Thursday, December 24, 2015

Confidential Report (a.k.a. Mr. Arkadin, Orson Welles, 1955)



(Especially for the season, an old post on one of my favorite--and easily the strangest--of all Xmas films)

The mysterious Mr. Arkadin

(Revised; warning, story discussed in close detail)

Wow--do I really want to do this? Dip my toe into the murky history of Welles' Mr. Arkadin (1955), the film famously taken from his control, re-edited, eventually released in seven different versions? A picture every bit as baroque in the viewing as it is in its making? I say seven versions, but there are suggestions that "an infinite number of Mr. Arkadins" is possible, so--


Monday, December 21, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

(Warning: plot twists and story discussed in detail)  

The Forced Turducken

Ingredients:


One (1) putrefying carcass of once-popular movie franchise.

One (1) fanatic fan base composed of millions of acolytes (cerebral cortex removed).

One (1) director fast becoming better-known for rebooting tired old series than original projects.

One (1) evil empire bent on dominating the minds of youths all over the world. 


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Creed (Ryan Coogler, 2015)

Technically a knockout

Never been a big fan of the Rocky movies. Stallone's career-making sports drama--the little picture that did good, that wore its heart moistly on its sleeve, that strained for likable to the point of unbelievable (a loan collector with a heart of gold?)--is just too, I don't know, comfortable with the notion that an inarticulate schlub's dreams can come true (last time I bought that canard it came with a singing cricket). Mind you I like boxing movies: liked how Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull unfolded its premise (boxer enters the ring to punish himself for real and imagined sins), liked how Robert Rossen's Body and Soul (with script by Abraham Polonsky) threw a melodramatic light on the whole corrupt system of the sport, the equally inarticulate schlub in that film finally digging in his heels and proposing himself as existential hero ("Everybody dies!"). I like the way some of the more thoughtful films attempt to pry open the sport's darker danker corners; Rocky and its sequels alas don't do corrupt systems: "really don't matter if I lose this fight...cause all I wanna do is go the distance..." Battered spud wedges deep-fried and drowned in cheese, please, hold the hot sauce.  


Friday, December 11, 2015

Twin Peaks (David Lynch and Mark Frost, creators)



That gum you like 

David Lynch and Mark Frost's murder mystery/spiritual horrorshow/police procedural/goofball soap opera Twin Peaks debuted on ABC Network April 8, 1990 and television hasn't been quite the same.  


Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (Does Your Heart Beat Faster? Mike de Leon, 1980)

On the occasion of its restoration and screening, an old blog post slightly tweaked.

Come on get happy

Filipinos love to dance; even convicted Filipinos love to dance, and dance well--you only have to see the occasional
video clip CNN plays, of orange-clad convicts from the Cebu Detention and Rehabilitation Center dancing to pop tunes (the choreographer is an accused mass murderer) but strangely enough there aren't a lot of noted Filipino films that feature dance, or at least notable filmmakers making musicals that include dance.

There are early musicals, like Carlos Vander Tolosa's Giliw Ko (1939); problem is the surviving print is in wretched condition (even after restoration by The Philippine Information Agency and the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra), and what little song and dance I do see in it is, well, of interest, but not quite inspiring. Comedy team Tito, Vic and Joey have done dance numbers; so has comedian Dolphy, among many others. Lino Brocka did Stardoom (1971), a showbiz melodrama full of singing (only the melodrama--a Jacobean struggle between two brothers (Mario O'Hara and Dante Rivero) is more interesting than the music); O'Hara's own Kastilyong Buhangin (Sand Castle, 1980) features singing (you can sense that O'Hara actually gets into his song numbers--gives them genuine emotional heft), and fight sequence so gracefully done I'd argue they are dance numbers (and for a while was tempted to write about them as such).

But an honest to goodness dance number, in an honest to goodness musical, one that I actually like? None off the top of my head, except, of all people, from the forbidding dark genius of Philippine cinema, Mike de Leon. The filmmaker responsible for such grim masterpieces as Itim (Rites of May, 1975), Batch '81 (1982) and Kisapmata (Blink of an Eye, 1981) directed Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (1981), a bizarre caper comedy involving Yakuza gangsters smuggling an audiocassette tape full of opium into the city of Manila and eventually to the northern city of Baguio, for processing and eventual distribution throughout the Philippines.


