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.