Thursday, December 07, 2006

Deck the Halls (John Whitesell 2006)

Danny DeVito drunk and unruly in public? I think I know why.


I have to confess, I'm not a big fan of Christmas. No, let me be more frank: I loathe Christmas. Absolutely hate it. The pressure to haunt department stores and shove fellow shoppers aside for expensive gifts, heavily discounted; the horrendous traffic, made far worse by endless Midnight Madness sales; the parties where you overeat and drink and go ho-ho-ho when all you want to do is go home and pull the sheets over your head till it's all over; the obligation to stre-e-e-etch your cheeks upwards in a death rictus and force a "Merry Christmas!" from between gritted teeth (greet me and I'm likely to snarl). Given the choice between an extended Christmas season (nowadays pushed as far backwards as what we Filipinos like to call the first of the "ber" months, meaning September) and a long and slow root canal done without the benefit of anesthesia, I'd choose--no, I'd insist--on the root canal. Christmas, the way it's celebrated in America and the way it's being aped more and more in Manila, is just not my style.

Maybe one of the worst manifestations of this wretched season would be the Christmas movie, that annual Hollywood display of forced Yuletide cheer (when Filipino films try it, the results can be even worse). In the old days it would be a fairly tasteful display of pious sentiment like the 1947 "Miracle at 34th Street" (the '94 version wasn't too bad, either); nowadays it's something farcical and chock full of CGI effects like Tim Allen's endless "Santa Clause" movies (the latest featuring a face-off between Santa and Jack Frost). A more recent trend is farce without the CGI, driven by cute "concepts" like a self-centered celebrity adopting a family for the holidays (the gruesome 2004 movie "Surviving Christmas," starring a perfectly typecast Ben Affleck as the aforementioned self-centered celebrity).


Anonymous said...

I'm interested in what you think of the three films doing well here in
the Philippines this Christmas season: Happy Feet, Casino Royale and Borat.

I just saw Borat and I think it's funny.Sort of Michael Moore but at
least it's more honest.

I also liked Happy Feet. The ending feels stuck on, like the Abyss,
but I like the charges of being too violent for kids, like Babe Pig in
the City. I think Miller believes bad things can happen to innocents
and that's something we mustn't hide from our kids.

I also like the approach of being as realistic as the story allows.
Granted, there are many fantasy elements, but anything else they
researched carefully and rendered realistically. The harsh, stark and
beautiful Antarctic environment, the terrifying Leopard Seal, the
mating and child-raising habits of penguins. I think this is what 3D
can do in the hands of someone who knows how to tell a story.

In Casino Royale, I think Martin Campbell is a bland director, but he
seems well-suited for this project. I'm thinking of Victor Fleming in
Gone with the Wind, a director that won't fuck up the project with

I'm not sure who to credit for the project's success. Perhaps the
producers? Or did Campbell grow up? There are many things I like about
the movie. The idea that Bond isn't smooth, suave and things don't
always go his way, argument between female and male leads (what? he
doesn't bed her in the first five minutes?), the chase scene in
Madagascar (spectacular and totally unnecesary), the friction between
Bond and M, and that last scene with Mr. White. I do hope the next
movie doesn't show Bond as teflon from now on.

I think Daniel Craig is pretty darn good for Bond. You and I know Bond
in the books is cruelly maimed and mauled by Ian Fleming. He looks
like a killer and though Craig is blonde, in other ways, he fits the
bill. We had high hopes about Dalton, but somehow he didn't work out
(comedy seems to be his forte, eh?). Craig seems unlikely and because
in hindsight he seems to fit perfectly that makes his choice even more

By the way, I visited the and it's a
lovely site. Even after all the success and accolades, they consider
the movie a dismal failure (Bond coming in second to a PENGUIN film?!)
and they think in two weeks (it's been three now) everyone will forget
this Bond. They charmingly resemble flat-earthers.

Noel Vera said...

Borat I liked; thought it worked through some fairly extreme comedy and hit the right targets (in a roundabout way).

Happy Feet I thought was the best animated film to come out of Hollywood, and that includes Dreamworks and Pixar.

Casino Royale I can't seem to muster the enthusiasm to go watch it. I do agree, Craig is an interesting choice. Excellent kisser by the way--you should see him lock lips with Truman Capote in Infamous.

Michael U. Obenieta said...

Hi, Noel:

As a sort of follow-up to your list of top Filipino films, would you please list your choice of the top 10 lead performances in the history of Philippine cinema?



Noel Vera said...

I'm not too keen on doing a detailed article on Filipino performances; I tend to think that, despite the fact that we have many great actors, performances depend as much on director and script as performer. That said, sometimes my favorite performances are from films I'm not as crazy about.

Off the top of my head:

1. Nora Aunor, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos
2. Vic Silayan, Kisapmata
3. Pancho Magalona, El Filibusterismo
4. Joseph Estrada, The Moises Padilla Story
5. Nora Aunor and Dennis Roldan, Bakit Bughaw ang Langit?
6. Mario O'Hara and Lolita Rodriguez, Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang
7. The entire cast of Batang West Side
8. Anita Linda, Sisa
9. Helen Gamboa, Bagong Bayani
10. Raymond Bagatsing, Kriminal ng Baryo Concepcion

Oggs Cruz said...

Loved, loved both Borat and Happy Feet. Happy Feet is perhaps the best CGI film ever made --- just hated the brainless action sequences (those could've been trimmed down to help the pacing, but I admit, they're visually spectacular). I still think The Iron Giant is the best animated film Hollywood produced in recent years, Happy Feet being a close second.

Agree with Joseph Estrada, he's such a screen presence (and he also speaks perfect English in Moises Padilla Story --- that'd shut up his snotty detractors).

Oggs Cruz said...

By the way,
It's really funny how this is a Deck the Halls comment section, yet nobody seems to be talking about that film.

Noel Vera said...

I might agree with you that Happy Feet is the best CGI animated film ever made, if we can disqualify Babe: Pig in the City as being not essentially CGI animated (I suppose we can). Pixar has smoother and more kid friendly storytelling; it's just that much more flavorless, I think.

As for Deck the Halls, we're not talking about it because it isn't worth talking about.