Friday, December 04, 2015

The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime pilot, directed by David Semel, Daniel Percival, written by Frank Spotnitz)


Bless my homeland forever

Frank Spotnitz's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's classic alternate-history dystopia The Man in the High Castle is alternately ballsy and flawed, but does get this much right: it opens with Jeanette Olsson's tender rendition of "Edelweiss," the song's thick longing turned sour by off-kilter music, the recording apparently defective as it skips forward a few times. This is nostalgia curdling gradually into nightmare: we see images of American monuments, maps of the country, flags, war footage. Eventually (like a creeping pestilence) we see swastikas here, there--hints of the state of the world as it exists in the series.

"Edelweiss" of course was written by Oscar Hammerstein with music by Richard Rogers for the 1959 musical The Sound of Music. It's about as Austrian as french fries are French.  


Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Good Dinosaur (Peter Sohn)

A boy and his 'saur

Pixar's The Good Dinosaur is arguably the studio's problem child--in 2009 announced for production, in 2013 director and producer replaced, in June 2015 nearly the entire cast replaced. The movie was released to fairly little fanfare, a few months after Pixar's major production had already been launched and declared a favorite by audience and critics alike (but not by me, alas). 

The picture opens with a joke: an elaborate sequence involving a giant rock being nudged like a billiard ball out of its (unrealistically crowded) asteroid belt, hurtling towards the Earth, flaring up from the heat of atmospheric passage--and whizzing past the planet by a few thousand miles. The sauropods look up and around, curious at what they might have missed. 


Friday, November 27, 2015

The Visit (M. Night Shyamalan)

Family plot

The Visit is easily M. Night Shyamalan's best recent feature (Anyone out there willing to speak up for The Last Airbender? Which I prefer over James Cameron's latest epic of roughly the same title...but that's more a measure of how much I dislike Cameron's work than of how much I like Shyamalan's). A question still hangs over the movie though: is it any good?


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hakuchi (The Idiot, Akira Kurosawa, 1951)

In tribute to Setsuko Hara 1920 - 2015

Forgotten masterpiece

Akira Kurosawa's 1951 film Hakuchi (The Idiot), his adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel, is pretty much forgotten now, or is rarely mentioned when talking about the filmmaker or his masterworks. The work is seriously flawed--about a hundred minutes were chopped off before the film was released, and you can see Kurosawa trying to make up for this with lengthy expository titles and voiceover narrations, trying to explain the characters' complex relationships in a few minutes of screen time. Critics who do get past the rushed, awkward beginning note the film's literalness, its director's apparent need to get as much of the novel as possible up on the big screen.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Violator (Eduardo Dayao)

Horrorshow

The horror genre is experiencing some kind of renaissance, interesting premises hurled at our faces right left fore aft, with varying degrees of success. Leo Gabriadze's Unfriended (2015) had a brilliant idea--tell its story entirely through a computer's many popup screens--but dissolves quickly in a sea of tired cliches, of the 'found footage' variety. Jennifer Kent's The Babadook (2014) starts out strong as a harrowing portrait of a single mother and her troubled child, but doesn't seem to know how to direct its focus properly (who's in danger, who's the danger: mother or child?). Genre outlier David Robert Mitchell's It Follows takes its cue from John Carpenter's gliding-camera sense of menace to record the constant approach of a vengeful shape-changing wraith, only to stage a silly swimming pool climax that undercuts much of what went before (to its credit the victimized teenagers are fascinating fatalists--if anyone can survive or even thrive under such circumstances they probably would).  

Best of the lot is relative old-timer M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit, who uses the aforementioned found-footage cliches--done with a more stylish camera than is standard for the genre--to tell the touching story of a fragmented family's attempt to pull together. The plot's all kinds of nonsense--if you look too closely it immediately falls apart--but the movie's emotional thread, at least, feels strong.   


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Far From the Madding Crowd (Thomas Vinterberg)


Far 'nuff

Thomas Vinterberg's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's first real success is, well, middling fair. The producers must have thought: "If we're doing a smart stylish update of a staid overfamiliar English novel we need a Dogme 95 filmmaker to shake things up literally (Vinterberg is fond of the handheld shot) and figuratively (Vinterberg's The Celebration involved incest while The Hunt told the story of a man accused of child abuse)." Vinterberg's not a bad choice--he has the grave, gravid approach to storytelling that Hardy seems to demand, with the kind of unflinching eye willing to capture the novel's more disturbing nuances.



