a career that he said had fulfilled him emotionally and financially, bringing “me together with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.”

“However, it’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay,” he said. “So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.”

In retirement, O’Toole said he would focus on the third volume of his memoirs.

Good parts were sometimes few and far between, but “I take whatever good part comes along,” O’Toole told The Independent on Sunday newspaper in 1990.

“And if there isn’t a good part, then I do anything, just to pay the rent. Money is always a pressure. And waiting for the right part—you could wait forever. So I turn up and do the best I can.”

The 1980 “Macbeth” in which he starred was a critical disaster of heroic proportions. But it played to sellout audiences, largely because the savaging by the critics brought out the curiosity seekers.

“The thought of it makes my nose bleed,” he said years later.

In 1989, however, O’Toole had a big stage success with “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell,” a comedy about his old drinking buddy, the legendary layabout and ladies’ man who wrote The Spectator magazine’s weekly “Low Life” column when he was sober enough to do so.

Honorary Oscar

The honorary Oscar came 20 years after his seventh nomination for “My Favorite Year.” By then it seemed a safe bet that O’Toole’s prospects for another nomination were slim. He was still working regularly, but in smaller roles unlikely to earn awards attention.

O’Toole graciously accepted the honorary award, quipping, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot,” as he clutched his Oscar statuette.

He had nearly turned down the award, sending a letter asking that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hold off on the honorary Oscar until he turned 80.

Hoping another Oscar-worthy role would come his way, O’Toole wrote: “I am still in the game and might win the bugger outright.”

The last chance came in, for “Venus,” in which he played a lecherous old actor consigned to roles as feeble-minded royals or aged men on their death beds. By failing again to win, he broke the tie for futility which had been shared with Richard Burton, his old drinking buddy.

O’Toole divorced Welsh actress Sian Phillips in 1979, after 19 years of marriage. The couple had two daughters, Kate and Pat.

A brief relationship with American model Karen Somerville led to the birth of his son Lorcan in 1983, and a change of lifestyle for O’Toole.

After a long custody battle, a US judge ruled Somerville should have her son during school vacations, and O’Toole would have custody during the school year.

“The pirate ship has berthed,” he declared, happily taking on the responsibilities of fatherhood. He learned to coach schoolboy cricket and, when he was in a play, the curtain time was moved back to allow him part of the evenings at home with his son.

O’Toole’s death was announced by agent Steve Kenis, who said the actor had been ill for some time.

His daughter Kate said the family had been overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy.

“In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished,” she said in the statement.—Gregory Katz with Raphael Satter

Sam Miguel
12-17-2013, 10:30 AM
‘Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin’ takes a fresh look at Filipino-American interracial romance

By Brylle B. Tabora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:00 am | Monday, December 16th, 2013

Director Randolph Longjas’ “Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin” is a comical study of a Filipino-American couple trying to cope with one another’s cultural differences.

An entry to the Cine Filipino Film Festival last September, “Ang Turkey” is a “mockumentary” that focuses on couple Cookie (played by Tuesday Vargas) and Matthew Adams (Travis Kraft) whose love story is being documented by an online Fil-Am dating site that considers them the best way to promote interracial relationships. Both found love online.

Cookie is a single mother from a middle-class family who lives off deboning bangus (milk fish) to provide for her son; while Matthew, or Matchu, is your average Joe, whom Cookie thinks could take her to greener pastures.

As they go along, the couple meets oddball people in the Philippines and peculiar customs and habits inherent to Filipinos: karaoke music, superstitious in-laws, questionable immigration laws, unexpected pregnancies and rotating blackouts.

And soon the two start to talk about moving to the US and processing Cookie’s visa. But it seems Cookie has some reservations about these.

The film also stars Julia Clarete, Cai Cortez and JM De Guzman. The script is written by Allan Habon.

Familiar scenario

The conception of the story was just something out of the ordinary, Longjas said.

“We were in a mall when we were brainstorming for what our entry for Cine Filipino would be,” Longjas said. “Then we noticed a restaurant full of foreigners with Filipino women as their partners. We’ve come to realize that this type of setup is not a surprise to our culture anymore. In fact, it’s a familiar scenario in Filipino families. From there, we’ve agreed that we can explore this type of relationship through injecting a crash and burn humor of the two different cultures.”

Longjas said he wanted to reintroduce Fil-Am relationships in a fresh light.

“We wanted to offer a reality that we usually despise or laugh about,” he said. “This experimental comedy explores the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of two people on a universal love trip, which does not discriminate against color, stature, age or culture. It is a celebration of the Filipino experience in a foreigner’s perspective, and the realization of the American dream in a Filipino’s eyes.”

Ultimately, we shall find out in the film whether Cookie and Matchu’s love found its way despite their differences or eventually got lost in translation.

“Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin” will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas nationwide starting Dec. 18.

Joescoundrel
02-07-2014, 01:22 PM
George Clooney uses his star power to keep part of old Hollywood alive

By Ann Hornaday, Friday, February 7, 8:48 AM E-mail the writers

New York — Fun fact about George Clooney: He’s a hugger.

Meeting someone for the first time, he brushes right past an extended hand and instead delivers a warm embrace, a gesture that somehow suggests both the proprietary confidence of celebrity as well as its utter dismantlement. He’s dressed in jeans, a chunky gray knit sweater and the weather-proof boots that everyone is slogging around in on this dreary, slushy Wednesday. But even looking like a civilian, Clooney, 52, manages to exude preternatural charisma and self-assurance. There might not be another actor alive who so thoroughly personifies movie stardom, or deploys it so adroitly — as commodity, means of production and public trust.

On this day, Clooney has joined his longtime producing partner, Grant Heslov, to talk about their latest film: “The Monuments Men,” about the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives unit that, in the waning days of World War II, sought to rescue millions of pieces of art looted by the Nazis. The film marks Clooney’s fifth directorial effort, and he also stars, heading up a cast that includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin and Cate Blanchett. Inspired as much by the wartime capers of the 1960s and 1970s as by true events, “The Monuments Men” represents the kind of film that Clooney and Heslov have been dedicated to making since forming their company, Smokehouse Pictures, in 2006.

“Our whole theory has been, let’s try to force-feed the kind of films that aren’t gonna get made unless we make them,” Clooney explained. Working with lean budgets, deferring their own salaries and asking their actors to work for fractions of their going rates, Clooney and Heslov have specialized in the kind of movies that studios have largely abandoned in favor of comic-book franchises and cartoons. Their first film, “Leatherheads,” was a screwball comedy inspired by Depression era classics; “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” which Heslov directed, was a gonzo war comedy. “The American,” starring Clooney as a taciturn hit man, owed its reflective mood and brooding silences to Antonioni; both “The Ides of March” and “Argo,” the latter being their biggest hit to date, recalled the taut political thrillers of the 1970s.

Indeed, watching Clooney’s character, George L. Stout, scrambling around Europe trying to save artistic treasures from Hitler’s all-encompassing, destructive clutches, it’s possible to read “The Monuments Men” as an allegory for Clooney’s own mission, as he valiantly tries to save the archaic genres and sometimes risky, subversive material that seems increasingly endangered by Hollywood’s corporate agenda. “It’s hard,” Clooney admitted. “We have deals where we go, ‘So our back end is nothing.’ But [we say], ‘Let’s keep doing these until they don’t let us do them anymore.’ ”

When Clooney talks about the back end, he refers to a strategy of leveraging his star power that he didn’t invent but has nonetheless potently reinvigorated over the past several years, agreeing to waive or dramatically reduce his usual $15 million salary in favor of a percentage of the film’s revenues. It was that strategy that allowed films such as “Syriana,” “Michael Clayton,” “Up In the Air” and “The Descendants” to be made, and it’s that strategy that Clooney has adhered to at Smokehouse and, earlier, at Section Eight, a company he started with Steven Soderbergh. As both director and producer, he paid himself $1 to co-star in “Good Night, and Good Luck,” about journalist Edward R. Murrow. (Clooney and Heslov also fund Smokehouse by doing commercials — starring Clooney and directed by Heslov — that air only overseas.)

It’s also a strategy borne of what might be called the “After ‘Batman’ ” era of Clooney’s career, which hit a painful pivot point in 1997, when he starred in “Batman & Robin” — for those keeping score at home, the most universally panned installment of the ever-expanding franchise. “I don’t have the same career without that film,” Clooney said simply.

“Until then, I had just been an actor,” he said. “I had only been an actor in TV series, and then I got ‘E.R.’ and ‘E.R.’ became this big thing.” His breakout feature roles — “One Fine Day,” “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “The Peacemaker” — all came about because he was eager for the work and what looked like juicy roles. “And then I get a call, ‘Do you want to be in ‘Batman?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah.’”

“With all of those things, it was just me as an actor going, ‘Look at the part,’ ” Clooney continues. “And after I got killed for ‘Batman & Robin,’ I realized I’m not going to be held responsible just for the part anymore, I’m going to be held responsible for the movie. And literally, I just stopped. And I said, It now has to be only screenplay. Because you cannot make a good film from a bad screenplay.”

Heslov, who’s known Clooney since they were acting students and who famously lent his pal money to get head shots made when he was first starting out, recalls the “Batman” moment with rueful vividness. “It was the lowest point of your career,” he says to Clooney.

“It was brutal,” Clooney agrees.

“He took it on the chin,” Heslov said. “And he took it with a sense of humor, because that’s how he does it, but he was hurting. And definitely if you look at his filmography” — “It turns on a dime,” Clooney offers. “It’s like, ‘Okay, I get it.’ ”

The next movies Clooney did were “Three Kings,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Out of Sight,” directed by David O. Russell, the Coen brothers and Soderbergh, respectively. “Those were all great screenplays,” Clooney said. “And great directors. So there’s an understanding of, that’s what I’ve got to focus on.”

The After “Batman” era of Clooney’s career has been a testament to shrewd commercial choices — the “Ocean’s Eleven” franchise was a huge success, and he had one of his famous back-end deals on last year’s science fiction epic “Gravity,” which is approaching $700 million worldwide at the box office. In the ensuing years, Clooney has also mastered the art of celebrity comportment, becoming the kind of old-school movie star that most famous actors today, with their dressed-down play dates and daily-grind trips to Whole Foods, eschew. With features out of the Grant-Gable look book, a rakish motorcycle, an Italian villa and a near-constant string of gorgeous girlfriends, Clooney is our closest thing to a matinee idol of the old school. Even when he’s up to his ears in problems and production details while directing a movie, he’s been known to take time to greet locals who have been waiting for hours to catch even the briefest glimpse of him. Along with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, Clooney has made working a rope line less a smile-and-wave quick-step than an improbably moving ritual of connection and magnanimity.

“I grew up in Kentucky, and I remember Raymond Burr coming to my home town,” Clooney said. “I understand what it’s like to see someone famous in person. It actually sort of catches your breath, and I understand what that’s like. So . . . it’s a dance you do, and it requires a little bit more patience than you would think, and it requires tuning out things that would really upset you otherwise.”

“The Monuments Men” marks a rare foray into optimistic, family-friendly filmmaking for Clooney and Heslov, both of whom are attracted to tough-minded, skeptical, even cynical movies. They made a pact on the last day of shooting, Clooney says, to go back to the dark side for their next project. “We want it to be low-budget, dark, screwy. . . . We want to have those scenes [like in ‘The Ides of March’] in the kitchen with Ryan Gosling and myself, where it’s just as dark and cruel as it can possibly be. We like that world a lot.” (But first, Clooney will star in “Tomorrowland,” a Disney film by Brad Bird that will keep cynicism at bay for at least a little while.) They’re thisclose, they say, to formally announcing that Sandra Bullock will star in their dramatized adaptation of “Our Brand Is Crisis,” which was a 2005 documentary about political consultants exporting their techniques to foreign countries.

“We’re not children at this,” Clooney said. “What we do know is that at some point they take all the toys away. And they go, ‘Okay you don’t get to play anymore.’ We understand that. We’re grown-ups. But while we get the toy box and the key to it, we’re going to play with all the toys that no one wants you to play with.” And with that, Clooney heads back out into the slush. One more quick hug, and he’s gone.

Joescoundrel
02-13-2014, 01:25 PM
Woody Allen's maturity problem

The adolescent energy the filmmaker brought to his early movies never really matured into an adult sensibility.

By Meghan Daum

February 6, 2014

Several months ago, I watched Woody Allen's 1979 film "Manhattan" for the first time since I was in my 20s and for perhaps the 10th time total.

"He adored New York City," Allen's character, Isaac Davis, says in voice-over in the opening lines. "He idolized it all out of proportion."

Once upon a time, I idolized this movie all out of proportion. Though I was too young to see it when it was first released, I became obsessed with its Gershwin soundtrack and black-and-white, wide-screen cinematography in high school, right around the time I began romanticizing some mythic notion of becoming a New York sophisticate.

And in my mind, no one was more sophisticated than the high-strung, Sontagian journalist played by Diane Keaton, who dates a married Columbia professor named Yale before she falls for Isaac.

What could be better than wandering around the Guggenheim on weekends and dining at Elaine's and casually mentioning that Mahler is totally overrated? To me, these weren't just characters, they were templates for my future self. They were the exact opposite of suburban teenagers like me. This was a movie for and about the kind of grown-up I wanted to be.

But when I saw it this last time, I was only a few minutes into it before I began feeling embarrassed for my younger self. The dialogue I'd practically memorized in my youth now made me cringe in places. Sparkling though it was, Allen's efforts to poke fun at the pretensions of urban intellectuals were far less subtle than I'd remembered.

Keaton's character pronounced Van Gogh "Van Gock." She used terms like "textural" and "negative capability" and sounded like a first-year art student rather than a seasoned journalist. Allen's signature ticks and stammers made his performance more cartoonish than nerdy cool.

I suddenly realized I'd had everything backward. These characters were not sophisticated as much as they were expressions of what a young, relatively naive person imagines sophistication to be. This was not a movie for adults but for precocious teenagers. Teenagers a little like the 17-year-old in the movie, Tracy, who, in a storyline that would foreshadow Allen's life, was 42-year-old Isaac's other girlfriend.

Seventeen was the age I was when my enthusiasm for "Manhattan" probably reached its peak. Even so, I was too busy idolizing Keaton's character to think much about whether statutory rape was a factor between Tracy and Isaac. But watching the film today, I was struck not just by the creepiness of that relationship but also by the utter nonchalance with which the film's other characters greeted it.

"I don't think she's too young," says Yale's earnest, seemingly sensible wife as they arrive home from a double date in which Isaac's girlfriend has announced that she has homework to do. Even Keaton's character, a feminist erupting with opinions, essentially regards Isaac's relationship with the girl as an endearing quirk.

Granted, attitudes about sexual power dynamics were different in 1979. It's telling that most reviews of "Manhattan" saw the relationship as titillating — even funny — rather than abusive. Still, Allen, realist (albeit sometimes magical realist) auteur though he's purported to be, has always been more the mastermind of his own peculiar fantasy genre, one in which struggling artists live in multimillion-dollar lofts, people use terms like "negative capability" while keeping a straight face, and middle-aged male nebbishes are irresistible to women of all ages.

Given those motifs — and given the degree to which they've become more exaggerated over the course of his career — you could argue that the adolescent energy Allen brought to early films like "Bananas" and "Take the Money and Run" never really matured into a bona fide adult sensibility. There's a perverse logic, then, to his fixation on teenage girls. He's in many ways still a teenager himself.

I'm not going to dip my toe too far into the roiling waters stirred up by Allen's daughter's statement Sunday that he sexually abused her as a child. There are already far more opinions floating around than facts. But I do think there's something to be said for the ways in which the scandal forces his fans, particularly fans of "classics" such as "Manhattan," to take a hard look at what it was we found so captivating about the worlds he created.

Whatever it was I thought "Manhattan" explained and promised, whatever it was I thought I wanted, it was clearly out of proportion to what was actually there.

Joescoundrel
02-25-2014, 11:08 AM
Harold Ramis dies: Five of his most memorable comedy movies

By Oliver Gettell

February 24, 2014, 11:41 a.m.

Whether in front of the camera, in the director's chair or on the page, the late comedy actor, director and writer Harold Ramis could be counted on to deliver antic humor under-girded by surprising intelligence. Following are five films exemplifying Ramis' signature style.

"National Lampoon's Animal House." After honing his comedy with Chicago's Second City improv troupe, including work on the late-night sketch show "SCTV," Ramis began pursuing a film career, with his first script being this 1978 frat-house farce. Adapted by Ramis, Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller from stories published in National Lampoon magazine, the film was made on a shoestring budget and proved to be a box-office hit. With its story of misfit college students challenging stuck-up administrators and spoiled rich kids, "Animal House" epitomized Ramis' interest in stories of rebellion against institutions and traditions. It also catapulted the career of fellow Second City alumnus John Belushi and inspired generations of raunchy comedies.

"Caddyshack." Two years later, Ramis made his directorial debut with the golf-club comedy "Caddyshack," which he also wrote, with Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray. Starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray, the film tells the story of a young caddy (Michael O'Keefe) trying to raise money for college against the backdrop of a snooty golf course. "Caddyshack" was also a box-office success, but its greater legacy is its reputation as one of the best sports comedies of all time. The film would also be the second of Ramis' six films with Murray as either a writer or director.

"Ghostbusters." In 1984, Ramis reunited with Murray, this time on screen, for this supernatural comedy about four paranormal exterminators trying to save New York City. Ramis also wrote the movie with costar Dan Aykroyd (Ivan Reitman directed). In the film, Ramis played the bookish, bespectacled genius Egon Spengler, a classic Ramis straight-man role. The success of "Ghostbusters" spawned a 1989 sequel, two animated TV series, merchandise and several video games. Like many Ramis movies, it entered the cultural zeitgeist in a deep way; one can still say "Who ya gonna call?" today and generate instant recognition and reaction.

"Groundhog Day." Arguably Ramis' signature film, his philosophical 1993 comedy tells the story of a disenchanted weatherman (Murray once again) caught in a time loop and forced to relive the titular holiday over and over again. The film also marked the first of a string of Ramis' later comedies exploring themes of self-improvement and the search for meaning, including "Stuart Saves His Family," "Multiplicity" and a remake of "Bedazzled." "Groundhog Day" was added to the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" in 2006.

"Analyze This." Ramis' first film as a director after moving his family from Los Angeles back to his hometown of Chicago, this 1999 comedy starred Robert De Niro as a neurotic mob boss being treated by a buttoned-down psychiatrist, played by Billy Crystal. Ramis also co-wrote the film, with Peter Tolan and Kenneth Lonergan. "Analyze This" crossed the $100-million mark at the box office, earned a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy or musical, and generated a 2002 sequel, "Analyze That," which Ramis also directed and co-wrote. It was also a relatively rare movie that became a comedy hit by appealing primarily to adults and helped set in motion a string of comedies about the mismatched middle-aged.

Sam Miguel
03-24-2014, 10:38 AM
‘Noah,’ revival of Bible epics, finds rough seas

Associated Press

March 22, 2014 | 8:30 am

NEW YORK – In the beginning of their work together on “Noah,” director Darren Aronofsky made Russell Crowe a promise: “I’ll never shoot you on a houseboat in a robe and sandals with two giraffes popping up behind you.”

Decades after Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” and “Ben-Hur,” Aronofsky has renewed the tradition of the studio-made, mass-audience Bible epic, albeit as a distinctly darker parable about sin, justice and mercy. While much of his “Noah” is true to Scripture, it’s nothing like the picture-book version many encounter as children.

“The first time I read it, I got scared,” the director says. “I thought, ‘What if I’m not good enough to get on the boat?’”

