Saturday, January 19, 2008


There’s a lot of Oscar buzz being generated after Marion Cottilard and Julie Christie won the Golden Globes for Best Actress for a Musical and Drama respectively.

I've seen both films, LA VIE EN ROSE and AWAY FROM HER.

I saw Marion's performance first and I must admit I was totally blown away. The process that she undertook to be able to get into Edith Piaf's character was just amazing. It was a difficult role and she was able to really nail it. LA VIE EN ROSE, more than anything, was about Marion Cottilard's haunting and able performance. There were so many parts in the movie where you can't help but admire her acting. You just can't miss her wonderful performance as an actress, back in your mind you know how it must have been difficult for Marion to undergo such transformation, the precision of her calculations, and the nuances that she tried to put up, to be the legend EDITH PIAF.

Then, I saw Sarah Poley's poignant domestic drama - AWAY FROM HER. I sat throughout the whole movie quietly. Unlike LA VIE EN ROSE, it was a subtle moving film where the different elements really gel well. The different disciplines - like the acting, the script, the direction, the cinematography, nothing really stood out from the other, they were all great. There was nothing too grand but when you put them all together what you have is one of the best domestic dramas ever created for the screen. It was painful and heartbreakingly beautiful. Poetic really, and it’s surprising that it came from a very young director like Sarah.

I actually didn't see Julie Christie as the actress, what I saw and experienced was her character - Fiona Anderson, a wife who's slowly suffering from Alzheimer's. Her journey was just so cathartic and it was so painful to watch. What I saw was not Julie Christie acting, but the character that she was playing, the nuances of her character was just so real that long after you've seen the movie her character still lingers.

MARION's portrayal was difficult and she was able to pull it off magnificently. Though you can't help but separate Marion Cottilard and her portrayal of Edith Piaf - you know that she's doing her best to get that powerful but sometimes too calculated performance. Julie Christie's wasn't performing, her characterization was seamless. She was in the end what Fiona Anderson's character was all about.

Marion and Julie's performances were definitely the best of the year. Marion's performance is definitely Oscar worthy because of the difficulty of her role. But if we're talking about performance as a narrative function, Julie Christie's though was more effective.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Violence dictates the end of society, this is the morbid conclusion of Jim Libiran's urban study on the doomed youth of Manila. If you really look closely around you, what we have now is a growing urban warfare that most of us are not very familiar with... and if we don't do anything about it, we'll surely loose the battle.

But how can we fight something that the society chooses not to see or does not give a damn in the first place? I must admit that after watching TRIBU, I was shocked that there are stories like these happening that aren't being discussed by the local mainstream media. Street gang wars, kids no older than 10 year-olds carrying guns in the filthiest part of Manila, killings that are as casual as taking a bath, I was so taken a back because I can't believe that I was actually seeing Filipino lives unfolding on the bigscreen.

I remember seeing LA HAINE for example, Mattheiu Kassovitz take on the riots of neglected Parisian immigrants, and CITY OF GOD, Brazilian director Fernando Mereilles' epic scale drama on Rio' De Janeiro's dark gang war past... and I can't help and feel sorry for the morally bankrupt society of these two countries... but these stories happening in my Manila? I'm so sorry for me being naive, but really, the disparity that's happening in the country is already a heinous crime as it is.

TRIBU is a big slap in everyone's face. It shows that film as a medium is as powerful as the guns that these kids use to survive. And the daring by which the director chooses to present the lives of these kids is already the biggest triumph of the movie..

The actors here were truly amazing... and for me, more than anything, the ensemble was the best thing about this movie. You'll never see the likes of John Loyd Cruz, Jericho Rosales or Piolo Pascual here... and that's a good thing. Though these guys have shown their capabilities as actors, they will never be as effective as these unknown actors.

The director chose to get real life gang members to play the key roles in this movie. And as an audience, you're given freedom to whether or not empathize with these kids. Unlike if you see Piolo for example, you've no choice but to root for him because of your previous bias for him as an actor. In Tribu, you just don't simply know who to root for because you know for a fact that what they're fighting for is a lost cause to begin with. You just watch and follow the movie to see how the inevitable doom of these kids will unfold.

Oh did I tell you that this movie is a musical? I'm serious, it's one heck of a musical!!! But when I say musical, fans of Stephen Sondheim must not really expect something similar. Instead, what you have here is an anthology of gritty and in-your-face rap songs that tell the real state of these boys. And mind you the songs are all impromptu... the fresh lyrics actually make it more powerful. They're what these kids call "FREESTYLE". Never have I seen in a local movie that music was used most effectively. In one powerful scene for example, when the group of boys were attending a wake of their fallen comrade, a boy bursts into a "FREESTYLE" and raps how they will try to get even and get revenge from the other gang for the death of their friend. An impromptu eulogy that's so Shakespearian... it gave me goosebumps really, lending a sense of near-palpable foreboding to this exceptionally powerful film.