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Intramuros (The Walls of Hell, Gerardo de Leon, Eddie Romero, 1964)

For Veteran's Day, my short piece on a film about the Pacific War:

Hell on earth

Gerardo De Leon and Eddie Romero's Intramuros (The Walls of Hell, 1964), a fairly big-budgeted (for a Filipino production; as far as Hollywood goes it's in the B movie range) war epic set inside the actual Intramuros, outlines the story of how Japanese soldiers made a suicidal last stand within the walled city during the final days of the Second World War. Perhaps not that suicidal--Intramuros was designed and built to act like a massive city-sized fortress, with walls of solid rock twenty feet thick; as one American officer so vividly describes it, they hurled a hundred thousand shells against those walls, and still haven't breached them.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Spectre (Sam Mendes)

Spirited away
 
Word has it this latest Bond flick doesn't live up to the promise of the previous, better-regarded installment; that in fact this is the worst Bond movie in thirty years. Word-of-mouth like that will make you walk into a theater with head held low, in case the sheer awfulness onscreen catches you full in the face. 

Well paddle my butt cheeks with a brass carpet cleaner--tain't bad at all. 


Friday, November 06, 2015

Sicario (Denis Villeneuve)



The hired assassin's trade

Denis Villeneuve's latest work begins with an FBI raid to rescue what are supposed to be drug hostages in an empty house in Chandler, Arizona; the raid ends with two officers dead, and the discovery of the mutilated corpses of men and women, wrapped in plastic, sealed up in the walls--a grim and silent reminder to Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) that war is being waged with unprecedented violence but elsewhere. These are just detritus, leftovers from past battles. 



Friday, October 30, 2015

Black Mass (Scott Cooper)

Earl Grey

Scott Cooper's Black Mass is working on terrific material: the rise and fall of one James "Whitey" Bulger, who terrorized Boston in the Eighties and early Nineties. As played by Johnny Depp in thick makeup Whitey is a ghoul, a walking dead with lifeless fish eyes, a rotted tooth, a freckled sharkskin forehead that stretches almost to the back of his skull. He whispers in his most gravelly Don Corrado Prizzi voice, glowers his most intense Michael Corleone glare and we can believe he's the head of a gang: only a mob boss can look like that and not get laughed off the street for trying too hard.


Altar (Rico Ilarde, 2007)


Again for Halloween, one of my two favorite horror films of recent years:

The film, which just screened at the Dragons and Tigers section of the Vancouver International Film Festival, recently screened from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4 at Indiesine, Robinson's Galleria.

My article on the film:

Human sacrifice

Rico Maria Ilarde's an odd creature of a filmmaker. From Z-Man (1988), his comic-book no-budget independent-action-flick take on Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, to Dugo ng Birhen (Blood of the Virgin, 1999), his fantasy throwdown between zombies and Taekwondo champion Monsour del Rosario, to Babaing Putik (Woman of Mud, 2000), his unholy mutant union between Brian de Palma's Carrie and John McTiernan's Predator, to Sa Ilalim ng Cogon (Under the Cogon Grass, 2005), his lyrically spare reinterpretation of H.G. Wells' classic novel The Island of Dr. Moreau (grass; silence; monster), Ilarde (son of Filipino radio and TV personality Eddie Ilarde) mixes and matches genres and movies till the films feel as disorienting (and disoriented) as he himself must at times feel, his narrative spinning and hurtling in many directions at once.



Gerardo de Leon: Two vampire films

For Halloween, two classic Filipino horrors:

Pair of Living Dead

On Gerardo De Leon's Kulay Dugo ang Gabi (aka The Blood Drinkers) and Ibulong Mo sa Hangin (aka Blood of the Vampires)

As noted by Mark Holcomb in his Senses of Cinema article; the Gerardo De Leon known to us today had two faces: as director of some of Philippine cinema's greatest films (El Filibusterismo (The Heretic, 1962), The Moises Padilla Story (1961), Daigdig ng Mga Api (The World of the Oppressed, 1965)) and as director of a handful of fine B-pictures (Terror is a Man (1959), Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1968)). In 1964 and 1966 respectively, De Leon made two films: Kulay Dugo ang Gabi (Blood is the Color of Night) and Ibulong Mo sa Hangin (Whisper to the Wind).*