It’s an altogether unlikely project: a $130 million Bible-based studio film made by a widely respected filmmaker (“Black Swan,” ”Requiem for a Dream”) few would have pegged as a modern-day DeMille. In the lead-up to its March 28th release, “Noah” has been flooded by controversy, with some religious conservatives claiming it isn’t literal enough to the Old Testament and that Noah has been inaccurately made, as Aronofsky has called him, “the first environmentalist.”

“Noah” is a culmination of the shift brought on by Mel Gibson’s independently produced “The Passion of the Christ,” which awakened Hollywood with its unforeseen $612 million box office haul in 2004. In the time since, Hollywood has carefully developed closer ties to faith-based communities, (Sony and 20th Century Fox have set up faith-based studios targeting evangelicals).

Yet the debate about “Noah” proves that it can be tricky to satisfy both believers and non-believers, and that finding the right intersection of art, commerce and religion is a task loaded with as much risk as potential reward.

A lot is at stake, and not just for “Noah” and distributor Paramount Pictures. In December, Fox will release Ridley Scott’s “Exodus,” starring Christian Bale as Moses.

On the heels of the recently released “Son of God,” the religious drama “God’s Not Dead” opened Friday and Sony is releasing the less straightforwardly Biblical “Heaven Is for Real” ahead of Easter next month. The studio is also developing a vampire twist on Cain and Able with Will Smith. In Lionsgate’s pipeline is a Mary Magdalene film, hyped as a prequel to “The Passion of the Christ” and co-produced by mega-church pastor Joel Osteen.

When Jonathan Boch started his company Grace Hill Media in 2000 to consult Hollywood studios on reaching the faith community, the two “really didn’t know each other,” he says. Since then, films like “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “The Blind Side” have benefited from outreach to churchgoers.

“Over the course of those 15 years, you’ve seen the faith community go from almost pariah status or fly-over status to now being seen as an important market,” says Boch, who consulted on “Noah.” ”In my mind, what we’re seeing is another renaissance where the greatest artists are telling the greatest stories every told.”

Though Hollywood largely swore off the Bible epic when films like 1965′s “The Greatest Story Ever Told” flopped, the revival dovetails recent trends. Figures like Noah are globally recognizable, and thus easier to market. They come with no licensing fee, and, often, plenty opportunity for flashy special effects. “Noah,” which is being released in converted 3-D overseas, is perhaps the oldest apocalypse story.

The story fascinated Aronofsky as a Jewish kid growing up in Brooklyn. He recalls a poem he wrote about the tale as a 13-year-old — and a teacher’s subsequent encouragement — as his birth as a storyteller. Whereas “The Passion of the Christ” was largely made by Christians and for Christians, Aronofsky says his “Noah” (which was advertised during the Super Bowl) is “for everybody.”

“It’s wrong when you talk about the Noah story to talk about it in that type of believer-nonbeliever way because I think it’s one of humanity’s oldest stories,” he says. “It belongs not just in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. Everyone on the planet knows the Noah story.”

The Genesis story is only a few pages, with more details on the dimensions of the ark (which Aronofsky held to) than who Noah was. He’s instructed by God — “grieved” in his heart by what mankind had become generations after creation — to build an ark and fill it with two of every animal. After the flood, Noah is referred to as drunk and then banishes his son, Ham — all clues for Aronofsky on the pain of Noah’s burden.

Paramount sought the approval of religious leaders, consulting with Biblical scholars in pre-production and doing extensive test screenings (during which Aronofsky and Paramount feuded over the final cut before an apparent truce).

But early criticism bubbled up online based on what Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore says is an old, unused version of the script (which Aronofsky penned with Ari Handel).

“It has been a very interesting journey,” says Moore. “It’s been highly chronicled along the way, much of which was based upon either speculation or hearsay or old information.”

After seeing the film, Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, urged Paramount to advertise the film with a disclaimer. Moore acquiesced, adding a warning that “artistic license has been taken.”

“Darren, as an artist, had some sensitivity about what that meant in terms of what we were saying the movie was or wasn’t ahead of time, versus letting people experience it for themselves,” says Moore. “But there was such a group of people who had concern about it.”

“For the vast majority of people, the controversy will go away,” he says.

Johnson still has mixed feelings about “Noah,” calling it “a great plus, minus”: neither worthy of the boycott that Roman Catholics held for Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” nor a film like “The Passion of the Christ” that will have churches sending busloads to theaters.

“They got the big points of the story right,” says Johnson. “It’s so counter-cultural today in America or the West to talk about sin, right and wrong, and particularly the idea of judgment — and that is so serious in this film.”

Johnson adds that, among other reservations, “The insertion of the extremist environmental agenda is a problem.” Aronofsky disputes that.

“It’s in the Bible that we are supposed to tend the garden,” the director says. “To say there’s no ecological side to the Noah story when Noah is saving the animals just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Picturehouse founder Bob Berney, who as president of Newmarket Films distributed “The Passion of the Christ,” says balancing artistic license and faithfulness to Scripture is challenging.

“It’s a kind of a trap, and you have to be very careful,” says Berney. “At the same time, they are movies, and they have to be really good. I think the faith-based audience, the Christian audience still wants a big, exciting movie.”

All the conversation — both negative and positive — may lure audiences to “Noah,” which Moore says will do its biggest business internationally, even though the film has been banned in many Islamic counties where it’s taboo to depict a prophet. He and Aronofsky believe they have a rich history of artistic ambition on their side.

“It’s strange that the conversation for a little bit has turned into a controversy about literalism,” says Aronofsky. “What is literalism when it comes to interpreting and making an artistic representation of the text? Is Michelangelo’s David a literal interpretation of what David looked like?”

Sam Miguel
08-12-2014, 10:43 AM
Actor Robin Williams dead from apparent suicide–police

Agence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net/US Bureau August 12, 2014 | 7:17 am

LOS ANGELES–Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead at his home in California from suspected suicide, police said Tuesday.

A statement from the Marin County Sheriff’s Department said the 63-year-old funnyman was found shortly before midday at his home in Tiburon, northern California.

“At this time, the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia,” the statement said.

Investigators said that Williams was last seen alive at his residence, where he resides with his wife, at around 10 p.m. on Sunday.

An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff’s Office, officials said.

A forensic examination is currently scheduled for Aug. 12 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.

On July 1, Williams visited the 12-step program at a Minnesota facility to recharge after more than 18 straight months of work, according to his publicist.

Mara Buxbaum said Williams was “taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud.”

Williams has been open about the challenges of maintaining sobriety. He sought treatment in 2006 when he relapsed and returned to drinking after 20 years.

Williams starred in the CBS series “The Crazy Ones” and the film “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” which was released in May. He had several other projects in the works, including another installment of “Night at the Museum.”

Sam Miguel
08-12-2014, 10:43 AM
Actor Robin Williams dead from apparent suicide–police

Agence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net/US Bureau August 12, 2014 | 7:17 am

LOS ANGELES–Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead at his home in California from suspected suicide, police said Tuesday.

A statement from the Marin County Sheriff’s Department said the 63-year-old funnyman was found shortly before midday at his home in Tiburon, northern California.

“At this time, the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia,” the statement said.

Investigators said that Williams was last seen alive at his residence, where he resides with his wife, at around 10 p.m. on Sunday.

An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff’s Office, officials said.

A forensic examination is currently scheduled for Aug. 12 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.

On July 1, Williams visited the 12-step program at a Minnesota facility to recharge after more than 18 straight months of work, according to his publicist.

Mara Buxbaum said Williams was “taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud.”

Williams has been open about the challenges of maintaining sobriety. He sought treatment in 2006 when he relapsed and returned to drinking after 20 years.

Williams starred in the CBS series “The Crazy Ones” and the film “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” which was released in May. He had several other projects in the works, including another installment of “Night at the Museum.”

MrM
08-12-2014, 11:02 AM
^ F#%k. This hit me hard. At umpisa ng araw pa man din. My favorite comedian of all time. RIP, Robin Williams.

Joescoundrel
10-29-2014, 10:25 AM
The Leaky Science of Hollywood

Stephen Hawking’s Movie Life Story Is Not Very Scientific

OCT. 27, 2014

Dennis Overbye

It would be nice if producers of science movies spent half as much time on getting the science right as they do on, say, wardrobes or hairstyles.

I’m tired of complaining about this, but we are in an extraordinary run of such movies right now, and I’d love to see one that doesn’t make me gnash my teeth.

Last year, “Gravity,” which won seven Oscars, delivered amazingly realistic depictions of space hardware and weightlessness, but bungled the simple rules of orbital mechanics. Next week will bring us not one but two movies with black holes at their core: “The Theory of Everything,” about the early life and times of Stephen Hawking, the British physicist and best-selling author; and “Interstellar,” directed and written by the Nolan brothers, Christopher and Jonathan, about astronauts traveling through a wormhole to find a new home for humanity. (Intriguingly, it is based on work by one of Dr. Hawking’s oldest buddies, Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology.)

“The Theory of Everything” has a lot going for it. Eddie Redmayne is justly being promoted for an Oscar nomination for his uncanny portrayal of Dr. Hawking and the relentless wasting effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease, for which any number of celebrities have lately endured an orgy of ice-bucket drenchings.

Millions of people and science fans who have read Dr. Hawking’s books, flocked to his lectures and watched him on “The Simpsons,” “Star Trek” and “The Big Bang Theory” have never known him except as a wheelchaired figure speaking in a robotic voice; for all they know he was always that way and floated down to Earth on a comet, like Venus drifting in on a half-shell.

Mr. Redmayne’s performance — from the gnarled, paralyzed fingers to the mischievous spark that lights an otherwise frozen face as he savors a joke or a bon mot — is spot on. The dramatic high point, when he clicks a mouse and the words “My name is Stephen Hawking” come out of a speaker with a robotic American accent, is a genuine creation moment. There were tears in my eyes.

But the movie doesn’t deserve any prizes for its drive-by muddling of Dr. Hawking’s scientific work, leaving viewers in the dark about exactly why he is so famous. Instead of showing how he undermined traditional notions of space and time, it panders to religious sensibilities about what his work does or does not say about the existence of God, which in fact is very little.

To its credit, the movie does not shy away from the darker parts of Dr. Hawking’s story. It is based on the 2007 memoir “Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen,” by his first wife, Jane Wilde — one of two books she has written about what it was like to fall in love with and then care for an increasingly disabled and celebrated genius. Jane eventually takes up with the choirmaster at her church; Stephen wheels away with his nurse Elaine Mason, whom he subsequently married and then divorced.

Dr. Hawking, 72, is said to have signed off, if reluctantly, on a movie that would fill in the personal side of his life. Of all the courageous things he has done, this might have been the bravest: entrusting his life story to an ex-wife.

He allowed the producers to use actual recordings of his iconic voice, and after seeing the movie he pronounced it “broadly true,” according to the director, James Marsh, who won an Oscar for the 2008 documentary “Man on Wire.”

But when it came to science, I couldn’t help gnashing my teeth after all. Forget for a moment that early in the story the characters are sitting in a seminar in London talking about black holes, the bottomless gravitational abysses from which not even light can escape, years before that term had been coined. Sadly, a few anachronisms are probably inevitable in a popular account of such an arcane field as astrophysics.

It gets worse, though. Skip a few scenes and years ahead. Dr. Hawking, getting ready for bed, is staring at glowing coals in the fireplace and has a vision of black holes fizzing and leaking heat.

The next thing we know he is telling an audience in an Oxford lecture hall that black holes, contrary to legend and previous theory, are not forever, but will leak particles, shrink and eventually explode, before a crank moderator declares the session over, calling the notion “rubbish.”

The prediction of Hawking radiation, as it is called, is his greatest achievement, the one he is most likely to get a Nobel Prize for. But it didn’t happen with a moment of inspiration staring at a fireplace. And in telling the story this way, the producers have cheated themselves out of what was arguably the most dramatic moment in his scientific career.

Dr. Hawking had been goaded by work by Alexei Starobinsky in Moscow and Jacob Bekenstein in Princeton into trying to determine the properties of microscopic black holes. That required a daunting calculation that would combine quantum theory with Einsteinian gravity, twin poles of theoretical physics thought until then to be mathematically incompatible.

It took months, during which his friends and colleagues were sure he would fail. They propped quantum textbooks open in front of him and then went away, wondering what if anything would come of him.

When Dr. Hawking discovered that quantum effects would make black holes leaky, it went against all his intuition and expectations. He spent a couple of lonely months trying to figure out where he had gone wrong, at one point locking himself in a bathroom to think. The penumbra of uncertainty and randomness with which quantum theory endowed nature on the smallest scales would in effect pierce the black hole’s previously inviolable surface. His discovery has turned out to be a big, big deal, because it implies, among other things, that three-dimensional space is an illusion. Do we live in a hologram, like the picture on a credit card? Or the Matrix?

None of this, alas, is in the movie. That is more than bad history. The equations on the blackboard appear to be authentic — the movies are always great at getting the design details right — but as usual it misses the big picture, the zigzaggy path of collaboration, competition and even combat by which science actually progresses. By leaving out people like Dr. Bekenstein and Dr. Starobinsky, the movie reinforces the stereotype of the lone genius already ingrained by the media and the Nobel Prizes.

In Dr. Hawking’s case the stereotype is compounded by his disability, which causes the rest of the world — especially the media — to regard his every statement as if it came from the Delphic oracle.

It also devalues Dr. Hawking’s own work, the months of intense calculation that are required to turn inspiration into a real theory, by making it look easy. Science isn’t easy, even for the Einsteins among us, which doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

“The Theory of Everything” is only a movie, and I should be thrilled that Dr. Hawking is at last getting his due from the star-making machinery of the big screen and that black holes are even part of the cultural discourse. And I am. It is, as Dr. Hawking said, “broadly true.”

But at the risk of coming off as a cranky nerd, I wish the moviemakers had been able to hew to a higher authority.

Sam Miguel
03-18-2015, 08:00 AM
How Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, Blade Runner, foresaw the way we live today

On the eve of the re-release of Scott's 'Final Cut' at the BFI, William Cook explores the thoroughly modern riddles at the heart of this cult movie

William Cook 7 March 2015

In 1977 a journeyman actor called Brian Kelly optioned a science-fiction novel called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The book’s author, Philip K. Dick, had been writing science fiction since the early 1950s. He was 49 years old, with 30 novels behind him. He had a cult reputation, but he barely scraped a living. Kelly only paid him $2,500, but Dick was happy with this windfall. He’d written this book for half as much, back in 1968. After five more years, and many rewrites, Dick’s book finally became a film. Directed by Ridley Scott and renamed Blade Runner, it’s now commonly — and quite rightly — regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction movies ever made.

Now finally, after all this time, comes confirmation of the long-awaited sequel — directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Harrison Ford again, reprising his leading role as robot hunter Rick Deckard. Ford says the script is ‘the best thing I’ve ever read’. Will Scott’s direction be just as good? Here’s hoping.

In the meantime, if you can’t wait for Blade Runner 2 (or whatever they eventually decide to call it), from 3 April you can marvel at Scott’s original masterpiece on the big screen once again, as Blade Runner: The Final Cut returns to cinemas nationwide, courtesy of the BFI. Novelistic in its detail, operatic in its intensity, Scott’s direction still takes your breath away. Yet the most striking thing about Scott’s film — and Dick’s novel — is that they both foresaw the future. After all these years, Blade Runner remains an unforgettable experience. But since 1982 it’s become something else as well — a futuristic metaphor for the way we live today.

Dick delighted in making (almost) accurate predictions: nuclear meltdown in the Soviet Union by 1985 (Chernobyl blew up in 1986); artificial life by 1993 (Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1997). Written half a lifetime before the world wide web, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? displayed similarly spooky powers of prophecy. Anyone with a Facebook page will recognise the creepy appeal of Buster Friendly and his Friendly Friends, a never-ending chat show that broadcasts 24/7 throughout Dick’s novel. And anyone who’s searched for instant solutions to their problems in cyberspace (or been prescribed anti-depressants to boost their serotonin levels) will recognise Dick’s Mood Organ, a sly machine that conjures up all manner of emotions, from ‘awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future’ to ‘the desire to watch TV, no matter what’s on it’. As Dick observed, ‘The greatest pain does not come zooming down from a distant planet, but up from the depths of the heart.’

Scott’s movie retained relatively few of these sci-fi specifics, but he preserved the book’s pervasive air of virtual paranoia — its inherent uncertainty about the boundary between what’s real and what’s unreal. Harrison Ford’s Blade Runner hunts down replicants who’ve become too human, and ends up wondering if he’s a replicant himself. Are his memories really his own, or were they implanted by a higher power? ‘It’s not just “What if…” It’s “My God; what if…”’ stated Dick, of his attitude to science fiction. Watching Blade Runner today, you can’t help wondering if his nightmares have come true. What is the meaning of memory, now everything is a click away on Google? Is the internet transforming us into replicants, incapable of proper empathy? Will anything be left of us, once our entire lives are online?

Initially, Dick was rather disparaging about Blade Runner (he called it ‘Philip Marlowe meets The Stepford Wives’) but once he saw a rough cut, he was won over by Scott’s film. He didn’t mind at all that the film was so different from his novel. ‘The book and the movie do not fight each other, they reinforce each other,’ he said. ‘The human brain craves stimulation, and this movie will stimulate the brain.’ Dick never made it to the première. He died of a stroke, a few months before the movie opened. He was 53.

Ridley Scott had had a big hit with Alien, and Harrison Ford had had an even bigger hit with Star Wars — but despite this winning team of hot star and hip director, the initial response to Blade Runner was tepid. Its first cinematic outing made a mere $14 million, barely half its production budget. The critics were underwhelmed. Janet Maslin of the New York Times called it ‘muddled yet mesmerising’, yet the intrinsic ‘muddle’ of Blade Runner is what makes it so mesmeric, then and now. The film (and the book) is built on an unanswerable conundrum. As robots evolve, at what stage do they become human? And as our lives become more and more computerised, at what stage do we start to become machines?

This thoroughly modern riddle is what gives Blade Runner its staying power, but such profound questions were far too tricksy for the film’s money men. The studio imposed various changes, including a corny film noir voice-over, in an attempt to explain away the film’s multiple complexities. Several alternative versions subsequently emerged, of which Scott’s ‘Final Cut’ is the finest, but even the Chandleresque original was a triumph. Scott said he wanted to make a film ‘set 40 years hence, made in the style of 40 years ago’. Thirty-three years hence, it still feels intensely contemporary. The only thing that’s dated is the computers — and the shoulder pads.

Fittingly, for a film about the perils of technological innovation, it was new technology that kept Blade Runner alive. Home video was the latest gizmo, and Blade Runner quickly climbed to the top of the rental charts. Movie execs may have been confused by its ambiguities, but movie buffs revelled in them. Within a year, the film had spawned its own fanzine. In 1983, the assembled nerds of the World Science Fiction Convention voted it the third best science-fiction movie of all time. Scott went on to direct a string of smart Hollywood hits: Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven… In 1992 he made the so-called ‘Director’s Cut’ of Blade Runner — actually a creative compromise between Scott and the studio. In 2007 he made the ‘Final Cut’ that’s now on general release again.

