Friday, November 15, 2019

Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo (Dating Not Dating, Denise O'Hara, 2019)

Should I stay or should I go?

Denise O'Hara's Mamang--part Gothic character study, part memory play, part comedy of accommodation--was one of the best films of 2018, I thought. Her sophomore effort Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo (Dating Not Dating) is at first glance a slick exercise in the Philippines' most popular genre of the moment (the romcom) at second glance develops (nonfans might say 'devolves') into something messier more troubling.

Friday, November 08, 2019

No Greater Glory (Frank Borzage, 1934)

No guts no glory

Frank Borzage's No Greater Glory is often considered one of the greatest anti-war films ever made--or is it?

Monday, November 04, 2019

Biyaya ng Lupa (Blessings of the Land, Manuel Silos, 1959)

The good earth

(Available with English subtitles at Mike de Leon's Citizen Jake vimeo website

Manuel Silos' Biyaya ng Lupa (Blessings of the Land, 1959) is so modestly poised so gracefully proportioned one may be hardpressed to say why it's classic. The film may also be one of the least known of great films, remembered mostly by those familiar with '50s Filipino cinema.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Oda sa Wala (Ode to Nothing, Dwein Baltazar, 2018)

Alone again, naturally

Dwein Baltazar's Oda sa Wala (Ode to Nothing, 2018) starts with the shot of a light bulb bombarded by a swarm of flying insects, the tinny recording of a Chinese song--"Jasmine Flower"--playing in the background. Baltazar and her actress Marietta Subong patiently build a portrait of abandoned loneliness that puts Joaquin Phoenix's recent attempt to shame: ten minutes, no dialogue, all locked-down shots filled with little details--the buzz of wings, the snap of teeth clipping fingernails, the sudden jerk of a lifeless arm--that emphasize the lack of motion noise life.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Joker (Todd Philips, 2019)

No kidding

You'd think the director of The Hangover movies doing an aggressively somber adaptation of an iconic comic-book character was a joke but no. You'd think the movie being given an 8-minute standing ovation then a Golden Lion at the 76th Venice Festival was meant to be an elaborate prank but apparently not.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Dead Don't Die (Jim Jarmusch, 2019)

The film don't fly

Jim Jarmusch's latest feature is arguably his most commercial effort yet, a fairly big-budgeted production* with high-profile cast--working I'm guessing for scale or free--and opening wide in the USA, around 600 theaters.

*(Can't find figures doing a casual online search, but if the marketing cost $3 million I'm guessing the budget is of comparable size)

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

Heart of darkness

Consider the case of James Gray. He's never directed a box office hit (though some have made their money back, barely); he's more of an arthouse filmmaker, with distinct obsessions and eclectic influences--kind of like Tarantino only backed by genuine filmmaking talent and a near-zero interest in cultivating commercial appeal.