The earlier film has a remarkable credit sequence, with a shot of a coffin shaking behind a spinning wagon wheel, shadows flickering over ornate carvings (presumably the coffin is traveling at speed, carried by the rocking carriage). The words Kulay Dugo ang Gabi swing into view as the camera pulls back; no mere optically printed titles these, they're cutouts on red and white paper, and they give the titles a startling 3-D look. Cut to a closeup of the letters, and of blood pouring down, obscuring them--you can tell every effort was made and inventive trick used, everything except actual cash for standard Hollywood-style credits.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg), Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro)

When worlds collide

Steven Spielberg's latest Bridge of Spies is ostensibly about the Soviet Union and America collaborating, two distinct if mistrustful sensibilities joining tentative hands on an unlikely venture. What it's really about in my book is Spielberg and the Coens collaborating--two distinct if mistrustful sensibilities joining tentative hands on an unlikely venture.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman)

In belated tribute to one of the greatest of filmmakers, who died this month

Again in tribute, Hulu has made all her films including this one available for streaming.

Women in cages

The late Chantal Akerman's best-known work and popularly acknowledged masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is the character study of a creature in her native habitat, the apartment over which she presides and maintains and operates with almost surgical precision.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Ma saison preferee" (My Favorite Season, Andre Techine, 1993), "Van Gogh" (Maurice PIalat, 1991)



(For her birthday)

Fire and ice 

(the French Film Festival, part 2)

I haven't seen enough of critic-turned-filmmaker Andre Techine's films as I would like, but Ma saison preferee (My Favorite Season, 1993) is easily my favorite. The novelistic, episodic texture of his films, the deceptively simple camerawork, the prominent place of nature or the outdoors (for a sensibility so dark and melancholic, there's a surprising amount of sunshine in his films), all are present in this feature, in a nicely balanced dynamic.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Book of Life (Jorge Gutierrez, 2014)


Flores para los muertos

In the flurry of lame gags, British pop songs and overbusy digital animation stampeding across the big screen, the question pops into your mind: where's Guillermo del Toro? The man's the perfect choice to handle this, the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, when family and friends not so much mourn the loss of loved ones as celebrate their memory. His films show the right mix of Gothic morbidity and childlike fabulism to present this most unsettling of public holidays properly, as a fascinating central facet of Latino culture--which presumably is what the filmmakers intended all along. 


Friday, October 09, 2015

Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray)

Straight time

F. Gary Gray's Straight Outta Compton starts out strong, with Eazy E. (Jason Mitchell) attempting a transaction in a horrorshow crackhouse complete with shotgun-wielding gang moll and a police tank (captured by helicopter-mounted camera flying overhead in a tremendous WTF moment) literally crashing the party. 


Monday, October 05, 2015

The Martian (Ridley Scott)


Barsoomed

I'd written about the source novel before, my basic verdict (if you don't like clicking on links or reading articles) being: fun and funny, excellent science and tech (grasp of human psychology not as good), rather unevocative, been done before only better.

Ridley Scott's movie gets this much right: jettisons Weir's clunky DOA prose in favor of photorealistic images of Mars (actually the Wadi Rum in Jordan, encarmined via filters), a series of vast landscapes surrounding a tiny lost spacesuited figure, John Ford-style.


Friday, October 02, 2015

Ricki and the Flash (Jonathan Demme, 2015

Flash in a pan

Not a big fan of dramatic Meryl Streep--all that technical perfection, the precision, the rather chilly Nordic beauty serving up some of the most passionate dramas in recent Hollywood (Sophie's Choice, The French Lieutenant's Woman) left me, well, cold. 

Liked Streep best in Fred Schepisi's A Cry in the Dark where her character--a Seventh Day Adventist--alienated not just the audience but almost everyone in Australian society. Streep in a severe Joan of Arc 'do cast impassive eyes over the courtroom audience--slightly more irritated eyes at the television camera--and the disapproving response is almost palpable (The public seems to be punishing her less for killing her child than for refusing to give them the heartrending family melodrama they crave). You're disturbed by the indictment of media and public opinion; you're--yes--moved by the sight of this emotionally stunted woman struggling to hold on to her sense of self when everyone else clearly wanted her to let go.