After Dick’s death, Hollywood finally woke up to the cinematic potential of his dark vision. A slew of adaptations followed. In 1990 Paul Verhoeven made Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, based on Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. In 2002 Steven Spielberg made Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, based on a short story Dick wrote way back in 1956, in his twenties, when he was just starting out. Spielberg’s film grossed more than $130 million. Dick’s original fee for this story was $130. ‘Often, people claim to remember past lives,’ he said in 1977. ‘I claim to remember a different, very different present life.’ Our robots may not be quite up to scratch — not yet — but Philip K. Dick’s Mood Organ is already with us. In the parallel universe of the internet, the different present life that he remembered is not so far away.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 7 March 2015

Sam Miguel
03-18-2015, 08:00 AM
How Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, Blade Runner, foresaw the way we live today

On the eve of the re-release of Scott's 'Final Cut' at the BFI, William Cook explores the thoroughly modern riddles at the heart of this cult movie

William Cook 7 March 2015

In 1977 a journeyman actor called Brian Kelly optioned a science-fiction novel called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The book’s author, Philip K. Dick, had been writing science fiction since the early 1950s. He was 49 years old, with 30 novels behind him. He had a cult reputation, but he barely scraped a living. Kelly only paid him $2,500, but Dick was happy with this windfall. He’d written this book for half as much, back in 1968. After five more years, and many rewrites, Dick’s book finally became a film. Directed by Ridley Scott and renamed Blade Runner, it’s now commonly — and quite rightly — regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction movies ever made.

Now finally, after all this time, comes confirmation of the long-awaited sequel — directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Harrison Ford again, reprising his leading role as robot hunter Rick Deckard. Ford says the script is ‘the best thing I’ve ever read’. Will Scott’s direction be just as good? Here’s hoping.

In the meantime, if you can’t wait for Blade Runner 2 (or whatever they eventually decide to call it), from 3 April you can marvel at Scott’s original masterpiece on the big screen once again, as Blade Runner: The Final Cut returns to cinemas nationwide, courtesy of the BFI. Novelistic in its detail, operatic in its intensity, Scott’s direction still takes your breath away. Yet the most striking thing about Scott’s film — and Dick’s novel — is that they both foresaw the future. After all these years, Blade Runner remains an unforgettable experience. But since 1982 it’s become something else as well — a futuristic metaphor for the way we live today.

Dick delighted in making (almost) accurate predictions: nuclear meltdown in the Soviet Union by 1985 (Chernobyl blew up in 1986); artificial life by 1993 (Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1997). Written half a lifetime before the world wide web, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? displayed similarly spooky powers of prophecy. Anyone with a Facebook page will recognise the creepy appeal of Buster Friendly and his Friendly Friends, a never-ending chat show that broadcasts 24/7 throughout Dick’s novel. And anyone who’s searched for instant solutions to their problems in cyberspace (or been prescribed anti-depressants to boost their serotonin levels) will recognise Dick’s Mood Organ, a sly machine that conjures up all manner of emotions, from ‘awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future’ to ‘the desire to watch TV, no matter what’s on it’. As Dick observed, ‘The greatest pain does not come zooming down from a distant planet, but up from the depths of the heart.’

Scott’s movie retained relatively few of these sci-fi specifics, but he preserved the book’s pervasive air of virtual paranoia — its inherent uncertainty about the boundary between what’s real and what’s unreal. Harrison Ford’s Blade Runner hunts down replicants who’ve become too human, and ends up wondering if he’s a replicant himself. Are his memories really his own, or were they implanted by a higher power? ‘It’s not just “What if…” It’s “My God; what if…”’ stated Dick, of his attitude to science fiction. Watching Blade Runner today, you can’t help wondering if his nightmares have come true. What is the meaning of memory, now everything is a click away on Google? Is the internet transforming us into replicants, incapable of proper empathy? Will anything be left of us, once our entire lives are online?

Initially, Dick was rather disparaging about Blade Runner (he called it ‘Philip Marlowe meets The Stepford Wives’) but once he saw a rough cut, he was won over by Scott’s film. He didn’t mind at all that the film was so different from his novel. ‘The book and the movie do not fight each other, they reinforce each other,’ he said. ‘The human brain craves stimulation, and this movie will stimulate the brain.’ Dick never made it to the première. He died of a stroke, a few months before the movie opened. He was 53.

Ridley Scott had had a big hit with Alien, and Harrison Ford had had an even bigger hit with Star Wars — but despite this winning team of hot star and hip director, the initial response to Blade Runner was tepid. Its first cinematic outing made a mere $14 million, barely half its production budget. The critics were underwhelmed. Janet Maslin of the New York Times called it ‘muddled yet mesmerising’, yet the intrinsic ‘muddle’ of Blade Runner is what makes it so mesmeric, then and now. The film (and the book) is built on an unanswerable conundrum. As robots evolve, at what stage do they become human? And as our lives become more and more computerised, at what stage do we start to become machines?

This thoroughly modern riddle is what gives Blade Runner its staying power, but such profound questions were far too tricksy for the film’s money men. The studio imposed various changes, including a corny film noir voice-over, in an attempt to explain away the film’s multiple complexities. Several alternative versions subsequently emerged, of which Scott’s ‘Final Cut’ is the finest, but even the Chandleresque original was a triumph. Scott said he wanted to make a film ‘set 40 years hence, made in the style of 40 years ago’. Thirty-three years hence, it still feels intensely contemporary. The only thing that’s dated is the computers — and the shoulder pads.

Fittingly, for a film about the perils of technological innovation, it was new technology that kept Blade Runner alive. Home video was the latest gizmo, and Blade Runner quickly climbed to the top of the rental charts. Movie execs may have been confused by its ambiguities, but movie buffs revelled in them. Within a year, the film had spawned its own fanzine. In 1983, the assembled nerds of the World Science Fiction Convention voted it the third best science-fiction movie of all time. Scott went on to direct a string of smart Hollywood hits: Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven… In 1992 he made the so-called ‘Director’s Cut’ of Blade Runner — actually a creative compromise between Scott and the studio. In 2007 he made the ‘Final Cut’ that’s now on general release again.

After Dick’s death, Hollywood finally woke up to the cinematic potential of his dark vision. A slew of adaptations followed. In 1990 Paul Verhoeven made Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, based on Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. In 2002 Steven Spielberg made Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, based on a short story Dick wrote way back in 1956, in his twenties, when he was just starting out. Spielberg’s film grossed more than $130 million. Dick’s original fee for this story was $130. ‘Often, people claim to remember past lives,’ he said in 1977. ‘I claim to remember a different, very different present life.’ Our robots may not be quite up to scratch — not yet — but Philip K. Dick’s Mood Organ is already with us. In the parallel universe of the internet, the different present life that he remembered is not so far away.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 7 March 2015

Sam Miguel
01-15-2016, 02:09 PM
6 Movie Plots Solved In Minutes With Common Sense

By Jacopo della Quercia , Aatif Zubair | January 12, 2016 | 794,858 views

The whole fun of movies is that these characters' problems are not like our own. Where our biggest adventures involve trying to chase a cat out from under the bed with a broomstick, these people are running from robot explosions or cross-examining flamboyant serial killers. But lots of times, a little closer look at a movie plot reveals that they were making things way harder on themselves than necessary.

#6. X-Men: Days Of Future Past - Xavier Forgot He Controls Minds

Days Of Future Past was the second delicate reboot of the X-Men franchise. In it, Charles Xavier sends Wolverine back in time to stop Mystique from assassinating Bolivar Trask and prevent a human-mutant war that eats the future. Xavier has a gentleman's agreement not to use his mental powers against Mystique, so this involves a lot more dialogue and espionage than you'd expect from a man who can control minds.

What Would Have Made More Sense:

Let's go along with the conceit that Xavier won't enter Mystique's mind and force her to step down. None of us are telepathic mutants and we can never fully understand their ways and customs. But ... couldn't he ignore Mystique and just go into the mind of Trask himself, then incept away all his mutant genocide thoughts?

You're already in the comments typing this, but the plot tries to account for it by starting the movie with Xavier's powers being broken. Except they don't stay that way for long. A few minutes after, you know, trying, he's mind-controlling people like crazy. He could have gone right up to Trask, shook his hand, and made him devote his life to, say, breaking the dildo-sitting world record. And to make it harder, he could have scanned the world for the man with the most flexible colon and planted it in his mind as well. It wouldn't have to be exactly that, we guess. The point is he needed something else to do with his life.

It's a movie about saving the world from hate, and they give the main character the one specific superpower that can do that directly. He works hard to make it complicated, but Professor X could do any number of clearly harmless, obviously beneficial things. In fact, once Xavier found out he was going to lose his hair, he could have planted an idea in some TV producer's brain to remake Star Trek, only with a bald Kirk so women in the future would find hairless men sexy. It sounds ridiculou- wait ... dear God ... are we, right now, living in the Days Of Future Past universe?

#5. Iron Man - The Forgetful Reporter

Billionaire weapons dealer Tony Stark is kidnapped by a terrorist organization called the "Ten Rings" but manages to survive by fixing the hole in his chest with 1,200 pounds of laser-blasting armor. Late in the movie, Stark discovers his business partner Obadiah Stane masterminded the kidnapping and was secretly supplying weapons to the terrorists. He is shocked! Horrified! And like all things will, this eventually led to a robot suit battle.

What Would Have Made More Sense:

Halfway through the movie, a female reporter showed Stark some pictures of Stark Industry weapons being used by the Ten Rings in Afghanistan. When Stark denied his involvement, she retorts by revealing that the weapon's shipment was officially authorized by Stark Industries:

So with this huge intel, all the reporter had to do was something she almost certainly had in mind all along: report it. She had a pile of information and a quote from Stark himself, surprised by it and not denying it. Stark Industries would have been immediately under investigation by every agency and news outlet. MSNBC's entire news cycle would be devoted to reading evil Stark documents and interviewing evil Stark employees. However, FOX News' editorial direction wouldn't change as they continued to demand, "Why the media can't just leave evil billionaires alone?"

It wouldn't take much effort to uncover the plot. Stane's evil schemes were right there on his computer, and there had to have been dozens of inept, bumbling employees working on his very suspicious personal projects. Plus, with Stark being kidnapped and tortured, that would make Stane the acting CEO and lead suspect before the first inspector arrived at one of their death warehouses.

But ... nothing like this ever happens. The journalist shows Stark the pictures and then never bothers to publicize them or even report them to her boss. Is it because Stark slept with her early in the movie, and she is still pining for him? It'd be like a reporter finding out Donald Trump's business partners had ties to ISIS, then just dropping it in hopes Trump would throw her some dick.

"Actually, this story is going to seem like small potatoes the moment the world finds out Odin is the one true God."

#4. Transformers - The Decepticons Could've Gotten The AllSpark With Their Tiny Spybots

The Decepticons are searching for the AllSpark, a mysterious McGuffin that can turn ordinary objects into transformer objects. The AllSpark is on Earth, and the map to it is etched on a pair of glasses owned by Sam Witwicky's great-grandfather. In a way, it's genius -- with a map right on your glasses, you can drive to your space artifacts without having to do any folding or refolding.

The Decepticons initially deployed a stealthy spy robot, "Frenzy," inside Air Force One, where its space Internet sensors discovered Witwicky was selling the glasses on eBay. It then hacked eBay to discover Witwicky's location. Knowing by now everyone watching the movie would be bored beyond reason, the very next scene has poor Witwicky and his girlfriend, Mikaela Banes, running from vague, robot-like avalanches of metal shapes.

What Would Have Made More Sense:

The glasses were on eBay. Couldn't the Decepticons just, you know, buy them? Like, couldn't that space hacker Frenzy just put in a bid? It shouldn't be that hard for a bunch of super advanced space robots to put the cash together, or fool PayPal into thinking they had.

And if coming up with the money was too difficult, the Decepticons still knew the address to Witwicky's house. They could have sent the same tiny robot in infiltrate his home security, which was probably easier to circumvent than Air Force One's. It could've stolen both the glasses and the AllSpark over the weekend without the government or the Autobots knowing anything about it. It's only through severe stupidity by every robot and filmmaker involved that this was anything other than, at worst, an online auction or at best, a roboburglary.

Instead, the Decepticons deployed swarming piles of pots and pans to attack Witwicky. In military terms, it was like declaring war on Mexico in order to pick up a chalupa combo. The plan was so bad, it alerted both the Autobots and every government on Earth who managed to defeat the Decepticons using only 144 minutes of explosions.

Sam Miguel
01-15-2016, 02:13 PM
^^^ (Cont'd )

#3. Primal Fear - Everyone Who Knows Roy Forgets To Talk To The Press

If you haven't seen Primal Fear, its description is going to sound absurd. It was about a stuttering wimp of a boy named Aaron, who killed a priest and got away with it because the murder was committed by his split personality, Roy, who was forced to make homemade porno movies with the archbishop. The only thing that kept it from being ridiculous was Ed Norton's acting, which was especially amazing since Aaron was totally sane and made Roy up. So Norton was pretending to be a timid man pretending to be a crazy man in a good movie pretending to have a Mexican soap opera plot.

In the end, his lawyer (Richard Gere), who believed him, convinced a court Roy was a real thing and Aaron shouldn't be responsible for the murder. It wasn't the first time a good lawyer looked like a total asshole, but it's one of the most memorable.

What Would Have Made More Sense:

Roy's case had received national media attention. Everyone clicks on an article with the headline "Archbishop Murdered by Simpleton's Split Personality." But honestly, most of them click on the reaction piece, "3 Reasons Our Culture Says All Murderer Split Personalities Have to Be Men" or the reaction to that, "What Feminists Need to Learn About Murder" or the reaction to that, "Popular Split Personality Blogger's Home Address and Private Photos Leaked by #Roywasright Supporter."

The point is, everyone in the world was looking at it and talking about it. Which makes sense until you realize the media, lawyers, reporters, and FBI had all forgotten to look into Aaron's past. And apparently, every single person from Aaron's past forgot about him. It seems like one of his classmates or neighbors might have remembered him being a totally different guy every now and then. The closest thing they did to a background check was this conversation between Roy and his lawyer:

You from Kentucky, Aaron?
Yes, sir. I'm from Creekside.
Does it say that there?
No.

... and that's the end of the probing. Seriously. There was no further probing of his past, which is pretty lucky considering his plan hinged on convincing everyone he was a weak, stammering idiot. And even if no one from his past came forward, it'd probably be strange if there were no medical records for a man with this much wrong with him. All it would have taken was for one single person from Roy's past to turn on the TV or read a newspaper and Norton's plans would've sunk faster than Gere's face at the end.

#2. Men In Black 3 - The MIB Forget Spaceships Exist

In this movie, Will Smith (Agent J) goes back in time to save his partner from being murdered in the past. While there, they work together to deploy a planetary shield to prevent conquering space squids. However, since it's 1969, the only way to get the shield into space is by piggybacking on the Apollo 11 rocket. You know, it might have been faster to say it involves every sci-fi concept that's ever been.

What Would Have Made More Sense:

Although we give this film mad props for neuralyzing all memory of that first terrible sequel ...

... the first film sort of slaughters the plot to Men In Black 3. In the third one, our heroes need to deploy the ArcNet Shield in orbit, hence the film's climax atop the Saturn V rocket. Although this makes for fine cinema with an emotional ending, it kind of ignores how the MIB already had access to spaceships in 1969.

In the first Men In Black, we learn the 1964 World's Fair was a cover-up for UFOs, hence its suspicious location in Queens. Not only do these flying saucers still work, we see them work in the first movie. All Agents J and K had to do in Men In Black 3 was drive to Flushing Meadows, and boom -- problem solved.

Actually, J and K may not have even had to deploy it themselves. New York was loaded with aliens in 1969, among them the alien they received the ArcNet from. Why not ask one of them to deploy the shield on their way home that evening? The point is, gunfighting their way to the top of the worst spaceship on the planet was a dumb but awesome idea. And honestly, if you're fixing a timeline, "dumb but awesome" is probably the combination we're most comfortable with.

#1. Terminator Salvation - Skynet's Pointlessly Elaborate Plan To Kill John Connor v4.01b

In the 2009 movie, which you may recall not being very good, Skynet sends yet another cyborg after John Connor, this time without any time travel. It's a pretty complicated scheme since the secret cyborg isn't aware he's a cyborg, and his plan starts with a random explosion that reveals his secret to everyone. So he's a robot, but a nice one, which leads to the idea of using him in a plan to sneak into Skynet. It's important to know that after Terminator 2, all Terminator plots were written by putting books into a food processor until it starts a fire, then asking firefighters to write a film as they put out the blaze.

In this particular Terminator movie, the cyborg unwittingly leads Connor into a trap, which was Skynet's plan all along. Luckily, that seemed to be the end of the plan, so Connor manages to get out by fighting a terminator and leaving.

What Would Have Made More Sense:

Almost anything, but seriously, didn't Skynet capture this guy earlier in the movie?

For those who were lucky enough to miss this movie, that's Kyle Reese, Connor's father (by way of time semination). Skynet knew he was Connor's dad since we see Reese was the No. 1 target on their list. And to be clear, he was on the same list as Connor and other members of the resistance being killed, which means this was absolutely not a "keep alive" list. So why did they?

They captured the father of the leader of the humans; they don't bother to robokill him or roboterrogate him. They simply throw him in a cellar. Maybe there was some step of the bizarre plan where they lured Connor into their base and tricked him into kissing his own dad, but we never got to see it. It was merely pointless stupidity. Or maybe they knew, depending on which rules of time travel you go by, that killing Reese would retroactively erase the first and second Terminator from the universe, which was an act of evil even robots are not capable of.

Joescoundrel
03-29-2017, 10:14 AM
From the LA Times ___

The original 'Ghost in the Shell' was a watershed film in animation history

Charles Solomon

Mamoru Oshii's 1995 Japanese sci-fi epic "Ghost in the Shell" ranks as a watershed film in animation history.

A moody, provocative adventure set in a dystopic future, "Ghost" defined cyberpunk, spawned a string of sequels and TV series, and influenced films on both sides of the Pacific. Last year, protests erupted when Paramount announced a live-action remake starring Scarlett Johansson as the crime-fighting cyborg, Maj. Motoko Kusanagi. That film opens Friday.

An agent for Public Security Section 9 who suggests a cross between a Playboy centerfold and the Terminator, Maj. Kusanagi battles the hacker known only as "The Puppet Master." But her real quest is of self-discovery: Does her "Ghost," her essential being, reside in the organic brain within her largely prosthetic body or is it part of the Web? Which is more real: the physical world or the electronic one?

Roland Kelts, the author of "Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S.," said the original "Ghost" "introduced American audiences to the philosophical risk-taking and literary sophistication of Japanese animation. The film is about defending against malicious hackers, and the fluidity of gender identities ? making it almost unbearably prescient two decades later."

"Ghost" began as a manga - a Japanese graphic novel - by Masamune Shirow that was popular among animators.

"I figured it would eventually be animated, and that I would likely end up directing the animated adaptation," Oshii said in a recent interview conducted via email. "I tried to make Shirow?s abstruse work as easy to understand as possible, but in spite of my efforts, it seems to have a reputation as a difficult film. It wasn?t very well received when it first hit theaters in Japan, so I was taken aback by its reception in the United States. Its ongoing popularity shocks me, frankly: I never thought of it as something audiences would keep watching for such a long time."

He speculated on the reasons for that success: "Real and unreal worlds are a dramatic theme as old as time: Humans are by nature unable to live in anything but a virtual world, and it will never be possible to prove that one's own reality is the same as another person's."

Many recent Japanese animated features deal with shifting identities and uncertain realities. But Oshii seemed skeptical about his work affecting other filmmakers. "Perhaps the influence is more about directorial aspects than about the ideas ['Ghost'] explores," he said. "People have told me about the similarities between my film and 'The Matrix' with annoying frequency, but that series is based on the Wachowskis' own worldview."

