Thursday, April 08, 2021

Mission Impossible (1996)

Movie Impossible

(FADE IN THEME MUSIC: Two For The Road. NOEL VERA and JOEL VERA are seated, facing each other. CAMERA TRACKS CLOSE TO NOEL).

NOEL: Welcome to the pilot episode of our show Two Thumbs Sucked, the only show on TV with identical twins for film critics. Our movie tonight is Mission Impossible, a Tom Cruise action flick produced by the star himself, the first time ever The Cruise Missile tried his hand at film production.

The anxiety shows. Cruise has packed the film to the eyeballs with special effects, narrative twists, neat technological toys, and enough digitally-enhanced explosions to satisfy the Unibomber. He’s gotten Brian De Palma to direct, Emanuelle Beart to pose pretty--but not nude--and Danny Elfman to do variations on the original Lalo Schifrin theme music. (CUT TO:)

JOEL: The Lalo Schifrin music! (ENTER MISSION IMPOSSIBLE THEME) Worth the price of admission. The movie delivers on thrills, accelerating and decelerating your heartbeat like a maestro (MUSIC FADES). When it’s over though, feels like you just saw the trailer. I was left wondering if there was an actual movie.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Martial Law Melodrama: Lino Brocka's Cinema Politics

A dirty affair

Lino Brocka is easily the best-known of the '70s generation of Filipino filmmakers, arguably the best-known Filipino filmmaker in the world. He has directed both popular and political melodramas, sometimes a mix of both; his films have screened in Cannes and won awards; his two most acclaimed works--Insiang (a young girl, her mother, and her mother's boyfriend struggle to survive in the slums of Tondo), and Manila in the Claws of Neon (Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag, a provincial fisherman wanders the eponymous city in search of his lost love))--were released by Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project through the Criterion Collection.

That said, there's not a lot of text dedicated to the filmmaker. Mention in books on Philippine cinema (including film scholar Jose B. Capino's Dream Factories of a Former Colony: American Fantasies, Philippine Cinema); his own entry in the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Encyclopedia of Philippine Art; a compilation of articles edited by critic Mario Hernando--that's about it.

Finally, to this small collection, we can add Jose B. Capino's Martial Law Melodrama: Lino Brocka's Cinema Politics (University of California Press; 328 pages; published 1.7.20; $72 hardcover, $24.75 paperback) which takes fifteen of Brocka's films and breaks them apart, considers them in context of social and political trends, and in the context of Brocka's life and career. And while it focuses on one filmmaker--Brocka--as he works through a tumultuous period of both Philippine history and cinema--the martial law era of the '70s up to early '80s--a case can be made that Brocka was Filipino cinema's response (or resistance) to deposed president Ferdinand E. Marcos' authoritarian regime.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Best Films 2000

The best and the rest 2000

Been a strange year; can’t say great films have come out (other than in retrospectives) yet can’t really complain…and partly it’s because of the surprisingly strong showing of Filipino films this year. A quick round-up, then, of the year two triple-zero:

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Federico Fellini's '8 1/2' (1963), Mario O'Hara's 'Babae sa Bubungang Lata' (Woman on a Tin Roof, 1998)

Through the looking glass

(Plotlines of both 8 1/2 and Woman on a Tin Roof discussed in detail)

Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963) is one of the most gorgeous black-and-white films ever made not to mention one of the most influential: it has inspired at least one terribly expensive (and terrible, period) musical (Rob Marshall's Nine), one great dance musical (Bob Fosse's All That Jazz), a royal flush of filmmakers (Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, David Lynch among many many others). If I admire it I admire it for the way the camera--like its protagonist filmmaker Guido--dances nimbly past all the men and women in his (its) life attempting to lay claim to his (its) attention. It's a heady swirl of delicate Prosecco and robust Chianti--of the enigmatic and intimate, the personal and metaphysical.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Kurosawa Kiyoshi: Three Films (Cure, Charisma, License to Live)

Zen and the art of horror filmmaking

The runaway success of Hideo Nakata's Ringu (Ring, 1998) in Manila shows there's an audience for stylish horror out there--the film has been frightening audiences since December, easily outgrossing the poorly made (if more expensive) American remake, with a sequel poised to scare up even more money. Now that we've proven we can appreciate more sophisticated terrors, are we ready for something a little more...well, disturbing?

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Best Filipino Films of 1999

The best and the rest of Filipino films, 1999

It was the best of times it was the worst of times. Depending on whom you talked to it was either the worst year in local film history or the year we saw one of the best Filipino films ever made.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (Lamberto Avellana, 1965)

A thousand words

Confession: when I saw Lamberto Avellana's revered film adaptation of Nick Joaquin's classic play Portrait of the Artist as Filipino some mumble mumble years ago I wasn't thrilled. It was an adaptation of a stage play that at first glance looked unapologetically stagy, complete with well-timed entrances and exits, and its actors spoke a Spanish-accented English I'd never heard in a Filipino film before. It was filmed in an understated style, and after the sharp angles and looming closeups and deep shadows of Gerry de Leon's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo felt like a step backwards, a middlebrow work of art.