Strangely enough her flaws--the perfection, the precision, the chill beauty--become virtues in her comedies. In She Devil she's the bright point in an otherwise dull film; in Postcards from the Edge she's funny and sings, an irresistible combination (she has a fine voice, and early in her life took opera lessons from vocal coach Estelle Liebling). In Death Becomes Her she's Hollywood star Madeline Ashton, who avoids being upstaged in the midst of Robert Zemeckis'  metaphysical dark comedy about mortality by being larger-than-life, by unleashing emotions and insecurities and punchlines on the same demented scale as the digital buffoonery ("wrinkle wrinkle little star, hope they never see the scars")


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Scanners / Videodrome (David Cronenberg)


Exploding head syndrome

David Cronenberg's Scanners (1981) begins where Brian De Palma's hallucinatory The Fury ends--with the image of a man's head exploding in slow motion

The film goes on to sketch a world of renegade paranormals and shadowy secret organizations worthy of Philip K. Dick ("Scanning isn't the reading of minds but the merging of two nervous systems, separated by space." The mix of provocative metaphysical ideas with pulp SF terminology is purest Dick). The plot is complicated--Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) is sent by CONSEC psychopharmacist Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) to infiltrate an underground society of scanners and eliminate its head, Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside)--but really just a framework on which Cronenberg hangs his paranoid and increasingly bizarre view of reality. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki)

The greatest Disney film ever released

Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no tani no Naushika, 1984) was based on his thousand-page manga, first published in Animage magazine from 1982 to 1996. He'd been asked by Animage's publishing company Tokuma Shonen to do a feature anime project and offered two proposals, both of which Tokuma rejected: neither was from a successful manga with an existing audience, a prerequisite for raising the big money needed. Miyazaki agreed to draw a manga instead, under the condition that it not be made into a film (he reportedly felt he wanted to express things in the manga that he couldn't onscreen).

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Brood (David Cronenberg)



The children are 

Interesting to chart the course of David Cronenberg's career as if it were a pathology, the coursing progress of a disease through the body--from early infection (disease invades and incubates inside body) to prodormal (initial signs something's wrong) to full manifestation (symptoms run rampant) to response (body attempts to subdue the disease) to recovery/reintegration.

Wouldn't call The Brood (out in Blu Ray October 13) an early work--Cronenberg seems already aware of infection (Shivers, Rabid)--but with this feature you might say he's past prodormal stage, and the symptoms have become fully apparent. Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) is being treated at the Somafree Institute, under care of Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed). The institute encourages the manifestation of one's repressed anger as a means of therapy; meantime Nola's husband Frank (Art Hindle) has to deal with the mysterious killings that follow their daughter Candy (Cindy Hinds). 


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Clouds of Sils Maria

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) is remarkably nebulous and unstable yet intense. There is a plot, but the plot--aging actress asked to perform in play that made her famous, only in a different role--matters less than the intricately staged and written scenes between said actress and her young assistant, at times rehearsing the play, at times acting out their fascinatingly knotty relationship.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)


On the occasion of my Inside Out non-love, my thoughts on an alternative far superior tale, of a girl uprooted and forcibly transferred to another town:

Little girl lost

(WARNING: Story and plot twists discussed in close detail)

Hayao Miyazaki's Sento Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away, 2001), about a girl named Chihiro whose parents have been turned into pigs, has been called everything from an anime variation on Charles Dodgson's Alice books to a fantasy treatise on parent-child relations in modern Japan to (as Miyazaki himself put it) a parable on developing maturity in ten-year-old girls.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)

Alienated  

Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker starts from an image of almost total stasis, where the camera moves past a pair of double doors to find the Stalker (a self-appointed guide into the alien-created forbidden Zone) in bed, with his wife beside him. Cut to a high angle shot of a bedstand: a water glass trembles, starts to slide; the camera glides sideways, finds the wife gazing at the bedstand, the daughter fast asleep, the Stalker trying to gauge his wife's wakefulness; glides back (past gazing wife) to the water glass in original position, as if it had never moved


Monday, September 07, 2015

Bagong Bayani (Unsung Heroine, Tikoy Aguiluz, 1995)



For Labor Day--yes an American holiday, but doesn't the struggle happen everywhere, to almost everyone?