"Ultimately, all movies begin as copies of others, and it's impossible to avoid consciously or unconsciously copying things from other works," he added. "Any film set in a near-future world is influenced to some degree by 'Blade Runner,' but I did my best to make ['Ghost'] different from it. In terms of the film's style, I drew more from 'hard-boiled' Hollywood movies."

The casting of Johansson, a white actress, as a quintessentially Japanese character created a storm in social media about "whitewashing." (The name Kusanagi is taken from the sacred sword that is part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan.) An online petition calling on the studio to "reconsider casting Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell and select actors who are truer to the cast of the original film" garnered over 100,000 signatures.

That controversy did not extend to Japan. "Asian Americans and anime fans outside of Japan yelped in anger and disbelief when Johansson was announced as the lead," Kelts said. "But in Japan, the casting choice is largely perceived as shrewd: She's a marquee name who may sell tickets; a bit funny, since she's about as Japanese as a Big Mac."

Oshii said he's eager to see Johannson's interpretation of the character: "I'm a fan of hers, so I'm quite looking forward to seeing what kind of woman her Major will be. I think it's the best possible casting."

Joescoundrel
03-29-2017, 10:25 AM
From the LA Times ___

Disney film executive delivers sobering message on changing cinema business

Ryan Faughnder

Hollywood's annual gathering of movie studios and theater owners in Las Vegas, known as CinemaCon, normally opens with a cheerleading speech for the movie business dominated by talk of box office records and global growth.

But the event's opening remarks by Disney's film distribution head, Dave Hollis, took a slightly more sober look at the troubling trends affecting the film business, including long-term pressure on attendance because of digital media.

In his remarks to cinema owners at Caesar's Palace, Hollis acknowledged stagnation in the actual number of tickets sold (1.32 billion last year, compared with 1.4 billion a decade ago). Moreover, he said, per capita attendance, the average number of times each person bought a movie ticket, is on the decline. Last year, per capita attendance fell by 1%.

Those trends undercut some of the fanfare surrounding last year's record $11.4 billion in box office revenue in the U.S. and Canada. Box office is expected to remain relatively flat in the next several years, reaching $11.5 billion by 2020, Hollis said, citing analysts.

Hollis, like many analysts, blamed the increasing amount of new digital entertainment options sucking up more of people's time. Movie attendance among young adults ages 18-39 is down significantly from five years ago, he noted.

"It does feel like the changing lives of our consumers are having some impact," Hollis said. "The great news, obviously, is box office is up, but our goal has always been to stay ahead and look for new opportunities to drive it forward and keep it as healthy as it can be."

Hollis gave some jaw-dropping numbers on the proliferation of social media use. The number of tweets sent per minute has grown from 98,000 per minute in 2011 to 430,000 last year, he told the crowd, joking, "albeit, most of it [coming] from our president," referring to President Trump's penchant for early-morning Twitter use.

"This is disruption personified," Hollis said.

But Hollis said theater companies' efforts to court millennials with improved theater amenities, coupled with studios' focus on must-see blockbuster movies, is working. Per capita attendance among 18- to 24-year-olds increased for the first time in five years in 2016, up 10% to an average 6.5 tickets sold.

The picture is bleaker, however, among teenagers - the hoped-for next generation of moviegoers - whose attendance fell 16% last year to 6.1 on average, according to a recent report by the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

Despite all the talk of digital disruption, Hollis was conspicuously silent on another hot-button issue. The major studios - with the exception of Disney - are putting pressure on cinema owners to allow earlier releases of movies as video on demand as the film companies' home entertainment profits deteriorate. Disney, the industry leader, has resisted the move because its movie business is built around the biggest superhero films, computer-animated pictures and "Star Wars" movies that people still want to see on the big screen.

Having Hollis on the CinemaCon bill also was unusual. Usually Chris Dodd, the head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, opens the ceremonies and champions the industry?s global growth.

Yet Dodd, for the first time in recent memory, skipped the confab for a prior family commitment, a spokesman for the MPAA said.

Joescoundrel
11-21-2017, 03:08 PM
The 25 Best Movies Based on True Crimes

You just can't make this stuff up

By PAUL SCHRODT | Nov 14, 2017

Crime movies have been popular as long as movies have been around, and the world keeps providing ever stranger real-life material for them to use. It'd be hard to invent the terrifying stories behind classics like Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, or more scuzzy works like the vacation-from-hell horror movie Wolf Creek—and they didn't. In recent years, the "based on a true story" conceit has become a tired Hollywood trope, but only because these movies so masterfully blended nonfiction with the wild imaginative possibilities of the big screen. Here are the best movie based on true crimes, ranked.

American Hustle
Despite what the trailer and posters might make you think, American Hustle is about more than Amy Adams' cleavage. The movie stylishly riffs on the FBI's 1970s ABSCAM sting operation, and is filled with as many twists and double-crossings as era-appropriate pop songs and swishy dance moves.

Catch Me If You Can
It's not Steven Spielberg's best, but Catch Me If You Can ranks among the director’s more entertaining movies. It tracks Frank Abagnale's rise as a wunderkind conman. Leonardo DiCaprio has never been more enjoyably charming and slimy.

Zodiac
Zodiac wasn't necessarily the movie horror fans - or fans of David Fincher's previous Seven - expected. Instead, it's a process movie about the people who tried to unmask California's Zodiac Killer. Studiously researched and impeccably shot, Zodiac turns into something larger and more foreboding than a spate of murders.

Memories of Murder
Before South Korean director Bong Joon-ho made international thrillers like Snowpiercer and Okja, he crafted this gem of a murder mystery, based on Korea's first serial murders. He brings his signature pitch-black humor to the story of two detectives in over their heads trying to solve the puzzling killings.

The Wolf of Wall Street
The best and boldest thing about The Wolf of Wall Street, possibly Scorsese's most indulgent movie, is how fun it makes its crimes look. Scorsese and writer Terence Winter condense fraudulent stockbroker Jordan Belfort's memoir down to basically the most sensational parts, putting you in the headspace of a man who sees other people's money as his own playpen.

Casino
Scorsese gets three movies on this list, and deserves all of them. Casino is an underrated '90s gangster effort living in Goodfellas' shadow. The cast—Robert De Niro as a low-level mobster making his way up the casino racket (based on Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal) and Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci as the wife and friend who threaten to tear it down—is entirely perfect.

Summer of Sam
An uncharacteristic movie for Spike Lee, Summer of Sam depicts the effect of the notorious murders of "Son of Sam" David Berkowitz on young men living in The Bronx in 1977. Lee seamlessly weaves the stories together, and John Leguizamo proves he's a real-deal actor.

Bully
The twisted, trashy story of South Florida high schoolers who murdered a sadistic friend who had abused them, Bully is a hard one to stomach, but director Larry Clark (Kids) gives the script the no-bullshit delivery it deserves, and Brad Renfro's performance is quietly haunting.

Dog Day Afternoon
The movie inspired by a Brooklyn robbery solidified Al Pacino's legend, in all its spittle-filled, shouting glory.

The French Connection
The fictionalized account of New York City detectives who pursue a French drug smuggler is essentially one long, glorious chase scene. But Gene Hackman's performance and the sobering ending give it moral weight.

All the President's Men
Bless them, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman made journalism sexy by embodying Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they followed trails that led them them to connect a Watergate burglary to President Nixon.

Wolf Creek
One of the great horror movies of the 21st century, Wolf Creek is also the main reason I'm scared to visit Australia. Fictionalizing two different Aussie backpack murderers, it follows three sexy tourists venturing into the Outback who meet a stranger and...well, you know the rest. What separates Wolf Creek from other slashers is its unflinching directness; not since Michael Myers has there been a depiction of a man made of such pure evil.

JFK
While the assassination of John F. Kennedy remains officially solved, Oliver Stone's historical drama is such a persuasive conspiracy thriller that it will leave you convinced that something else was at work.

Anatomy of a Murder
Jimmy Stewart is as flawless as he ever was wavering between comic and dramatic in the Otto Preminger-directed courtroom drama, based on a novel written by a defense attorney and inspired by one of his cases. Few movies seem to grasp the moral ambiguity of the legal system while also being both realistic and tense.

Spotlight
Spotlight could've been really boring. Not because the story itself—about the conspiracy to cover up child sex abuse by the Catholic Church in Boston—is boring. But the Best Picture-winner chooses to focus on the perspective of the journalists who unearthed that scandal by spending a lot of time at their desks calling people up. Remarkably, director Tom McCarthy's movie manages to improve on All the President's Men by not even attempting to sensationalise what these journalists do. It unravels in straightforward, stoic conversations that gradually build into almost unbearable catharsis.

The Untouchables
One of director Brian De Palma's best movies is also one of his most conventional: Kevin Costner plays federal agent Eliot Ness, who is trying to nab Al Capone (Robert De Niro). The staircase sequence, inspired by the silent movie Battleship Potemkin, is a mini-masterpiece of suspense.

F for Fake
Orson Welles's last, great movie is ostensibly a documentary about an art forger, but it quickly fractures into something else. Welles intrudes on his own narrative to raise questions about the nature of authenticity. It's his own amusing, exceptionally clever take on postmodernism.

In the Realm of the Senses
If you watched In the Realm of the Senses without background knowledge, you might wonder what sick nutjob wrote it. But it's based on a Japanese woman who became national myth—a Geisha in the 1930s who strangled her boss/lover in the heat of passion and then, uh, took a souvenir from his body. In the Realm of the Senses artfully abstracts that tale, unfolding in long, largely silent, and sexually explicit takes.

Badlands
Terrence Malick's stunning 1973 feature debut gives poetic shape to its inspiration, based on spree killer Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend. Sissy Spacek does justice to the dreamy, elliptical voiceover dialogue covering their courtship and crimes.

Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde is such a singular, monumental movie in American history that it's as famous as the couple it's about. Which is only right: Never before had a major movie in the United States addressed criminal and sexual themes so openly and without any heavy-handed judgment. The stark, bloody climax still feels revolutionary.

Munich
Steven Spielberg clearly had a lot invested in Munich, his nearly three-hour telling of Israeli spies' revenge against Palestinian terrorists who murdered the country's Olympic athletes in 1972. It was sadly overlooked at the box office, but Spielberg not only brings his mastery of visuals and suspense to his political thriller, but also humanity and scope that sadly many such movies (looking at you, Argo) lack.

M
The serial-killer genre owes all its debts to German director Fritz Lang's astounding 1931 movie, which draws on murders in the country around the time and a real Berlin criminal investigator. Portraying an underworld of criminals who are out to catch one of their own in murky black-and-white photography, it's as scary and thrilling as anything released since.

A Man Escaped
The classic by director Robert Bresson is about a criminal you can root for, since he's escaping a prison in Nazi-occupied France (it's based on the memoirs of Andr? Devigny). As in Bresson's other landmark works, it's awe-inspiring to watch how controlled the movie is while also seeming like it could be a documentary.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Tobe Hooper's '70s grindhouse classic is loosely—very loosely—based on the crimes of Ed Gein. No, Leatherface never existed, which is almost too bad, because he would have made a hell of an America's Most Wanted episode. But Texas Chainsaw is on here because it gets its power from its faked, lo-fi sense of authenticity. It plays out like the most disturbing home video of all time, and was even promoted more or less as such, making a franchise out of the fear that there is always a monster lurking just around the corner of a country backroad.

Goodfellas
If it's not Martin Scorsese's best movie (and it might well be), then Goodfellas is at least the culmination of what he'd been working toward for years: a time-jumping, ego- and testosterone-filled gangster epic portraying Henry Hill's (Ray Liotta) life in the mafia. It's a movie no one else could have made, and one every other gangster flick will be compared to in the future.

Joescoundrel
12-12-2017, 10:59 AM
This Generation Will Never Understand the Impact of FPJ

Today's generation of movie brats will be watching FPJ through the lenses of irony.

By LOURD DE VEYRA | Jun 15, 2017

This generation will never experience moviehouses where you can smoke, eat absolutely anything (i.e. manggang hilaw with bagoong), pay for one ticket and stay inside the entire day, or enter at any point in the screening thanks to lax ticket takers in Cubao cinemas. (I will forever be grateful to these nameless heroes.) This generation will never get to watch an entire film standing in a thick crowd, or sitting on suspiciously sticky aisles. Like lining up for a payphone, changing television channels by tweaking a dial, sending telegrams, there is something else this generation will never experience - the latest Fernando Poe Jr. movie in theaters.

The FPJ oeuvre can be largely categorized in two: Westerns in the '60s to '70s and thereafter, cop stories. In between are the fantasies, the costume-and-sword epics, and the comedies. The generation of the ?60s idolized FPJ the brooding, stoic, meditative gunslinger riding across the empty plains. The FPJ I grew up with was the probinsiyano cop who suddenly finds himself in savage gun battles in decaying Manila streets.

I preferred the police dramas. Not because my father was part of the Western Police District (he was a true fan but wouldn't admit to it on the dinner table, citing the physical impossibilities of disassembling a .45). But this was also the time of Rambo, Death Wish II, and other explosive stories of urban carnage. FPJ?s police dramas were snappy and broiling with wit, and the bloodshed was almost gleefully operatic.

As actor and director, he operated with such uncanny understanding of his audience. Un-neurotic, brooding, yet he is a dispenser of monumental violence, so when the hero finally erupts, the audience might experience ?catharsis? of the Aristotelian sort. I remember the whole of Coronet Theater erupting in wild applause and laughter when FPJ buried Eddie Garcia alive in Ako Ang Huhusga (1989). Partida is one of my favorites because here he goes up not against Eddie Garcia or Paquito Diaz but a mortally distressed Armida Siguion-Reyna - something mildly Shakespearean about the whole conflict.

Average shot length in mainstream Philippine cinema has decreased significantly (unless it's Lav Diaz, but I did say "mainstream" ). Understand that FPJ constructed this legend within the classical narrative tradition.

But in his fight scenes, there is a deftness that can never be matched by any of today?s action stars - if any. (Fuck you, ER Ejercito.) The beauty of an FPJ fight sequence is the precision. No steadicam, no shaky handhelds whose disorientation is meant to mask actors? physical limitations. I don?t know how it registers to the kids of today, on their LED screens and tablets, but on the giant screen, an FPJ raining fists on his enemies is consummate poetry.

Consider this sequence in Ang Probinsyano: Seated on a table across his brother's assassins, he punches the guy on the right and pumps nine bullets into the one in front. Cut to reaction shot of people panicking. It lasts all of four seconds but it blisters with the completion of a miniepic in itself, if you believe Kubrick?s dictum about editing being the heart and soul of cinema. Silence. Precision. Rhythm. Violence. Then silence again - the basic cinematic unit of the cinema of Fenando Poe Jr.

There?s a scene in Muslim .357, after Rene Hawkins insults Muslims - "Matatapang?pero utak lamok!" - the camera cuts to a protruding handle in Poe?s pants. Next thing we see is FPJ carving a diagonal slash across the bad guy?s face, and eviscerating four more. That explosion of violence, justified by being prefaced with such a glaring insult... You could understand why they cheered for him in Mindanao.

In another scene: "Kumain ka na at magpakabusog? dahil ang sunod na kakainin mo ay tingga," he says in an apocalyptic half-whisper before slaughtering Vic Diaz, who slumps to the floor with a mouthful of pancit. Of course, at the time, it was important that the cop-era movies contain one powerful line of campy, macho dialogue, which always had an almost biblical resonance. Time was when that particular line would easily find centrifuge in many aspects of popular culture, often quoted even in political columns and parodied in sitcoms and recited by schoolchildren. But the '80s in particular was a Renaissance period for deathless lines - lines we?ll keep repeating and remembering until Baby James (now Bimby) enters rehab.

The cop films got more imaginative when it came to violence. In Muslim .357, through the crosshairs of his pistol, we see a growing map of blood on towel covering Romy Diaz's face in the barbershop. More slaughter ensues via the POV of the telescope. There was something coldblooded and nihilistic about it. Oh, the cruelty?shooting George Estregan in cold blood. The Western FPJ would rarely do such a thing. Oh, and one other important thing: from an FPJ movie I learned what enema was. I asked my father what "labatiba" meant. It was because Eddie Garcia said, "Si Maramag?nilabatiba mo ng shotgun." See, in Ako Ang Huhusga, FPJ blasted Paquito Diaz's rectum with said weapon. So hitherto, I can't help but associate an enema with shotguns.

Today?s generation of movie brats will be watching FPJ through the lenses of irony. You may upload as many movies on YouTube with your own running commentary and re-edits, but you will never ever see Fernando Poe Jr., beamed on a 30-ft screen, administering Paquito Diaz an enema with a shotgun.

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Esquire Philippines. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

Joescoundrel
12-13-2017, 09:05 AM
From the Vintage News...

How scene stealer Steve McQueen tried to make sure all eyes would be on him in "The Magnificent Seven" and not Yul Brynner

Instant Articles Strangeness Dec 6, 2017 Nancy Bilyeau

Ever since his death in 1980s at the age of 50, Steve McQueen's reputation as the King of Cool has grown and grown. Black-and-white photos of McQueen's lean, weather-beaten face squinting into the sun compete with vivid color images of him straddling a motorcycle or climbing out of a race car, his eyes startling blue. Then there are the photos of McQueen with his arm around his second wife, Ali McGraw, the patrician brunette beauty fresh off Love Story who he stole from her Hollywood husband, Robert Evans, while she was his co-star in The Getaway.

An essential aspect of a cool persona is a temperament that is laid-back and confident. In the photos, it's as if McQueen were saying, "I don't have to work to get these acting parts or awards or million-dollar fees, or these race cars, or even these beautiful women, they just come to me without effort."

But what is being lost in the iconography of Steven McQueen is how badly he wanted certain things, none more so than a film career in the late 1950s. There wasn't much of anything he wouldn't do to get it. The Magnificent Seven, released in 1960, is the story of McQueen's reality. The King of Cool did more than break a sweat to get cast in and film this movie - he had a series of meltdowns.

Directed by John Sturges, The Magnificent Seven is one of the most popular and enduring of all Westerns. Seen today, it's not a bit dated, creating excitement all the way through, and true drama. It's seen as the bridge between the more straightforward Westerns like The Searchers and the late 1960s Spaghetti Westerns like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Based on the Akira Kurosawa film The Seven Samurai and powered by an Elmer Bernstein score, it is a classic.

Yet while it was being developed and filmed, The Magnificent Seven was a frantic, troubled, uncertain project. There was fighting over who owned the initial rights to adapt it and over screenwriter credit afterward. It was cast in a hurry as an Actors Strike loomed, and shot in Mexico while a disapproving Mexican censor rammed through changes. Just as Casablanca was a chaotic set of last-minute script changes and lead actors who didn't connect offscreen and yet is now one of the most beloved films of all time, the much-admired Magnificent Seven was an angry set and no one contributed to the tense atmosphere more than Steve McQueen.

In the late 1950s, McQueen was primarily a TV actor and he was pushing 30. America liked him as bounty hunter Josh Randall in the TV Western Wanted: Dead or Alive. He had won a few film parts, but they were in sci-fi films like The Blob or the soapy Never Love a Stranger. When McQueen heard they were casting The Magnificent Seven, he immediately wanted to be one of the Seven, and told his agent to get him out of his TV contract for long enough to do the picture. But the producers of Dead or Alive, a hit series, said no. McQueen personally pushed for it and lobbied, and they still said no.

So McQueen intentionally got himself into a car accident.

The story has circulated in Hollywood for a while that McQueen risked injuring himself or even killing himself to get a part in The Magnificent Seven, and some people assume it?s exaggerated. But his first wife, Neile, has confirmed that while they were on vacation in Boston, McQueen deliberately ran his car into the side of a bank. His agent said, "He took his rented Cadillac and ran it into the Bank of Boston and came out of it with whiplash."