TRIBU is an iconic movie that needs to be seen by many. I wouldn't want to get political but if many of you found GMA's SONA speech a little lacking and a bit wanting then this is a must see... for this is truly the real state of the nation that many of us choose not to see.

TRIBU (2007)
Written and Directed by JIM LIBIRAN

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

THE LADY VANISHES (A.k.a How a Seventy year old flick still kicks some ass...)

Oh my GOD! This is definitely the action suspense drama to beat!!!

I haven't seen this movie in like a decade. This has been a phenomenal influence to me and to my love of films. Seventy years later after this flick was first shown, the movie still kicks some ass.

I mean movies like FLIGHTPLAN which heavily borrowed to this movie or other Hollywood suspense movies pale in comparison and don't even come close.

I saw this again with another friend last weekened when everyone was going crazy with the latest BOURNE installment.

He, being not familiar with HITCHCOCK PRE-HOLLYWOOD was totally blown away with this movie. This is one of the best suspense movies ever made and for someone to be moved by this film seven decades later just shows that this is indeed a movie classic, will never be dated, and will definitely stand the test of time.

The plot goes: A spoiled rich girl meets an old lady in a hotel while they get trapped for the day because of a snow landslide. The following morning, she and the old lady take the first train out back to Britain, the old lady becomes her confidant and her sitmate. But things get heavier when after a quick nap she wakes up and the Lady is nowhere to be found. She's convinced that the lady was kidnapped, but the staff inside the train think she's going crazy... sounds like a great plot for a Jodie Foster movie? Well this movie was actually way beyond its time.

Shot in the late 30's, THE LADY VANISHES redefined what celluloid films are capable of... they can be an effective medium where audiences can get hooked complimented by a finely written script. The direction and the editing was impeccable, even more effective than the recent action movies being shown today on the silverscreens.

If you love PSYCHO, VIRTIGO and NORTH BY NORTHWEST... this early HITCHCOCK movie will show you why he is indeed the master of suspense drama.

Amazing movie!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


This has gotta be the most romantic movie to have come out in years. 18 short films all set in Paris, 18 stories that take different views on relationships, 18 ways to fall in love.

I heard about this movie last year when I was checking out on the follow up movie of Elias McConell from the Cannes winning movie ELEPHANT. "LE MARAIS" is one of the installments of PARIS I LOVE YOU which incidentally was also directed by GUS VAN SANT, same as ELEPHANT. It tells the story of two guys, Gaspard and Ellie and their one afternoon chance encounter in a printing house in LE MARAIS.

It's subtle approach and depiction on attraction is nothing short of amazing. You feel for the characters and you actually don't even assume or care about their sexual preference but more on their mixed feelings of falling in love at first sight. Beautifully filmed, short and sweet, LE MARAIS reminds me of SOFIA COPOLLAS "Lost In Translation".

FAUBORG DE SAINT DENIS is another great short from RUN LOLA RUN diretor TOM TWYKER. It's possibly the best short film amongst the lot. It tells the long and short love story of Francine and Thomas. An American theatre actress and a blind local decided to fall in love and used Paris as a silent witness to their passionate love affair... but just like the greatest love stories of our time, the most passionate of relationships are also the most difficult to consume. The movie takes us on a whirlwind ride of falling in love and paints the tragic consequences of falling out of love.

I thank CINEMANILA for bringing this sweet and melancholic movie here in our local theatres to be enjoyed by the countless film buffs craving for a break from the Hollywood mold. (Ironically, PARIS I LOVE YOU stars a number of A-LIST Hollywood Actors - Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, Magie Gyllenhaal, Willen Dafoe to name a few...) I highly recommend this. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I'm not a fan of Star Cinema movies.

For me their movies are just but an extension of TV soap operas. To borrow a better analogy they're like extended Shampoo commercials. I mean if you splice their different movies together, I bet you that you'll never be able to tell the difference. You've seen one, you've seen them all.

So I was actually surprised that a friend was able to convince me to watch this movie... and my verdict... I LIKE IT. I'm actually happy with this movie.

It's a technically sound movie. It had a very fluid cinematography complimented by great editing from Tara Illenberger. But the highlight is actually the acting and the direction. Maricel was not your usual Maricel, her actings's very restrained and effective. Angelica was also good. They're very good with their characterization. I actually believe them... I actually believed that they're characters can be real people and not just an extension of characters from ABSCBN's tiresome soap-operas.

It's not your usual "LOVE TRIANGLE" story. Here the "mistress" is actually older and mature while the real wife is "younger" and more attractive. "But what made the husband love the other woman?" is the movie's triumph on how it was able to effectively show this point of the story without resorting to cliches and histrionics. The dialogues are melodramatic... but what can we expect from a melodrama, right. Simply put, the movie's a well made melodrama.

More than anything, I think what made this movie exceptional from the Star Cinemas' run-of-the-mill was the able direction of Maryo J De Los Reyes. I mean if this was given to Manong Gilbs, or Binibining Joyce or Direk Chito I honestly don't think that they would be able to pull it off. This is a triumph of the director more than anybody else.