Proxy mother
 
Tikoy Aguiluz's Bagong Bayani was made in two months on a shoestring budget, has been plagued by unaccountable production delays (due to pressure from Viva Studios, perhaps?); so far no theater has agreed to release it, so the closest you might get is this article

Which is a filthy shame: Bagong Bayani is the best Filipino film of the year. "But the year's only half over," you might point out; actually, I think this is the best Filipino film since Orapronobis in the late 1980's.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Martian (Andy Weir)

Mars needs women

In the wake of all the vampire books and zombie books and young adult fiction hits littering the popular landscape, Andy Weir's The Martian--about American astronaut Mark Watley, forced to survive alone on Mars--is like shot of adrenaline. At last a narrative that depends not on magic or the power of love but the relentless laws of science! And funny to boot!


Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Samuel Bayer, 2010)



In tribute to Wes Craven, 1939 to 2015, an old post. Rest in dreamless peace, sir.

Wake me when it's over

I wouldn't call Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) with its attempts to blur the line between dream and reality an especially great horror movie, or even a particularly unique one. Remember that Joseph Ruben's wittily conceived Dreamscape came out the same year, that David Lynch's no less nightmarish Eraserhead screened over a decade ago, that Roman Polanski's Repulsion had arms sprouting out of apartment walls to grope Catherine Deneuve almost twenty years before, that Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls (to which Craven's film bears a striking similarity) played in drive-ins three years previous to Polanski's, that most of Luis Bunuel's career (from 1929 to 1977) was predicated on the blurring of the line between reality and dream, and that Carl Dreyer's Vampyr (arguably the greatest nightmare ever realized on the silver screen) was released in 1932, a silent film belatedly converted to sound--a time when dreams found their voice, and spoke to us directly.

No, I wouldn't call Craven's movie great or even unique, but it was driven by a couple of clever ideas, it had a handful of striking imagery, and it's directed with a supple, not entirely ungraceful, visual style. One remembers it fondly for the way it spoke to teenagers about the deceitful nature of adults, the vulnerability of youths left unaware of their secret histories, their childhood traumas. 


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen, 2015)

Feelings 

Call me perverse, but when folks praise Pete Docter's Inside Out for originality I want to respond: "what originality?" Characters in one's head representing different emotions? Herman's Head's been cited (not especially good); Woody Allen did a skit in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask) with Tony Randall as the controlling intelligence, Burt Reynolds his communications officer, and Woody Allen in a white sperm suit, charging forward and yelling 'let's make babies!' ('See you at the ovaries!' went the heroic reply). And it seemed as if every other episode of Spongebob Squarepants has either Plankton or Mr. Krabs sinking deep into Spongebob's skull, where various incarnations of the character worked furiously at fulfilling the brain's many functions. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

K'na, the Dreamweaver (Ida Anita Del Mundo, 2014)

 

Fabrication

Ida Anita Del Mundo's debut feature K'na, the Dreamweaver (2014) feels so very much like a fable of long-ago Philippines it's only fitting that woven into its fabric are other fables, bright threads laced into a dark tapestry.

Like the story of how the tribe found itself on the southern shores of Lake Sebu: a weaver of t'nalak cloth named Hanyas has become so known for her weaving skill she is chosen to become the chieftain's fifth wife; she loves another, though, and runs away with him. For revenge the chieftain banishes Hanyas' family and friends to the lake's southern banks--and there we find K'na (the lovely Mara Lopez) and her tribe 


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Esprit De Corps (Kanakanan Balintagos, 2014)



Soldier boi

Kanakanan Balintagos' (a.k.a. Auraeus Solito) latest film Esprit de Corps (2014), based on one of his own stage dramas written over twenty years ago, is an odd choice for adaptation: the play's clearly meant to function as a metaphor for the fascistic Marcos Administration (overthrown before the play was written), and written back when the director was fresh out of high school (the Reserve Officer's Training Program today is no longer mandatory in colleges and attendance--not to mention sense of relevance--has diminished).

But the kind of mindset that demands recruits be tested physically and mentally to the point of cruelty is still present,in both the Philippine military and educational system (we still have hazing deaths: that sophomore in De La Salle - College of St. Benilde, for example); and the notion of 'male machismo'--of strong bull warriors to be celebrated and weak 'faggots' (as the young men in the film so vividly call them) to be winnowed--still thrives in Philippine society.