McQueen returned to Los Angeles with his neck in a stiff brace. He got out of his TV contract and he won the part of the drifter gunman Vin Tanner in The Magnificent Seven.

However, when he reported to the set, Steve McQueen wasn't scamming TV producers any longer, he was coming up against an actor who was definitely his match in ambition: Yul Brynner, the star of The Magnificent Seven. Brynner, who had say in the casting, supported hiring McQueen and may even have suggested him. That made no difference. Stories of the enmity between the hyper-competitive McQueen and Brynner would soon become so widespread that Brynner was forced to give a newspaper interview to calm things down.

Brynner, 39, had a huge advantage. He'd had a red-hot run in major movies in the previous two years, from The King and I, which he first starred in on Broadway, to The Ten Commandments to Anastasia, for which he won an Academy Award. Women found him incredibly sexy. Eli Wallach, who portrayed the villain in The Magnificent Seven, said, "He had a magnetism."

It may seem that quintessential American actor Steve McQueen could have nothing in common with European exotic Yul Brynner. But the two men had similar backgrounds, albeit on different parts of the planet. McQueen's father abandoned his mother at their child's birth, and, an alcoholic, she put Steve into a boy's home. He never graduated from high school; dyslexic, he lived on the streets, running with gangs for a while before joining the Marines. As for Yul Brynner, he encouraged reporters to think he was a gypsy or half-Japanese, half-French, or an orphaned Mongolian noble. In fact, he was none of those things, born in a corner of Russia close to China called Vladivostok. His father, a mining engineer, also abandoned his family to financial peril when Yul was young. He had little formal education and ended up as a circus acrobat in Paris. "He spoke of his father with bitterness," Yul's daughter said in a documentary. McQueen and Brynner were both married multiple times, better fathers than they were husbands.

Yul loved Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai when he saw it in the theater and insisted in later interviews he personally obtained the rights to film the story in America from the Japanese. This was simply not true. Producer Walter Mirisch negotiated the American rights, with Anthony Quinn set to star. After Brynner took over, Mirisch was out and so was Quinn.

The fact that there were seven gunmen in the film meant it had the potential to get crowded. Sturges cast the parts alongside Brynner with what were later called "the young bucks": McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn and James Coburn, as well as Brad Dexter and Horst Buchholz. Right off the bat, McQueen wasn't happy with the number of lines he had in the film. He griped to Vaughn and the other young bucks that Brynner had far and away the best lines. He had a separate massive trailer and a luxury limousine. Plus, onscreen Brynner had the biggest horse and the biggest gun. They were going to suffer in comparison, McQueen kept saying.

Joescoundrel
12-13-2017, 09:05 AM
^ Continued from above ...

Once filming was underway, McQueen decided to do what he could to take the picture away from Brynner. Since the two characters, Chris and Vin, were, ironically, close friends onscreen, they were in a lot of shots together. McQueen constantly did what he could to distract attention so future audiences would look only at him: he took off his hat, played with his gun, checked his bullets, twisted in the saddle, any bit of business possible. When the camera was rolling and he was crossing a stream on horseback behind Brynner, he swung out of his saddle, scooped water in his cowboy hat, and doused himself.

Another story, one that is sometimes discounted, revolves around certain mounds of dirt. When Brynner had to stand next to McQueen, he reportedly saw to it that there was a small hill of dirt to stand on so he was taller. (Brynner was five foot eight and McQueen was five foot ten.) McQueen, whenever possible, kicked the dirt hill down. According to Eli Wallach, Brynner was so concerned about McQueen stealing scenes that he hired an assistant to count the number of times McQueen touched his cowboy hat while Brynner was speaking.

In McQueen's words, "We didn’t get along. Brynner came up to me one day in front of a lot of people and grabbed me by the shoulder. He was mad about something. I don't know what. He doesn't ride well and knows nothing about guns so maybe he thought I represented a threat. I was in my element. He wasn't. Anyway, I don't like people pawing at me. I said, 'Take your hands off me.' When you work in a scene with Yul, you're supposed to stand perfectly still ten feet away. Well, I don't work that way. So, I protected myself."

The Magnificent Seven opened in October 1960 but was not a hit at first. After becoming a sensation in Europe, the movie was re-released in the United States and started to gain a following. All of the actors acquit themselves well, with Brynner the soulful leader, his eyes burning into the camera, and McQueen showing likability and great athletic skill, including hurling himself over a wooden counter head first when under fire.

Following The Magnificent Seven, McQueen's anti-hero vibe was perfect for the 1960s. After starring in The Great Escape, Bullitt, The Getaway, and Papillon, he became the highest-paid actor in America. He was a difficult actor to direct and to star with in many of those movies, however. He was particularly envious of Paul Newman's career, and in The Towering Inferno he insisted the two men have the exact same number of lines, that McQueen's fire chief character doesn't appear until more than 40 minutes into the film, and the fire chief be the hero. The two men were so competitive over billing on the film poster that the desperate studio had to come up with a "diagonal" solution.

No longer at the top of the A-list was Yul Brynner. He appeared in more than 20 movies after The Magnificent Seven, but his career had peaked. His style of acting didn't fare as well as McQueen's or Newman's in the 1960s and 1970s. But in the 1970s, Brynner received a phone call from a surprising source: Steve McQueen. He wanted to apologize for his actions in The Magnificent Seven.

Brynner accepted the apology with grace and humor. He said, "I am the king and you are the rebel prince. Both are dangerous."

Joescoundrel
12-13-2017, 09:46 AM
From the Vintage News ...

In "Dr. No," Jack Lord won praise as a suave and smart CIA agent, but he bowed out of Bond series because he wanted Felix Leiter and James Bond to be equals

Glamour Instant Articles Dec 9, 2017 Nancy Bilyeau

The film is 1962's Dr. No and James Bond is in a corner. He's gotten the better of a knife-wielding Jamaican fisherman-turned-spy named Quarrel with the help of his Walther PPK and is demanding answers from Quarrel when another voice comes from behind. "Hold it," says a man emerging from the shadows wearing sunglasses. "Gently, gently. Let's not get excited."

The man takes Bond's gun, orders Quarrel to frisk him, and only then introduces himself: "Felix Leiter. Central Intelligence Agency. You must be James Bond."

A relieved Bond says, "You mean we're fighting the same war?"

And so James Bond, played by 32-year-old Sean Connery, meets his American counterpart Felix Leiter, played by 41-year-old Jack Lord. The smooth CIA agent who when necessary coordinates with Bond on his missions was created by Ian Fleming in Casino Royale. In fact, he salvages Bond's mission in the first novel of the series, supplying him with 32 million francs after Bond has lost to Le Chiffre at the gambling table.

Fleming, with his usual flare for character portrayal, describes Leiter like this in Casino Royale:

"Felix Leiter was about thirty-five. He was tall with a thin, bony frame, and his lightweight, tan-colored suit hung loosely from his shoulders like the clothes of Frank Sinatra. His movements and speech were slow, but one had the feeling that there was plenty of speed and strength in him and he would be a tough and cruel fighter. As he sat hunched over the table, he seemed to have some of the jack-knife quality of a falcon."

When Saltzman and Broccoli were developing the James Bond series, they selected the Dr. No. novel to be the first adaptation instead of Casino Royale. In that book, Felix Leiter does not appear, so the screenwriter inserted him into the plot. He is the one who briefs Bond on the situation with a "Chinese cat" on the mysterious island of Crab Key named "Dr. No."

Jack Lord, who was billed fourth in Dr. No, plays Leiter very closely to how the character was conceptualized by Fleming, and he was rewarded with positive reviews. Many responded to his cool, slithering moves and his suave suits and dark glasses. According to the Bond wikia, Lord played Leiter in a "swaggering" fashion and was an "effective American version of James Bond."

In a movie known for its visuals, and the genius of designer Ken Adam, Jack Lord's look won special notice.

"His most well-known accessory is his pair of cat-eye sunglasses, which have since become primarily worn by women," purrs a James Bond fashion site. "Nevertheless, Felix Leiter looks hipper than Bond with his sunglasses, which he places in his outer breast pocket when he removes them. No Felix Leiter other than Jack Lord, except perhaps Jeffrey Wright, comes close to having a competing screen presence with Bond, and his cool look has a large part to do with it."

Yes, some devoted Bond watchers consider Jack Lord to be an excellent Felix Leiter. Yet Lord only played him once.

Born with the name John Joseph Patrick Ryan on January 2, 1920, in Brooklyn, New York, the man who took the stage name Jack Lord just might have selected the name because he had a lordly sense of his own importance. And it worked for him. It was that tough, dominating, cool, by-the-book persona that made his Steve McGarrett, the head of the state police in Hawaii, such a fantastic character in Hawaii Five-0, which premiered in 1968 and ran for 12 seasons. The persona of McGarrett still vibrates, and not just in continual reruns on cable TV. Whether it's the catchphrase "Book em, Danno. Murder One" or the huge wave cascading in the show credits, the series is a core part of popular culture, not as huge as the Bond films but important nonetheless. As seen in the HBO series The Wire, when criminals want to warn one another that police are visible, they yell "5-0!"

Jack Lord was not a well known actor before Dr. No. A merchant marine veteran, he was regarded as a solid actor with TV, film and stage credits. The success of Dr. No vaulted him forward. But when the Bond producers approached Lord to play Leiter in Goldfinger and sign a long-term contract like the actors playing M and Moneypenny, Jack Lord pushed back. He asked for much more money - and for Leiter to be a more significant character, functioning as a partner for Bond, not a sidekick.

The answer to that was a firm no. Perhaps to make the point clear, in Goldfinger, the actor who plays Leiter is gray-haired, paunchy, and inferior to Bond in spying skills. A conga line of actors have rotated in and out of the Bond series to play Leiter and they’re never memorable. Some have speculated that the Bond producers have an ambivalent feeling toward the CIA's part in Bond’s missions. Even though in reality the Cambridge Five had made a shambles of British intelligence by giving secrets to the Soviets, in the Bond series MI-6 is the leading spy agency in the Western world. When Blofeld submits a demand for money or else he'll blow up the planet, he delivers it to London, not Washington. D.C.

Before signing on to Steve McGarrett, Jack Lord came close to starring in two other important TV series stars. He was considered for Eliot Ness in The Untouchables and was actually offered the part of James T. Kirk in Star Trek. Reportedly, he asked for too much money, once again. Kirk went to William Shatner.

In Hawaii Five-0, Lord found his calling. Although his perfectionism could be hard on costars and producers, he fought for a quality show and delivered it. A lover of poetry and an accomplished painter, he was devoted to Hawaii. When he died, a significant portion of his money went to charities and causes in Hawaii.

Joescoundrel
12-27-2017, 10:29 AM
'The Last Jedi' tops Christmas box office in North America

Agence France-Presse / 07:42 AM December 27, 2017

WASHINGTON, United States - The force was with Disney as the latest Star Wars movie "The Last Jedi" beat out the competition to top the Christmas weekend box office, according to updated industry estimates released Tuesday.

The eighth installment of the blockbuster space saga topped the charts in North America for a second week, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations, pulling in $99 million from Friday through Monday to rack up total earnings of $395.6 million since it opened last weekend.

Christmas week is traditionally a time when studios flood the screens with new releases, and the Star Wars epic was trailed by three new films.

In second place was the Dwayne Johnson family adventure "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" which made $55.4 million for Sony over the same four-day period.

"Pitch Perfect 3," which follows the continuing adventures of glee singers the Bellas, led by Anna Kendrick, was in third, earning $26.5 million for Universal.

That was followed by "The Greatest Showman," a musical in which Hugh Jackman plays the legendary circus impresario PT Barnum. That earned $14 million.

Animated feature "Ferdinand," the story of a pacifist bull forced to face down the greatest bullfighter in the world, was fifth. It netted four-day receipts of $9.6 million in the United States and Canada in its second week.

Rounding out the top ten were:

"Coco" ($8.1 million)

"Downsizing" ($7.6 million)

"Darkest Hour" ($5.5 million)

"Father Figures" ($5.4 million)

"The Shape of Water" ($4.3 million)

Joescoundrel
12-27-2017, 10:50 AM
'The Last Jedi' brings emotion, exhilaration and surprise back to the 'Star Wars' saga

"The Last Jedi," written and directed by the gifted indie auteur Rian Johnson, nails the balance of novelty and nostalgia in much more satisfying fashion.

Justin Chang

Film Critic

There comes a moment in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" - the most enjoyable dispatch in a long time from that galaxy far, far away - when Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) lowers his lightsaber and declares, "It's time to let old things die."

A power-hungry young zealot who has followed in the sinister footsteps of his grandfather Darth Vader, he is calling for an end to all past rulers and revolutionaries, Sith lords and Jedi knights alike, that have kept these cosmos in a perpetual state of violence and sustained a global entertainment juggernaut in the process.

Given the riches that have been mined from the enterprise since 1977, when George Lucas' original "Star Wars" forever altered the face of Hollywood, it's unlikely that Lucasfilm and its corporate parent, Disney, are about to let old things die anytime soon. Not entirely, anyway. When they announced the launch of a new trilogy a few years ago with "The Force Awakens," it was clear the series needed an infusion of fresh blood, but it also needed its crowd-pleasing tropes and traditions, its foundational stars and mythologies.

Spryly directed by J.J. Abrams, "The Force Awakens" (2015) brought welcome jolts of wit, energy and warmth back to the series, but as moving as it was to catch up with Leia Organa, Han Solo and the rest of the gang, the balance of novelty and nostalgia too often tilted awkwardly toward the latter. Diverting as it was, its pleasures felt curiously second-rate; you had to wonder if the filmmakers had more up their sleeves than smart jokes, cute droids and an appealingly diverse new trio of leads.

With "The Last Jedi," those doubts have been laid satisfyingly to rest. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, it?s the series' eighth official episode and easily its most exciting iteration in decades - the first flat-out terrific "Star Wars" movie since 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back." It seizes upon Lucas' original dream of finding a pop vessel for his obsessions - Akira Kurosawa epics, John Ford westerns, science-fiction serials - and fulfills it with a verve and imagination all its own.

No less than Abrams, Johnson is a pop savant steeped in "Star Wars" arcana, and you can sense his reverence for the legacy with which he?s been entrusted. As in "The Force Awakens," there are sequences here that duly recall some of the original trilogy's most memorable moments, from a one-on-one Jedi training session to an advance by an army of new-and-improved AT-AT walkers. But this time the nods feel less like obligatory acts of fan service than mythological reverberations, signaling a deeper, more intricate narrative intelligence at work.

It begins with a typically noisy and dazzling space battle, this one pitting the ominously hovering ships of the evil supreme leader Snoke (played with characteristic motion-capture mastery by Andy Serkis) against the Resistance's scrappy fighters. Even amid the ensuing laser-light spectacular, Johnson quickly gives the proceedings a human pulse, sending the dashing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) into the fray and integrating a high-stakes suspense sequence that sets a crucial subplot in motion.

Poe's impulsive streak brings him into conflict with the wise Gen. Leia (Carrie Fisher, in a gratifyingly substantial role that she finished shooting before her death) and her formidable deputy, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern, a fierce, purple-haired enigma). Due to some ingenious innovations in light-speed technology, the Resistance fleet can no longer outrun Snoke's mighty vessels.

And so it falls to the reformed ex-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and a ship maintenance worker, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran, an excellent newcomer), to embark on a dangerous mission to turn the tide, one that will draw a wily mercenary named DJ (Benicio Del Toro) into their orbit.

The most compelling of the movie's three interwoven plotlines is the one that picks up where "The Force Awakens" left off, with Rey (Daisy Ridley), a desert scavenger and possible heir to the long-dormant Jedi mantle, arriving on a remote island and coming face-to-face with the elusive Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Luke, haunted by personal demons, has no intention of coming out of hiding, and his stubbornness establishes an immediately engaging dynamic between the eager young upstart and her reluctant mentor.

Hamill's career may never have fully escaped Luke's long shadow, but somewhere along the way he morphed into a pretty terrific character actor, as evidenced by his sly performance in this year's indie charmer "Brigsby Bear." In "The Last Jedi," he doesn't just rock a hoodie and a goatee; his role as a grizzled, avuncular presence suits him better than earnest leading-man status ever did. To a degree that even Fisher and Harrison Ford couldn't fully manage in "The Force Awakens," Hamill's unexpected gravitas, offset by a faint twinkle of humor, acts as a kind of veteran's seal of approval, setting the tone for fine performances across the board.

It's one of the vagaries of big-budget franchise filmmaking, of course, that characters and story decisions you may have resisted in the first installment have a way of wearing you down by the second. If "The Force Awakens" had the tough but rewarding task of winning us over to its new cast, "The Last Jedi" rightly assumes from the outset that we are already invested in what happens to Rey, Finn and Poe - and, yes, Kylo Ren, whom Driver plays with unnerving tremors of anguish, ambiguity and cruel resolve.

Among the movie's more indelible achievements is the psychological triangle that develops among Rey, Kylo Ren and his uncle Luke, who are bound by their shared histories and uncertain destinies, and also by weird disruptions within the Force. As Kylo Ren's malevolent mentor, Serkis also makes a more impressive villain this time around, especially since we now see him in the (hideously misshapen) flesh. That's a lot scarier than his fuzzy hologram in "The Force Awakens," when he was basically secondhand Snoke.

Those who have seen Johnson's mind-bending time-travel thriller "Looper" (2012) - or, for that matter, his insouciantly clever crime capers "Brick" (2005) and "The Brothers Bloom" (2008 ) - know the director takes an old-school delight in pulling the rug out from under his audience. Even nostalgia goes down better when it's laced with a healthy dose of the unexpected, and while it hardly skimps on callbacks and fan favorites, "The Last Jedi" has a flowing moment-to-moment unpredictability that rises, on occasion, to genuinely thrilling peaks of surprise.

At times you may balk at the script's tendency to overstate its grand themes of valor and solidarity, as well as its somewhat forced moments of cutesy comic relief. I myself could have done with fewer reaction shots of the Porgs, those infernally moist-eyed little winged critters that have already fueled a Disney merchandising bonanza. (They somehow look cute, tasty and completely disposable, like Ewok McNuggets.)

All of which is to say that Johnson, for all his idiosyncrasies as a storyteller, hasn't gone so far as to refashion "Star Wars" in his own indie-auteur image. (As Lucasfilm's unfortunate director-retention rate of late suggests, the company doesn't exactly smile on filmmakers who think too far out of the box.) But Johnson has pulled off something no less difficult: Working under the heaviest possible scrutiny, he has succeeded in branding a potentially anonymous corporate product with his own distinct signature. And he has done so with the assistance of some invaluable past collaborators, including editor Bob Ducsay and cinematographer Steve Yedlin, who shot the picture on crystalline 35-millimeter film.

"The Last Jedi" is the longest "Star Wars" feature to date, though its 152-minute running time should be seen as a sign of confidence, not indulgence. What makes the movie such a robust and invigorating pop entertainment is that even its seeming digressions - a romp through the casinos of a glittering One Percenters' paradise, a battle staged on a visually striking planet of white salt and red dust - feel grounded in a real-world vision of humanity on the brink of ruin.

In that respect, the wise decision to cast Ridley, Boyega and Isaac in "The Force Awakens" - dismissed as a sop to gender and ethnic quotas in some particularly noxious corners of the "Star Wars" fan-verse - pays off with even richer dividends here. It isn't just that their characters have grown in emotional stature, but that they feel like living, breathing embodiments of a stirring new franchise ethos. You might argue that there's something calculated about the movie's rousing "You go, girl!" sentiments and pointed displays of non-white-male heroism, and you wouldn't necessarily be wrong.

