Saturday, January 17, 2009

Where I Stand on 2008's Other Celebrated Films

But first, click here for my top 10.

An independent woman handles her death with a sense of mundane duty, but as she slowly allows her loved ones to participate in her final activities, she becomes a tourist in life's little middle-class pleasures. The mellow drama keeps shedding teeth to skim the mass appeal and emotionality of hallmark card vignettes, and ultimately suggests that death makes a martyr out of anyone. Though shot with a cool sophistication, it may actually be worse than The Bucket List, philosophically. B-

London is a cold place where human connection is rare and therefore precious. The feminist emancipation drama at play is somewhat cutesy, but the portrayal of Filipino male egoes tested in a country that treats them as second class citizens is illuminating. B+

The chaotic structure bogs it down and characters are prone to chicken soup soundbiting, but the locomotive final act of this bucolic mini-epic (the Philippine entry to the Oscars) evokes wonder and the film coheres into a tapestry of people's faiths. B+ (Full review)

A parade of artsy shock tactics in search of meaning or feeling. I still wish to see if the denounced Director's cut of this Cannes Film Festival entry amounts to more than third-world cinema posturing. C+ (Full review)

Now Showing
The subdued five-hour rendering of a lonely childhood that turns into lonely young adulthood is a snooze with a few bright moments. B-

Somewhere in the achingly gorgeous photography set in Davao river is a snapshot of young people coming of sexual age. A dead-slow four hours, this is filmmaking ruled by jejune over-indulgences, such as in the five minutes of black we're supposed to watch as smart art. B-

It’s hard to argue with a film that advocates the rescue of abused children, but this melodrama about a mute boy who turns out to be a violin prodigy is so stiff in its manufactured plotting that it threatens to trivialize its own supposed humanity. C

Sa Pagdapo Ng Mariposa
Not always easy viewing with its distracting lapses, the strange romantic thriller about a nurse who falls for his patient is nonetheless a pleasure; the story keeps careening into demented, high-concept surprises. B- (Full review)

Ang Lihim Ni Antonio
The indie gay hit early in the year may prove to be a future beloved classic, especially since it works better on home video with its repeat-worthy sexual situations. But I still think it’s a droll affair with a generic hero and a blasé view of the fate of homosexuals. C+ (Full review)

The siege of a town church between Spanish soldiers and Filipino rebels is a footnote in history that’s tackled via all angles, both sides, plus conflicts in love and family. The only thing missing is a clear point of view. B-

2007 Films in 2008

With festival films comprising the bulk of movies produced in the country nowadays, the calendar of moviegoing has acquired a curious trait. Films made the previous year get delayed commercial runs the following year, if at all. So maybe you’re one of those whose 2008 was made meaningful by 2007 films such as Pisay, Endo, Confessional, Tirador, Tambolista, Maling Akala, Altar, Sikil, Roxxxanne, Selda, When Timawa Meets Delgado, and more. Expect to see some 2008 films find audience in 2009.

The Awards Season in the Philippines is likewise a year-long affair, beginning with the Gawad Tanglaw in January up to as late as the Luna Awards in October. This, for films from the previous year! Proving to be the most overpraised in the awards this year is the multi-winner Selda. You know how I feel about the film. While the most overlooked is the brilliant Autohystoria, with zero nomination. Meanwhile, actor Kristoffer Grabato of When Timawa Meets Delgado gave the one excellent performance that no one bothered to notice.

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