But all art, like all progress, entails a measure of calculation. And if there's room in this already diverse galaxy for characters like Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong?o), there's certainly room for a smart, spunky hero like Rose, played by an Asian American woman who fits effortlessly into this utopian fantasy, to strike her own blow for the Resistance. "The Last Jedi" ensures that moment belongs to her, which is another way of saying it belongs to all of us.

------------

Joescoundrel
12-28-2017, 03:16 PM
From Esquire Philippines online ...

Why is 'The Last Jedi' the Most Divisive of the Star Wars Movies?

Episode 8 is the most polarizing of the franchise, and it's not because of the porgs.

By MIGUEL ESCOBAR | 18 hours ago

This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Like many others who have seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I recall walking out of the cinema in a daze. At that point, I was only sure that it was an entertaining film, but I couldn?t articulate my amazement quite yet, and was hesitant to pass judgement on how it fared against the expectations upon it as a part of the Star Wars saga. It was great, but it was different - different from any other episode in the franchise - and I wasn't immediately sure about what that meant and how I felt about it.

As someone who grew up with Star Wars (the prequel trilogy in cinemas, the original trilogy on laser discs), I didn't expect to feel that way. I thought that I would either erupt by the end of the movie, squirming and squealing wide-eyed at new developments and twists and loose ends, or else leave disappointed.

And yet for everything that it was and wasn't, the movie didn't disappoint. The Last Jedi refused to indulge us in theory confirmations, ceremonious lineage reveals, and Qui-Gon Jinn involvement (okay, this one was just me; I bet hard on it, for no reason), and instead went off on its own path. Still, after a bit of reflection and two more screenings, my doubts were allayed. The Last Jedi really is an incredible film.

But as it turns out, not everyone agrees.

The reception has been vastly mixed. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie currently holds a 92 percent Critics' Score and a 52 percent Audience's Score - a stark 40-point difference. Positive reviews glow with the light of two suns; negative reviews have sentenced the film to be slowly digested over a thousand years.

Entries that comprise those scores have called The Last Jedi "an unfocused, contrived, and inconsistent dumpster fire of a movie," saying it has "butchered the Star Wars mythology," and bemoaning its "feminist left wing agenda". More articulate distaste for the film came from Richard Brody of The New Yorker, a prequel trilogy apologist who called it "ironed out, flattened down, appallingly purified."

On the other hand, there is an equally resounding chorus of fans calling it the best episode since The Empire Strikes Back, if not the best Star Wars movie ever. The Last Jedi has been lauded for its unique take on the franchise, for nailing "the balance between novelty and nostalgia," and for being "a volcano of creative ideas in full eruption."

There's about as much praise for the movie's new and forward-moving approach to Star Wars as there is repugnance at it. Which begs the question: Why is The Last Jedi so polarizing?

One could argue that it's precisely that approach - its newness, its forward motion - that has left fans so sharply divided. Both in its story and in itself as a film, The Last Jedi leaves the past behind and heralds a drastic new direction for the widely-beloved sci-fi saga - one that dares to reflect the world's sociopolitical situation, to assert an opinion of it, and in doing so, to abdicate all the expectations of its own fan base. The Last Jedi lept far, and not everyone agrees about whether or not it stuck the landing.

Part of those unmet expectations - and indeed one of the main reasons for the great divide - is the film's refusal (to) resolve the burning questions that Star Wars fans have been asking since The Force Awakens: Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? Who are Rey's parents and why did they leave her on Jakku? Who are the Knights of Ren? Because fans staked so much on The Last Jedi providing the answers, they were sorely let down when it didn't. It was, to them, a wasted opportunity, and an affront to the title's mythology.

Conversely, others feel that the refusal to answer those questions (at least to the standards that we were all expecting) poses an even more captivating and unexpected one: did those questions ever really matter, and isn't it better that they don't? When you consider the film in its entirety, are those questions not just trivial matters of fandom obsession? Isn't there so much more to the essence of Star Wars than just bloodlines and subplots? I myself was looking forward to better answers to those questions too, but now, I'm even more glad that the film didn't yield.

But there are also more fundamental reasons for the division - perhaps even political ones. More than any of its previous installments, the Star Wars sequel trilogy is loud and clear on where it stands on ethnic representation and gender equality. Both The Last Jedi and its immediate predecessor, The Force Awakens, are characterized by a diverse cast of characters and strong female leads. The Last Jedi is easily the most feminist episode in the saga, with several subtle repudiations of mansplaining through its four strong female characters: Rey, General Leia Organa, Admiral Holdo, and Rose Tico. There's also a little detail in the promotional materials for Episode 8 that suggests Poe Dameron could be Star Wars' first gay character, and at the very least, that's a worthy effort to denounce heteronormativity.

This installment makes no secret of the bold new politics of Star Wars, necessarily (and perhaps willfully) alienating conservatives, including and especially the conservative baby boomers and gen-Xers who were alive to see the original trilogy when it first came out. Many negative reviews blame SJWs (social justice warriors, a pejorative term for internet liberals) for ruining Star Wars, because as of The Last Jedi, it's clearer than ever to right-wing conservatives that their beloved sci-fi saga disagrees with them.

This progressiveness also carries over to the movie's greater moral themes. The old Star Wars that conservatives knew and loved was defined by its binary oppositions: the Jedi and the Sith, the Dark Side and the Light, blue lightsabers and red lightsabers. In all previous films, the lines between good and evil were always cut clear. The Last Jedi challenges that duality by recognizing the hubris of its heroes, and allowing us to hope in its villains. In doing so, it also challenges the conservative frame of mind, which is typically more wary of moral relativism. Necessarily, it appeals to the progressive frame of mind, which more readily acknowledges gray areas. For the first time, our real-life political inclinations are reflected by how much we enjoyed or hated a Star Wars movie.

These disagreements and diametrically opposed opinions are only exacerbated and radicalized by nostalgia, which at this point, is inextricable from any Star Wars movie. Tom Marks and John Borba of IGN.com argue, vis-?-vis The Last Jedi, that nostalgia distorts objectivity, and that it clouds judgement both ways. Citing the very early positive appraisals of The Phantom Menace, Marks and Borba think that it's possible to feel too good about a Star Wars movie just because it is a Star Wars movie, even if in the face of glaring flaws. That deep and abiding nostalgia for Star Wars also fosters an entitlement to the direction it takes, which feeds our expectations, and causes us to feel as if anything else than the fulfillment of those expectations would be a deep betrayal. The result: people on both sides feel more extremely about their opinions, and the divide is even more clear cut.

The great irony of it all, though, is that The Last Jedi's ultimate message - to me, its greatest triumph - is that we cannot move forward if we are blinded by extremism and absolutism, or if we allow ourselves to get carried away by our beliefs and our differences. It happened to the film's purest protagonist in Luke, who was corrupted by his own vanity and his commitment to the Jedi Order; and to its antagonist in Kylo Ren, who ends the movie as a radical progressive leader so intent on "letting the past die" that he misses his mark. It happened to Rey, who was fixated with finding her parents, and it's happening to the fans who are too consumed by their idea of what Star Wars should be to see the merits of its eighth episode.

But even that virtue is tempered by the movie's depiction of the errors of moral relativism, shown in Benicio del Toro's DJ, who refuses to pick a side, and only lives for himself. "Good guys, bad guys - made up words," he says, after betraying Finn and Rose. "It's all a machine, partner. Live free, don't join." It's clear through him that while The Last Jedi stands against believing too much, it also stands against believing too little. Balance, as always, prevails in Star Wars.

This conscientious moderacy is the perfect message for a world divided - and it gets across in The Last Jedi because it is Star Wars, but also because it is no longer the Star Wars we once knew.

Joescoundrel
12-28-2017, 03:30 PM
From Esquire Philippines online ...

Why is 'The Last Jedi' the Most Divisive of the Star Wars Movies?

Episode 8 is the most polarizing of the franchise, and it's not because of the porgs.

By MIGUEL ESCOBAR | 18 hours ago

This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Like many others who have seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I recall walking out of the cinema in a daze. At that point, I was only sure that it was an entertaining film, but I couldn’t articulate my amazement quite yet, and was hesitant to pass judgement on how it fared against the expectations upon it as a part of the Star Wars saga. It was great, but it was different - different from any other episode in the franchise - and I wasn't immediately sure about what that meant and how I felt about it.

As someone who grew up with Star Wars (the prequel trilogy in cinemas, the original trilogy on laser discs), I didn't expect to feel that way. I thought that I would either erupt by the end of the movie, squirming and squealing wide-eyed at new developments and twists and loose ends, or else leave disappointed.

And yet for everything that it was and wasn't, the movie didn't disappoint. The Last Jedi refused to indulge us in theory confirmations, ceremonious lineage reveals, and Qui-Gon Jinn involvement (okay, this one was just me; I bet hard on it, for no reason), and instead went off on its own path. Still, after a bit of reflection and two more screenings, my doubts were allayed. The Last Jedi really is an incredible film.

But as it turns out, not everyone agrees.

The reception has been vastly mixed. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie currently holds a 92 percent Critics' Score and a 52 percent Audience's Score - a stark 40-point difference. Positive reviews glow with the light of two suns; negative reviews have sentenced the film to be slowly digested over a thousand years.

Entries that comprise those scores have called The Last Jedi "an unfocused, contrived, and inconsistent dumpster fire of a movie," saying it has "butchered the Star Wars mythology," and bemoaning its "feminist left wing agenda". More articulate distaste for the film came from Richard Brody of The New Yorker, a prequel trilogy apologist who called it "ironed out, flattened down, appallingly purified."

On the other hand, there is an equally resounding chorus of fans calling it the best episode since The Empire Strikes Back, if not the best Star Wars movie ever. The Last Jedi has been lauded for its unique take on the franchise, for nailing "the balance between novelty and nostalgia," and for being "a volcano of creative ideas in full eruption."

There's about as much praise for the movie's new and forward-moving approach to Star Wars as there is repugnance at it. Which begs the question: Why is The Last Jedi so polarizing?

One could argue that it's precisely that approach - its newness, its forward motion - that has left fans so sharply divided. Both in its story and in itself as a film, The Last Jedi leaves the past behind and heralds a drastic new direction for the widely-beloved sci-fi saga - one that dares to reflect the world's sociopolitical situation, to assert an opinion of it, and in doing so, to abdicate all the expectations of its own fan base. The Last Jedi lept far, and not everyone agrees about whether or not it stuck the landing.

Part of those unmet expectations - and indeed one of the main reasons for the great divide - is the film's refusal (to) resolve the burning questions that Star Wars fans have been asking since The Force Awakens: Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? Who are Rey's parents and why did they leave her on Jakku? Who are the Knights of Ren? Because fans staked so much on The Last Jedi providing the answers, they were sorely let down when it didn't. It was, to them, a wasted opportunity, and an affront to the title's mythology.

Conversely, others feel that the refusal to answer those questions (at least to the standards that we were all expecting) poses an even more captivating and unexpected one: did those questions ever really matter, and isn't it better that they don't? When you consider the film in its entirety, are those questions not just trivial matters of fandom obsession? Isn't there so much more to the essence of Star Wars than just bloodlines and subplots? I myself was looking forward to better answers to those questions too, but now, I'm even more glad that the film didn't yield.

But there are also more fundamental reasons for the division - perhaps even political ones. More than any of its previous installments, the Star Wars sequel trilogy is loud and clear on where it stands on ethnic representation and gender equality. Both The Last Jedi and its immediate predecessor, The Force Awakens, are characterized by a diverse cast of characters and strong female leads. The Last Jedi is easily the most feminist episode in the saga, with several subtle repudiations of mansplaining through its four strong female characters: Rey, General Leia Organa, Admiral Holdo, and Rose Tico. There's also a little detail in the promotional materials for Episode 8 that suggests Poe Dameron could be Star Wars' first gay character, and at the very least, that's a worthy effort to denounce heteronormativity.

This installment makes no secret of the bold new politics of Star Wars, necessarily (and perhaps willfully) alienating conservatives, including and especially the conservative baby boomers and gen-Xers who were alive to see the original trilogy when it first came out. Many negative reviews blame SJWs (social justice warriors, a pejorative term for internet liberals) for ruining Star Wars, because as of The Last Jedi, it's clearer than ever to right-wing conservatives that their beloved sci-fi saga disagrees with them.

This progressiveness also carries over to the movie's greater moral themes. The old Star Wars that conservatives knew and loved was defined by its binary oppositions: the Jedi and the Sith, the Dark Side and the Light, blue lightsabers and red lightsabers. In all previous films, the lines between good and evil were always cut clear. The Last Jedi challenges that duality by recognizing the hubris of its heroes, and allowing us to hope in its villains. In doing so, it also challenges the conservative frame of mind, which is typically more wary of moral relativism. Necessarily, it appeals to the progressive frame of mind, which more readily acknowledges gray areas. For the first time, our real-life political inclinations are reflected by how much we enjoyed or hated a Star Wars movie.

These disagreements and diametrically opposed opinions are only exacerbated and radicalized by nostalgia, which at this point, is inextricable from any Star Wars movie. Tom Marks and John Borba of IGN.com argue, vis-?-vis The Last Jedi, that nostalgia distorts objectivity, and that it clouds judgement both ways. Citing the very early positive appraisals of The Phantom Menace, Marks and Borba think that it's possible to feel too good about a Star Wars movie just because it is a Star Wars movie, even if in the face of glaring flaws. That deep and abiding nostalgia for Star Wars also fosters an entitlement to the direction it takes, which feeds our expectations, and causes us to feel as if anything else than the fulfillment of those expectations would be a deep betrayal. The result: people on both sides feel more extremely about their opinions, and the divide is even more clear cut.

The great irony of it all, though, is that The Last Jedi's ultimate message - to me, its greatest triumph - is that we cannot move forward if we are blinded by extremism and absolutism, or if we allow ourselves to get carried away by our beliefs and our differences. It happened to the film's purest protagonist in Luke, who was corrupted by his own vanity and his commitment to the Jedi Order; and to its antagonist in Kylo Ren, who ends the movie as a radical progressive leader so intent on "letting the past die" that he misses his mark. It happened to Rey, who was fixated with finding her parents, and it's happening to the fans who are too consumed by their idea of what Star Wars should be to see the merits of its eighth episode.

But even that virtue is tempered by the movie's depiction of the errors of moral relativism, shown in Benicio del Toro's DJ, who refuses to pick a side, and only lives for himself. "Good guys, bad guys - made up words," he says, after betraying Finn and Rose. "It's all a machine, partner. Live free, don't join." It's clear through him that while The Last Jedi stands against believing too much, it also stands against believing too little. Balance, as always, prevails in Star Wars.

This conscientious moderacy is the perfect message for a world divided - and it gets across in The Last Jedi because it is Star Wars, but also because it is no longer the Star Wars we once knew.

Joescoundrel
02-19-2018, 10:46 AM
From Esquire online ...

Black Panther Is the Crowning Achievement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

This is much more than a superhero movie.

BY MATT MILLER

FEB 16, 2018

There's a line at the end of Black Panther that I haven't been able to get out of my head in the weeks since I first saw the film. At the risk of being too spoiler-y (you will all complain anyway) I'll remove the context, but it goes something like this: "Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, because they knew death was better than bondage."

It's a powerful moment, one that's tragic and beautiful all the same. This is the moment when Marvel, for the first time, finally transcended the superhero genre. Never has a line in a Marvel movie carried this much weight; it's an idea reserved for great literature or essays, for something much bigger than a Hollywood tentpole.

Following his introduction in Captain America: Civil War, the film depicts T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as he becomes the king of Wakanda (and the titular character) and is charged with defending his nation and its history of isolationism to protect the kingdom's stronghold of vibranium from the rest of the world. This vibranium has kept the African nation protected from racism, colonialism, and the horrors of slavery. But Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), an American with mysterious ties to Wakanda, understands that these resources can be used to help oppressed people around the globe, creating a powerful thematic conflict with the kind of nuance and grace never seen in a superhero movie before.

Taken strictly as an entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther is the franchise's most unique yet. The isolated African nation of Wakanda is depicted as a brilliant afrofuturist utopia where proud traditions are as powerful as their advanced and unplundered technology. So badly I want to wander those busy streets, living in harmony among the towering trees and hovering bullet trains. Hell, I'd watch a sitcom set in Wakanda.

But the film is more than just the statements of empowerment found in its setting. The characters are by far the most complex of any in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o plays the revered spy Nakia, bringing her acting chops to heighten what could have been a smaller supporting role. Danai Gurira is a standout as Okoye, the respected leader of Wakanda's all-female warrior class. Angela Bassett and Forrest Whitaker play two of Wakanda's fearless and stoic elders, while Martin Freeman brings comic relief as an outsider to the kingdom—and whose presence threatens the nation's security and secrecy

Relative newcomers Letita Wright and Winston Duke are a commanding presence as Shuri and M'Baku, respectively: Shuri is the young, brilliant tech expert and sister to T'Challa, while M'Baku is the leader of an adversarial Wakandian tribe who proves invaluable when it comes to the ultimate defense of his nation. Even Sterling K. Brown's N'Jobu creates a lasting, tragic presence; his brief minutes of screen time underscores a small, yet pivotal, role.

And when it comes to the two leads, Boseman as Black Panther and Jordan as Erik Killmonger represent the most complex and fascinating hero-adversary dynamic shown in a superhero film in years. Neither is entirely good or entirely bad. One might identify with Jordan's antagonist as much as they would Boseman's villain.

Fittingly, Black Panther is a movie is much bigger than the studio—an achievement long overdue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tragically rare in Hollywood as a whole. This is a movie that has the opportunity to widen the scope of American storytelling, one that can convince the entire entertainment industry to invest in diverse stories of all types.

This is a massive burden to put on a film of any genre, let alone a superhero movie. But, astoundingly, Black Panther gracefully takes this place in American cinema. It's a film that eloquently embraces challenging ideas and packages them into a visually stunning veneer for mass consumption.

Just about every scene - from the dazzling action pieces, the intricate costumes, and Kendrick Lamar's incredible soundtrack—is pulsing with pride and life. This would be a necessary film at any time, and it is now more than ever, when the message of tearing down walls comes as the U.S. senate officially begins its debate on immigration legislation. As T'Challa learns by the film's end, "The wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers."

Joescoundrel
02-28-2018, 02:38 PM
From Esquire online ...

AND THE BEST PICTURE SHOULD BE...

Nine critics make their cases for each of this year's Best Picture nominees.

FEB 23, 2018

Last year was a tumultuous one, but there was a silver lining: We got to see a lot of great movies. At least one of those movies was born out of the political turmoil in America; a few others seemed to naturally reflect our chaotic times. And out of the many brilliant films that hit theaters last year, nine earned the chance to compete for the top prize at this year's Academy Awards.

To celebrate these nine nominees - some of which are certainly less remarkable than others - Esquire.com asked nine writers to make the case for why each deserved the Academy's top honor. Eight of these critics will surely be wrong. (Or will they? Considering last year's infamous mix-up, maybe the Oscars will outdo themselves and deliver us a tie - although that's doubtful.) No matter the winner, however, one thing is for certain: It's definitely more fun to argue over which film should win Best Picture.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Luca Guadagnino's Call Me by Your Name is a touching film story about first love and loss. Dave Holmes writes that the lush summer romance at its center should win over any Academy voter with a heart.

Call Me by Your Name is two hours and ten minutes of non-stop gay wish fulfillment, and that's only partially because of Armie Hammer's calves. It's a movie that unfolds like a long, lazy summer day, beckons you in with beauty and music and food, and then gently tears your heart out of your chest. It is sumptuous and poignant and fucking hot.

But what's most startling about it is what it isn't, not really, which is a coming-out story. We've seen those, and we'll see them again, and we should. The closet shapes the personalities of all queer people; it affects how we feel about ourselves for the rest of our lives, and it sits at the wheel as we navigate those early relationships. But we don't see shame doing its destructive work on Elio and Oliver, and the movie is more refreshing for it. There is little suggestion of self-loathing, outside of Elio's awkwardness around his parents' gay friends. The viewer doesn't fear that the boys will get beaten up by Italian townsfolk. AIDS doesn't get a single mention.

Our heroes are just two beautiful young people, exploring themselves and each other in a world that is blooming, a place where they feel safe and even encouraged to do it. If it feels unrealistic, like a broadcast from a fantasy world, well, fine. At this moment in history, haven't we earned a couple of hours in a fantasy world?

The movie nails that feeling of being young and so in love - with a song, with a book, with an absurdly handsome nine-foot-tall student who moves into your family's palazzo - you don’t know what to do with yourself. Elio, shrewd and articulate in every other aspect of his life, can only throw his 17-year-old body toward Oliver. It makes a sympathetic character out of someone who could be a cad: Oliver, beautiful and aloof, blithely breaks hearts and moves forward with a quick "later." But as he disappears into a more conventional life, your heart aches for him.

And then there's Michael Stuhlbarg’s speech, a perfectly melancholy medley of encouragement, wisdom, and regret in which the viewer can't help but feel fathered. There's the delicious Eurotrash soundtrack, which reinvigorates The Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way." There's the formless button-downs and short-shorts and the Sufjan Stevens and the peach. There's a lot to love.

Ultimately, though, Call Me by Your Name is not really about the queer experience. We don't know whether either of these guys does or ever will self-identify as gay. We assume from Elio's wardrobe (smartly suggesting 1983 Marc Almond, one of the few out gay pop stars in a year when even Boy George was in the closet) and Oliver's casual announcement of his engagement that these two men will move in opposite directions with respect to the gay world (unless the rumored sequel really does happen, we'll never know). We just know that they, like everyone in this unnamed Italian town, gave themselves over to a summer of curiosity and passion and pleasure. Even the resulting heartbreak is suffered exquisitely, in front of a roaring fire with a table being set in the background, every single human emotion passing over Timothee Chalamet's face - just as they did in our hearts.

DARKEST HOUR

History tends to repeat itself precisely because we often forget its nuances and complications. Anne T. Donahue thinks Joe Wright's Darkest Hour is the sort of film to remind us how flawed our collective memories can be.

Winston Churchill wasn't a good person. He was a staunch imperialist who championed British colonialism. He called for the use of "poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes" while serving as the Minister of War in 1919. He ignored the Bengal famine of 1943 which left three million people dead. He could be cruel. His temper was unparalleled. But he was a brilliant writer, speaker, and wartime leader, and that’s how he’s been largely remembered. History of racism be damned.

But here's the thing about history: We tend to change it to suit ourselves. And while Darkest Hour may seem like just another 2017 WWII-centric offering, it does something the likes of Dunkirk does not: It depicts Churchill not just as flawed, but as semi-powerless. And where so many war films depict him as a shining beacon of light, Joe Wright’s drama depicts him as a simple bare light bulb, dangling from a single wire in the very bunkers from which he orchestrated Operation Dynamo.

Which is what the 1940 evacuation at Dunkirk was called, by the way. And at the time it was a last resort; a Hail Mary means of saving hundreds of thousands of British soldiers (read: the entire British army) from sure death and capture at the hands of Nazis. The beach was a pushpin on a map and its capture would arguably lead to Britain’s fall. So, to evacuate the troops, all British seacrafts were commissioned by the Navy. And then somehow, everybody made it home.

And Darkest Hour assumes we know that. We should, obviously, since we’re adults who (I hope at this point) have a loose understanding of what history looks like. It assumes we know that Prime Minister Chamberlain resigned after grossly underestimating Hitler, and that Churchill's own party would’ve preferred another leader. It reminds us that Churchill’s own members were willing to resign unless he agreed to begin negotiations with Mussolini, and how controversial it was for Winston to refuse. In short, we’re meant to understand that his Darkest Hour isn’t the realization of Hitler's power or even the loss of English troops at Calais. It's the bubble of doubt he existed in, so desperate for help and an ally that he - from the toilet - calls President Roosevelt for help.

Which is bleak. But good! It should be. So quick we are to paint historical figures or leaders as heroes or villains or as good or as bad that we';re also quick to forget that most of the time they are embarrassingly flawed. Through Wright's lens, we watch as Churchill fumbles to communicate without losing his temper or explaining his train of thought. (Which is frustrating.) We witness his refusal to compromise and his attempt to relate to the general public. (Endearing, but goddamn it, just elaborate, dude.) We see him drinking in the bathroom. (And really, who among us?) And while Churchill struggles to prove that he's worthy of leadership are obvious, they also run parallel to the allies' own struggles, too. In 1940, Hitler's defeat seemed a long way off; also in 1940, Winston Churchill was just a guy who spoke and wrote sensationally, but whom nobody wanted as Prime Minister.

And that's what makes Darkest Hour a true Best Picture contender. This isn't a movie about the moment that made Churchill Churchill™. And it's not about branding Winny as a superhero. Instead, it's a movie about a man fumbling around like the rest of us. And while it succeeds as painting Churchill as a man with a gift for speaking and high-pressure decision-making, he's also presented in a way where you can see the parts of his personality that made him bad, too.

And that’s the best kind of historical drama - one rooted in reality and the of watching figures navigate the murky waters that you, thanks to textbooks and their legacies, believe to have memorized. That's the kind of movie that makes history real. Because as history's happening, we're unaware of it. To us, it's the story of the decisions that led to the evacuation of Dunkirk. To everyone in it, they were just trying not to get killed.

Joescoundrel
02-28-2018, 02:43 PM
^ Continued ...

DUNKIRK

Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is a superbly directed war saga that truly captures both the expansive and claustrophobic chaos of war. Nick Schager explains why this taut war thriller created a new standard for the genre.

Whether seen in 70mm IMAX at a theater (as its director ideally intended) or on a smaller screen at home, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk stands head and shoulders above most of its fellow Best Picture nominees, delivering a formally audacious, heart-pounding tale of heroism, cowardice, and survival that’ll be remembered - and revered - long after so many of its competitors have become distant memories. That Nolan is himself only just now receiving his first Best Director nod indicates, for the umpteenth time, that the Academy knows not what it does. Nonetheless, it would do well to crown the director’s latest with the year's top accolade, lest it create yet another in a long line of embarrassing historical gaffes.

This isn’t to say that Dunkirk doesn't have some admirable competition, but in terms of craft and suspense, none can match what Nolan accomplishes with his imposing, unconventional masterwork, a chronology- and perspective-fractured saga that has a blockbuster's scale and an art film’s experimental shape and soul. With no stars to headline it, marginal dialogue to guide it, and little sentimentality to help it comfort audiences, it's a bracing portrait of war as a constant avalanche of horrors - one that thrills, inspires, and challenges in equal measure.

Of Dunkirk's many unusual elements, perhaps the most stunning (and welcome) is its reliance on image and sound over discourse, thereby bucking Nolan’s general preference for marrying majestic sights to exposition that spells everything out in long-winded detail. Here, Fionn Whitehead’s nominal protagonist doesn’t say more than a few words ("English! I'm English") for the proceedings' first-half hour, and what we learn about him - or about Tom Hardy's pilot, or about Mark Rylance's boatman - comes from deeds far more than from spoken words.

With an economical, incisive script that emphasizes actions and reactions over spelling-it-all-out utterances, Nolan tells by showing: a silent soldier tying on boots beside a shoeless corpse he’s burying in the sand; Rylance's nod of approval to his son after the boy delivers a compassionate lie to a harried soldier (Cillian Murphy); a sequence of wordless shots depicting Hardy’s soldier contemplating whether or not to pursue an adversary on what will, he knows, be a suicide mission.

Nolan conveys everything with minimal, meticulous gestures, and he doesn’t hold our hands in doing so. He instead respects, and thus commands, the attention and engagement of his viewers by demanding they keep up with his splintered-storytelling approach. All the while, he presents a harrowing up-close-and-personal outlook on the chaos, carnage and creeping-death terror of those fateful days on and around the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940. Be it below decks in a destroyer suddenly struck by a torpedo, in the hull of a ramshackle ship quickly taking water, or in a cockpit high above the vast ocean, he situates us directly in the thick of the mayhem, even as his land-sea-air narrative design grants us a larger overview of the pivotal event's many facets.

A war epic cast in arresting micro and macro terms, Dunkirk is the sort of grand-canvas experience that can only be delivered by the movies: sensorially immersive, intellectually stimulating, and unbelievably nerve-rattling. It's the finest film of Nolan's career, and the best studio release of 2017. Per the soundtrack's persistent sounds, the clock is ticking on whether the Academy gets this one right.

GET OUT

It's rare for a horror film to earn the Academy's attention. Jordan Peele's Get Out doesn't examine the supernatural, but rather a horror most human. According to Steven Thrasher, that's exactly why this film is like no other in this lineup.

The Oscar for Best Picture should go to the boldest achievement in filmmaking that manages to do two difficult - and sometimes two very contradictory - things well: speak deeply to a substantial audience in the present, and speak in substantial enough of a way that it will engage audiences across time. Clearly, that move in 2017 was Jordan Peele's Get Out.

Get Out rivals the original Star Wars in immediately imbuing our national conversation with shared cultural touchstones. Within days of Get Out's release, elements from the film - "the sunken place," the stirring tea cup, Rose withholding those damn keys, and the flash activating stolen people's suppressed consciousness - became as familiar to us as lightsabers, the Force, and Darth Vader were to the American zeitgeist in the summer of 1977.

But though Get Out gave us a new story for understanding race when we desperately needed one just days after Trump took office, it is not simply a film just of its time. Steeped in Afrofuturism, Get Out is a movie that works in historic registers which will hold up over time.

As 2017’s Best Picture winner Moonlight also did, Get Out flips the script on Black suffering which is usually required for the academy to laud Blackness on film. With pathos and tenderness, Get Out spends more time depicting the rich interiority of Black emotional life than it does exposing us to the torture porn of movies like 12 Years a Slave or Django Unchained. Indeed, as I've written before, Get Out is the best movie ever made about American slavery (a subject the academy has loved at least since Gone With the Wind in 1939) because it addresses racism not as safely in the past but dangerously in the present.

And unlike the typical Oscar-bait that attempts to tackle race and racism in America, Get Out doesn't lecture us about racism; it is a thrilling American horror story which captures an essence of the United States, depicts the actual theft of Black life, and visualizes the drama of what happens when white people want, as critic Greg Tate puts it, "everything but the burden" of being Black. The film puts its Black characters at the center rather than reducing them to cartoons while condescendingly lecturing its audience about racism; it does not use them as tools for their white counterparts to learn half-formed lessons about tolerance.

Like The Silence of the Lambs in 1991 (another movie released in February that earned the Oscar for Best Picture), Get Out is also a smart thriller that has had a long time to develop an audience on the road to the Oscars. The only misstep its producers have made was submitting it to the Golden Globes as a comedy, because Get Out could have beat Three Billboards in the drama category. But that it didn't win that night doesn't change that it's the most original and bold film of the year, as well as the one we'll be talking about decades from now - and thus, the one that should win the Oscar.

Joescoundrel
02-28-2018, 02:54 PM
^ Continued ...

LADY BIRD

Every generation deserves a raw, bittersweet, and ultimately gratifying coming-of-age film. Jen Vafidis writes of Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird and how another person's story can reveal much about ourselves.

A friend recently said to me that I was "genetically predisposed" to like Lady Bird, as if it were a condition that might exclude me from health insurance. I tried to deny it. For one thing, the Northern California I took for granted was much closer to San Francisco and its "too many hills." I was class of 2004, not 2003, and my hair was kind of purple for a few months, but never pink. My boyfriend wasn't gay, and the boys who read Howard Zinn weren't cute. I never got around to truly alienating the popular rich kids, the ones who threw parties while their parents were in the other room or nowhere at all. And if Dave Matthews Band was played at my prom, I wasn't in the room.

That’s not all Lady Bird is, is it? A lot of people have felt seen by this movie, and that has been a remarkably big deal, especially because this is a movie about women, written and directed by a woman, and their struggles aren't the end of the world but the stuff of someone’s regular life. ("Different things can be sad," as Lady Bird says.) Instead of something prescriptively empowering or self-consciously serious, Greta Gerwig has made something else - something weird and loose, what she wanted to make. Filmmaking is not a solo act, but it's Gerwig's name on that wonderfully detailed script; it’s her name on the director’s chair. Now the film exists separately from whatever urge she had to create it, which is kind of amazing and normal all at the same time, like Lady Bird itself.

Joy, excitement, bewilderment, even frustration with this fictional character's strong voice - this is what people mean, I think, when they talk about representation as something sacred. The emotion that washes over a person when they are finally paid real attention is profound. My parents and I laugh about it now (or they laugh, and I smile tightly), but when I was 18, it really hurt to call home, when I was lost and afraid that first autumn, the one that didn’t feel like autumn as I understood it.

Seeing pain on Saoirse Ronan's face, her mascara running like an ink blot, was a sharp reminder. It hurt to search around at that age for what felt good and only come up with things I used to say I hated. I was noticing where I came from, as only a teenager who is becoming gradually less myopic can do. And I was seeing it suddenly as beautiful, instead of a place to leave, and I felt like an idiot.

I don’t want to mock this movie with my praise. Maybe you aren't moved by this kind of stuff. Maybe to you, Lady Bird's critical, nearly twee grandiosity is too earnest, too small potatoes, too corny, too feel-good, too… adolescent girl? But I think it’s romantic. What's more romantic than being told that you matter enough to be looked at? When someone is paying attention, giving small things meaning, it’s a kind of glory.

On screen, these details are more of a comfort than they ever were in real life. When you said you loved the song everyone else hated - and you loved it enough to say so, in defiance and for posterity - it's a relief to discover someone actually heard you.

PHANTOM THREAD

Lying under the surface of Paul Thomas Anderson's tale of tortured male genius is a surprisingly tender love story. Judy Berman explains why Phantom Thread proves itself more romantic than any other film this year.

To cast a ballot in any given Oscar category, members of the Academy are supposed to have seen every nominee on the list. I find it hard to believe that this always happens. Can you imagine recent Academy addition Apichatpong Weerasethakul sitting through The Boss Baby? But when it comes to Best Picture, I wish voters had to prove they'd seen each nominee - twice.

Think about the worst winners of the past 25 years: Birdman, The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire, Crash, American Beauty, Gladiator, Titanic, Shakespeare in Love, Forrest Gump. Whether it's thanks to their historical weight, visual style, charming romance, bland commentary on "the way we live now," or some combination of the above, each of these movies could feel magical at the end of a single viewing. After two, though? Every one of them is revealed to be pretty shallow.

Of this year's nominees, no film stands up to multiple viewings better than Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread. Like many past Oscar winners, it is a love story. Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis, in his final and perhaps greatest performance), a London couturier who inflicts his ridiculous perfectionism on everyone around him, finally meets his match in a young waitress named Alma (played by Vicky Krieps, whose Best Actress snub pretty much invalidates this year's awards). Although it's set in the 1950s, Phantom Thread has little interest in railing against the social mores of the era. It simply takes its period setting - a time before TV was ubiquitous and smart women expected to pursue careers - as a given.

Some crass critics prefer to frame the leads as stock characters, a prickly male genius and his slavishly devoted female muse. But Alma is stubbornly unique. “I love Hitchcock's Rebecca so much," Anderson told Rolling Stone in a conversation about what inspired Phantom Thread, "but I watch it and about halfway through, I always find myself wishing that Joan Fontaine would just say, 'Right, I have had enough of your shit.'" Yes, on their first date, Reynolds wipes off Alma's lipstick and says, "I like to see who I'm talking to." Later, though, she calmly informs him, "If you want to have a staring contest with me, you will lose."

So the games begin, and both characters savor them, even when things get painful. But it's her desire that drives the plot. Alma has fallen for a man who is self-involved and inflexible, and she needs to figure out how to love him without surrendering her autonomy. She observes how Reynolds obeys his sister, Cyril (the great Lesley Manville), whose practicality keeps the House of Woodcock solvent, so she’s knows he’s not as independent as he thinks.

The romance in Phantom Thread is universal - not because it pairs two "problematic" male and female archetypes, but because it magnifies the beauty and low-key insanity of every relationship in which two deeply idiosyncratic people (that is: any two people) learn how to sustain each other. In an interview with W, Krieps explained that she conceived Alma to "be almost free of gender."

Phantom Thread isn't a story that calls attention to itself with elaborate set pieces or an overt political agenda. But it contains detail work as fine as the embellishments on Reynolds's gowns: immaculate and stifling interiors, inherently humorous moments played straight, performances that demand constant closeups, characters whose skeletal backstories suggest ten different kinds of subtext.

As Barry Jenkins, who directed last year’s beautiful Best Picture winner, Moonlight, observed, Phantom Thread is "a sublime object… in the sense that, when viewed from different angles, in varying moods, it reveals more and more of itself, other emotions and, for a film overrun with aesthetic objects, deepened ideas." It is the only movie of 2017 that consumed my thoughts until I felt compelled to see it again. When I did, I loved it even more.

Joescoundrel
03-01-2018, 03:03 PM
^ Continued ...

THE POST

Was there another movie last year that was so clearly inspired by our own crazy times? Matt Miller shares why Steven Spielberg's The Post has a chance to set us back on track.

Let's do a brief recap of what was happening in this country between February 2017 - when director Steven Spielberg dropped everything to begin production on his latest Oscar-nominated film - to its completion in mid-November: Trump exaggerated the size of his inauguration crowd and called the media’s photographic evidence fake. He said the press lies about the murder rate in the United States. He said the "very dishonest press" doesn’t want to report on, and covers up, terrorist attacks. He called fake news "the enemy of the people." And those are just a few examples after a fraught election year in which Russian operatives employed social media to spread false information and influence the outcome of the presidential election.

While the news seemed to happen with roaring intensity, rarely allowing us to catch up, Spielberg gathered a group of some of the most beloved and acclaimed American actors of our time, led by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, in some sort of Hollywood Justice League set out to defend this country from evil - or, less hyperbolically, to make a movie about the importance of the news.

The Post takes us inside a newsroom at a time when fact and fiction - at least when it came to the media - seemed a little more clear. The publication of the Pentagon Papers was an inarguable moment in American history when the work of a few journalists exposed the government’s flaws and how those in the highest positions of power attempted to cover-up and keep information from a demanding and deserving public. Despite the efforts of the Nixon administration, The Washington Post (and The New York Times, portrayed less heroically in the film as its title isn't The Times) successfully defended the publication of classified documents revealing mismanagement and misinformation surrounding the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

While many on the left believe the foundation of our democratic system is in jeopardy, and more and more political battles are fought in a more complex and muddied media landscape, The Post serves as Spielberg's best chance to make a lasting social change. And that’s what makes a Best Picture win for The Post all the more necessary.

The Academy loves to honor movies about journalism, from the Best Picture-winning Spotlight to the Best Picture-nominated All the President's Men, Network, Broadcast News, and Good Night, and Good Luck. The acknowledgement affirms the admirable work of regular, low-paid journalists trying to make a difference in this chaotic world simply by telling the truth. The Post brings a historical perspective, a reminder of the importance of the fourth estate by demonstrating its objective necessity in our society.

It's simplistic to suggest that a movie will save this country, and its worth cannot be successfully measured. Maybe The Post can change one viewer's mind, forcing one person to think more critically about the facts they consume and what they read. But think of it this way: If the top prize goes to Spielberg and Co., just imagine the manic tweets the next morning. Might it all be worth it?

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Sometimes the most unlikely romances can surprise us as the most affecting and tender. John Hendrickson reveals why Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water perfectly defies expectations and remains an endearing and powerful film.

My girlfriend dragged me to this movie. It's a running joke between us, actually. I usually pick all the movies, and they're always "stressful." (All 101 minutes of Good Time were, for my girlfriend, a bad time.) So The Shape of Water was her pick on a cold night not long after Christmas, when the warmth and nostalgia and omnipresent red glow haven't all been smothered by winter's existential dread. To my complete and total surprise, it only took me about 15 minutes to fall for this movie. That bizarre take on midcentury Americana, the effortless back and forth between Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer), Michael Shannon in peak Michael Shannon Large Adult Weirdo form. The sci-fi element barely even registered. What do you mean she fucks the fish-man?

She does, indeed, fuck the fish-man. Even if she didn’t fuck the fish-man (spoiler: she definitely fucks the fish-man), The Shape of Water would still be a great movie. The consecration of Elisa and fish-man's love is almost incidental; their on-screen chemistry is fantastic. That's really all this movie is: Elisa is mute, and therefore nobody seems to treat her like a real person with real needs - sexual or otherwise. She takes a lonely bus every night to work the graveyard shift at a creepy Cold War lab, where the fish-man shows up one day to be examined as a possible weapon to use against the Russians. He is mostly a fish, but also some percentage man, and, as a bit of parallel structure, nobody treats him like an entity with needs.

Except, of course, Elisa. She refuses to judge him because he doesn't judge her, and, via a mutual affinity for eggs, they develop a close, secret relationship in which they simply eat eggs and listen to records and be. Their love is more real, pure, and substantive than the marriage of Octavia Spencer and her deadbeat husband, or Michael Shannon and his Stepford wife.

The film condemns normalcy while simultaneously illustrating everyone’s collective longing for it. The women at the lab wear blueish-green dresses, which happen to be the same color of the bathrooms that they scrub, of the time cards they punch, of the fish-man's tank and his saline water. It all blends together. Any pop of color - Elisa's red coat, for example - looks totally alien in the frame (even more alien than the shrieky fish-man, who is also blueish-green).

The only character who ventures to break free of this suppressive '50s mold is Elisa’s neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), who longs to explore his homosexuality but struggles to find people or places that will allow him to do so free of consequence. Elisa and Giles care for each other in a brother-sister way, the sort of relationship where you say yes no matter how crazy the ask - even if that question is to help you break a fish-man out of a Cold War lab because you're in love with him.

This is a film that envelops you, largely thanks to Guillermo del Toro's deft direction, oozing with symbols and subtleties. His script reads like a vintage Hollywood love story (despite the fact that the main character literally fucks a fish-man). There's a swampy mix of rage, fear, and repression buried in the blacks of Michael Shannon's eyes. He doesn’t so much stare at his fellow cast mates as stare through them, which, itself, may be the movie's underlying message.

You know that thing where people become more beautiful over time the more you love them? That happens here with the fish-man, and in the opposite direction with Michael Shannon. The film explores the complicated interplay between love, fear, and understanding. We're told we should be afraid of the fish-man because no one knows what he will do in a given situation. Elisa comes to love him because he doesn't register her inadequacies as something to fear, let alone judge. What more could you ask for in a partner? This movie makes you feel good.

Joescoundrel
03-01-2018, 03:05 PM
^ Continued ...

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Martin McDonagh's profane and polarizing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri seems to be the feel-good, say-nothing movie engineered to take Oscar's top prize. As Corey Atad puts it, it's simply the Best Picture we deserve.

There are some movies that deserve to win Best Picture because they're genuinely great, the best of the year. I'm talking about your Moonlights, your No Countries for Old Men, your Silences of the Lambs. Some movies deserve to win because they're good, but also a perfect encapsulation of Hollywood's ambitions. (I'm looking at you, Titanic.)

Then there are the movies that deserve to win Best Picture because they represent everything that on the surface implies quality - but underneath exemplify everything that is hollow and irrevocably conservative about the movie business and American culture at large. Crash, for example, or Forrest Gump. This year, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is that movie.

Martin McDonagh's pseudo-scathing take on violence, revenge, and redemption in the American heartland is what, on paper, looks like a great movie. And not even just on paper. On screen it’s got all the hallmarks. There are the blistering performances by some of Hollywood's great talents spouting off rhythmically satisfying dialogue and insults while bumping up against themes of gendered violence and racism that would appear at first glance to be rich with subtext. There's even a serene scene featuring a reflective Frances McDormand and a computer-generated deer that might fool a viewer into thinking they've witnessed something profound - an artistic reckoning with humanity in an inhuman time and place.

I say "might," not to dismiss those viewers duped by McDonagh's skillful blindsiding, but to admit its power. It fooled me. When I first saw the film many months ago at the Toronto International Film Festival I found myself charmed - impressed even! - marveling momentarily at McDonagh's relentless ability to mash tones together in the span of a single sentence without missing a beat. It seemed to me a good film, a very good one, though perhaps not up to the standards of his best plays or his truly great debut feature In Bruges. Here was a film that felt like it was saying something, and saying it with style.

"Felt" was the operative word. Being at a film festival, with little time to process one film before moving on to the next, my verdict was in: "strong recommend." Months later, as critical reception of the film began to turn, I too began to think more deeply about what Three Billboards actually had to offer. The longer I sat with it, the worse it seemed. While I'm inclined to be generous to McDonagh, particularly in his intentions for Sam Rockwell's maybe-redeemed violent, racist cop, that generosity can only go as deep as the film itself: not a millimeter past the surface.

Three Billboards, given more than a moment's thought, is a film entirely of surface. Diorama figures in a diorama setting: stand-ins, supposedly, for the ills of real humans in a real country. Not a lick of it is real, though. There's nothing of essence to grab hold of in the film other than some meta-textual notions of what "good" performances delivering "good" dialogue in a "good" film are meant to look like.

But you must remember that asking Americans, or Hollywood, or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to spare more than a moment's thought about anything is perhaps the biggest folly of all. Seen in that light, McDonagh's diorama of a film begins to look like distinctly deserving Best Picture material - and that we let it make it this far, it's the Best Picture we deserve.

Joescoundrel
03-27-2018, 02:27 PM
Why Do Gays Keep Falling for Call Me by Your Name?

By Miz Cracker

André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name has twice been hailed as a modern gay classic: in 2007, when the novel, about an unlikely summer romance between two young men in Italy, hit bookstores, and this month, as the languorous film adaptation hits theaters. This is odd, given that the story’s main characters might more accurately be labeled bisexual—if such labels can be applied at all to this Midsummer Night’s Dream–like narrative so insistently aloof from contemporary history or politics.

Still, the fact remains that gay men adore this story about two young scholars, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer), who embrace under the roof of Elio’s intellectual-bohemian family for a handful of weeks. Ten years ago, we adopted the book as an anthem, feverishly passing copies among ourselves, shaming anyone who hadn’t read it. And now critical praise suggests that we might fall in love with the story all over again when we flock to see it in cinemas.

To repeat, this is strange! Why has Call Me by Your Name attained such an iconic “gay” status when it is anything but? When its main characters seem almost aggressively isolated from gay culture or politics? When its precocious protagonist has to be reminded that it’s gauche to make fun of people who are openly gay? Here’s one theory: Perhaps we gay boys have fallen for this ungay romance because it’s so straight—and if we gays love anything, it’s chasing after straight guys.

The straightness is everywhere once you clear the lust from your eyes. The book was penned by a straight author who says that he has never had a gay relationship in his life, and it tells the story of two apparently heteroflexible but largely hetero-leaning men who seem to experiment with same-sex sex only furtively in their lives. The film is even straighter. Its leading lovers are played by straight actors who have been winking and giggling on the press circuit about having to pretend to (sort of) fuck. Indeed, all “gay” sex takes place off screen—only boy-girl or boy-fruit sex happens within the frame. And the only openly gay characters—a pair of “boyfriend twin-ed” academics who visit Elio’s parents for dinner—are portrayed as ridiculous Tweedledum-and-Tweedledee types.

However, despite all this, gay audiences have sought ways to embrace this straight-guys-gone-wild narrative as an authentic gay romance against all available evidence. When Call Me by Your Name first came out, for example, my gay friends made a pastime of questioning Aciman’s sexuality. Sure, we shared copies of the book, but we also shared supposed evidence that Aciman was plagued by repressed desires. I myself obsessed over tidbits from author interviews: He’s saying that he’s never even touched a man? Methinks thou dost protest too much. He’s married with children, but those gay sex scenes are way too real. Just as Elio searches for gay desire in his apparently straight crush, gay readers searched for gay desire in our beloved author. In short, we liked the book, but we loved the mystery of its straight creator.

One of my favorite gay-world rumors about Aciman emerged while he was still giving readings to promote the book in New York City: I heard that he couldn’t read passages in front of his son. According to the tale, when Aciman’s teenage son appeared at a packed book event one evening, the author squirmed out of reading in his kid’s presence. To be clear, this rumor is likely untrue. (Aciman has asserted in interviews that he shared the book with his kids well before its release.) I recount it only because it perfectly encapsulates what we gays love about Call Me by Your Name—the notion of a tragically embattled straight man. The story can’t just be a well-crafted work of fiction that captures a singular experience of young love. It has to be a confession from tortured closet case. A confession so raw, he dare not make it in front of family.

Over the past few weeks, media coverage of the film adaptation has capitalized on this fascination with ambiguous straight men by other means, featuring interviews where the straight lead actors describe their total comfort with pantomiming gay love on set. “I’ve never experienced a sense of safety like that,” Armie Hammer says. “I’ve never experienced a sense of making yourself so accessible and vulnerable.” Then later, of Chalamet: “[He] grabs my crotch all the time.”

We love this sort of playful teasing from straight guys—the grinning suggestion that we might get a swat on the butt or a drunken cuddle as long as we don’t push it too far. So when we consume this film, we’re willing to call it a gay masterpiece without any of the usual demands, such as real gay actors playing realistic gay characters in some sort of gay cultural or historical context. No, we’re going to get all flustered and delight in the straight presence, just like we would if Hammer, as his Oliver does with Elio, unexpectedly squeezed our shoulder during a sporting event in real life. We’re all going to skim these interviews with sweaty palms, searching for more evidence that one of the straight actors questioned his sexuality for just a moment. After all, we readily accepted a straight man’s right to tell this story in the first place.

Think I’m being too harsh? Just look at Aciman’s cameo: In case you missed it, he played one member of the hilarious actually gay couple in the screen adaptation. There were many moments in this “swirling wonder” of a film that made me laugh—the discotheque dance scenes are uncomfortably stiff; the nebbish father/professor figure (Michael Stuhlbarg) gets around the house by skipping, even though he was a much fiercer presence in the book. But nothing got me like seeing Aciman put his arm around another man, supposedly his longtime lover, while keeping almost a foot of empty space between them. There he is, I thought, the man who gave a new voice to queer love, looking like a dad who accidentally walked into the wrong bar.

To be fair, I’m not sure Aciman was ready for this book to become such a gay sensation. In interviews, he claims to have scribbled the thing out in about four months, never taking it too seriously because he was fairly certain that it would never be read. And really, on some level, the story is not so much homoerotic as it is autoerotic—it tells the story of two boys with nearly identical intellects and interests who fall in love with mirror images of themselves and then call out their own names during sex. And the book is certainly not tailored for a mass audience, with all its chatter about Heidegger’s writings on the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Who cares about that? (I mean, I definitely ordered Heidegger on Heraclitus in 2007, but still.)

And yet, here we are, genuflecting as a group before a gay masterpiece that is absolutely not gay. But because Call Me by Your Name so perfectly captures one still-powerful facet of man-on-man desire, the straight crush, it has given us a unifying common text—even though we’re not truly represented within its pages. I myself have three copies: one I bought myself, two were gifts, all now on loan to gays who seemed to need them and also my mom. Sure, it’s a primarily straight book, but it’s so breathtakingly beautiful that just to have it glance in our direction seems like enough.

Miz Cracker is a writer and drag queen living and werking in Harlem, New York. She was the 2016 Excellence in Column Writing award winner for the Association of LGBTQ Journalists (NLGJA), and she is a contestant on season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. A current listing of her shows and appearances can be found at mizcracker.com.

Sam Miguel
07-12-2018, 08:30 AM
Star Wars Fans Fundamentally Misunderstand Star Wars

The franchise was founded on progressive values, but recent controversy surrounding Kelly Marie Tran proves vocal fans think otherwise.

By Dom Nero, Jun 8, 2018

Star Wars, a forward-thinking franchise that’s iconic for its diverse, colorful vision of the galaxy, has always been orbited by an Asteroid Field of obsessive fans with strong opinions. But with the reboot of the franchise has come a new, more dangerous type of Star Wars fan.

Kelly Marie Tran, who portrayed the scrappy Resistance hero Rose Tico in The Last Jedi, silently left Instagram this week, following a shameful harassment campaign mounted against her by whiny neckbeards from the very vocal minority of Star Wars fans who do not agree with the progressive ideals set forth in the refreshingly inclusive, emotionally-nuanced film.

Since the earliest promos for The Force Awakens, members of this testosterone-fueled community have flooded the internet with their regressive criticisms that Star Wars seems to no longer be a white male-led franchise. In spite of virtually every movie in the new Disney iteration of the series being headlined by white actors, with white men dotting out almost every frame of the films, many fans feel that there is a “social justice warrior” or “liberal” conspiracy within the new Star Wars films—and it’s no surprise that this level of unrest has come about only when Kathleen Kennedy, a woman, has stepped in to be the new president of Lucasfilm. These fans were especially, as they would say, triggered by Tran’s character in The Last Jedi, namely because she is a) an Asian-American of Vietnamese descent, b) a woman, and c) not the Hollywood female body type.

Following a barrage of extremely sexist, racist, and downright disgusting discourse unleashed across all major social media platforms, the trash compactor of bullshit that’s swallowed up Kelly Marie Tran is yet another example of the rising current of hatred and discrimination in our culture—and a lightsaber-bright indicator that many Star Wars fans simply no longer understand Star Wars.

Perhaps inspired by the internet-born movements like the Alt-Right, the “manbabies,” as Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has called them, have gathered on sub-reddits and social media forums on every dark corner of the web to organize and let their “silenced” voice scream across the internet like a raging Tie-Fighter on the brink of destruction.

The abuse ranges from tiresome petitions on Change.org to blatant discrimination, such as on the Star Wars Wikipedia (Wookieepedia) entry page for Tran’s character, which Huffington Post reported had been revised in December of 2017 to read, “Ching Chong Wing Tong is a dumbass fucking character Disney made and is a stupid, retarded, and autistic love interest for Finn. She better die in the coma because she is a dumbass bitch”

When Kathleen Kennedy took over Star Wars back in 2012, she successfully revitalized an irrelevant franchise, breathing new life into a series that had been long deemed obsolete after the problematic failures of the early 2000s prequel trilogy. Her new vision for the franchise, which by no means is revolutionary, at least brought the blockbuster films into the modern age, pulling the reins away from tired, masculinity-obsessed, circuses of violence like Transformers or Clash of the Titans, and ushering in a refreshing sense of uplifting, inclusive values to the big screen.

But despite The Force Awakens’s unprecedented success at the box office, a positively stunning film hailed by audiences and critics alike, the manbabies felt forgotten. Longtime Star Wars fans who may have seen themselves in the negative, anarchic recklessness of Luke Skywalker—or the smug, dickhead antics of Han Solo—felt the new franchise alienated white men from their new mission statement. And thus, they sounded off, on every outlet available, saying the new films have a “racial agenda,” unleashing laughable Twitter campaigns such as #BoycottStarWarsVII, with now-suspended accounts like “@DarklyEnlighten” tweeting hateful messages such as “The new Star Wars movie...barely has any whites in it. It's all muds.”

It may seem surprising that a cartoonish space franchise like Star Wars could get so absorbed into the tractor beam of our ever-agitated socio-political divide, but in a time when the term “social justice warrior” is considered an insulting thing to call a progressive-minded person, it’s only natural that a series founded on the principle of forward-minded thinking could fall victim to regressive neckbeards.

When George Lucas released A New Hope in 1977, his shaggy, death-to-fascism blockbuster blew a Death Star-sized hole in a deeply divided culture that was still grappling with aftershock of Richard Nixon, the Civil Rights movement, women’s liberation, and Vietnam. Similar to the then-unresolved existential slog of the Vietnam War, Lucas’s original vision for the series depicted a world that had been at war for what felt like forever. The corrupt establishment ruled the galaxy with a metallic first, and it was up to a group of young, desperately hopeful rebels to overcome the Empire and smash the establishment to space-dust.

Part of why Star Wars is so prescient again today is that most of these 1970s-era issues have resurfaced at the top of our nation’s political Sarlacc Pit. Today’s political climate is just as agitated, with the Trump administration ushering in an era of new Nixonism riddled with masculine-oriented, fascist notions that are deeply troubling for those of us who care about basic human values.

When Princess Leia kicked ass and stunned Stormtroopers in A New Hope, she swung the movement of second-wave feminism along with her. Luke Skywalker was a Hippie, an alternative type of sensitive male hero that boldly deflected the stubborn shortcomings of traditional macho heroes. Even Ewoks, for all their toy-obsessed frivolity, represented a minority rebellion that was downright furious to be heard.

Star Wars has always, always, been deeply political.

The Last Jedi, especially, saw a return to form for the franchise, because, like A New Hope, the film itself reconsidered what it means to be a blockbuster epic. The values of the nearly half a century-old series desperately needed a re-assessment; what may have been progressive in the 1970s is certainly not revolutionary today. And thus, by expounding on the grey zones of the Empire and the Rebellion, and exploring the failures of the aging war hero Luke Skywalker, director Rian Johnson upended many of the boring traditions that the franchise had been recycling for decades.

While many of the internet crybabies have decreed The Last Jedi a horrendous desecration at the altar of cinema, the numbers do not lie. The film was a major success, garnering over a billion dollars in box office profit, earning positive reviews from nearly every major publication. The Last Jedi worked because it believed in the good of its audiences, it treated us like intelligent viewers, and didn’t cater to the whims of an ever-flailing group of men hysterically clinging on to their crumbling masculinity.

The entire phenomenon is reminiscent of the ending scene from the mediocre Revenge of the Sith, when Obi-Wan is forced to come face to face with his former ally, the now-fascist-leaning, emotionally stilted Anakin Skywalker. The wise old master meets Anakin on the lava planet Mustafar, begging him not to align himself with the new authoritarian government, who has corrupted the republic into thinking the Jedi—a colorful, diverse group of monk-like protectors of peace—are now the galaxy’s greatest threat.

Obi-Wan says, “Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil!” To which Anakin responds, “From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!” Drifting across the river of lava as if swirling into the depths of hell, Obi-Wan responds, “Well then you are LOST!”

George Lucas never had too much tact for dialogue, but in the case of Star Wars fans who are desperate on reducing the values of the franchise back to the Stone Age, his words sure feel relevant today.