It's Vintage De Los Reyes really, he had good grasp of his material and he was able to get the best out of his actors. Mark Gil is just amazing!!!

The movie is something that you've seen before... but that doesn't mean that it cannot be good. It's a satisfying love story... not great, just good... and not your run-of-the-mill.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I became a fan of Japanese teen actor Yuya Yagira right after watching the Cannes winning Japanese film NOBODY KNOWS almost four years ago. He was just thirteen then, and he played the role of an 11 year-old boy who got left behind by his irresponsible mother to tend alone to his sibllings while she eloped with her lover. The acting was impeccable. The movie so moving that it lingers long well after you've seen it.

Yuya was a nobody then, but things changed almost overnight when the Cannes Jury decided to give him the BEST ACTOR AWARD for the critically acclaimed film NOBODY KNOWS, making him the youngest reciepient of a CANNES AWARD. He suddenly became the toast of Japanese tinsel town. Unfortunately for YUYA, he was on a very awkward age. He was too young to play a teen role and too old to play a kid, and so roles for him were limited.

Fast forward to four years and our young actor's all grown up. He was reintroduced in this box-office hit romantic comedy called SUGAR AND SPICE. Directed by Isamu Nakae, the movie tells the story of a 17 year old boy named Shiro and how he copes up with the pressures of falling in love for the first time and how he faces the growing responsibilities that one has to face as one becomes an adult. I actually bought a copy of this movie almost a month ago but it is only now that I got to watch it... and for all you hopeless romantic, this is not-to-be missed.

SUGAR AND SPICE is beautifully filmed, surprisingly, for a romantic comedy. Superb lighting and wonderful art direction takes this movie out of your run-of-the-mill J-POP movie mold. Unfortunately though, the movie looks visually more appealing than it really is. The premise of the movie was so promising but the script and the direction falters in a number of situations making it awkward and unnatural in some scenes.

But Yuya's performance pretty much covers for everything the movie misses. You just can't take your eyes out of him. His performance is excellent, he played his character to a tee, sweet and vulnerable. You feel and you root for him when he goes after the girl of his dreams, you emphatize with him when he finally realizes that his relationship is doomed from the start. His character goes on a roller coaster ride and YAYU lets you join that ride.

Credit should be given to its supporting characters which also made this movie a treat to watch. Japanese veteran actress Mari Natsuki never fails to amaze you as she wonderfully captures the eccentric grandmother character without going over-the-top. Hers is a great substory that could have been well realized if handled by a more prolific director.

SUGAR AND SPICE runs for almost over two hours, and it sometimes feels that way. But thanks to the superb technical value and the wonderful performance of its actors the movie remains as a great find for the lovers of Asian cinema.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

the movie that finally made me its not the 40 yr old virgin.

the movie that makes me shed tears has finally been made!

thank goodness im not a rock.

im talking about the latest boxing flick to come out of hollywood, cinderella man.

wait, boxing? cinderella? aussie bad boy crowe? that made you cry? WTF?!

ok...ok...i know...the farthest thing on my mind when i read the gossip rags from america,

is that this lug can make me cry without even coming close to hitting me. but yeah, russel crowe

made me cry.

you see, what you have to understand is that a sports movie for guys is what a chick flick is for the ladies.

its supposed to make you see yourself, or what you wish you were, or what you dont ever want to be.

yeah but russel crowe? ok, here goes...

lets talk about the movie now.

first, the director, ron howard. ron howards work, either as director or executive producer, has almost

always had a "hopeful" streak when it comes to what drives the story. triumph of man is what basically

he brings to the screen. check it in films like gung-ho, beautiful mind or far and away. you always root for

the hero. hopeful and patriotic too. apparently he loves being american. but well get to that a little later.

this hopeful feeling though can be a little too much and it can wear you down, because sometimes it just

gets too one-sided, meaning his characters are not given much shade. to get you to root for his heroes

he wont give you reason to hate them. that could backfire anytime, and make a story lousy at times. corny


now, lets go to the actors.

renee zellweger, man, her character was a piece of work in this movie. though i doubt this role was

somthing that stretched her to the limits of her oscar winning talent, she took the role with such a tender

touch and just the right amount of spunk to not make her just be "the wife", but with enough restrain so as

not to overshadow the cinderella man. she plays it just like you would imagine a boxers wife to be, loving

to a fault, but keeping her voice, over and above the din of congratulations. a woman behind a successful


next is paul giammatti. man this guy knows his stuff! all at once, hes jaded, ruthless, funny and loving. in

this movie hes the only one who showed several dimensions to his character. throughout the movie, he

switches from being cunning to caring, hard to funny, with such ease that, theres no way to box him in.

sidekick, hes definitely not. enemy, no way. friend, makes you think twice. excellent job here of effective

support acting.

now we go to cinderella man. we saw him as a thug in l.a. confidential, a killing machine with a heart in

gladiator and a loony in a beautiful mind. aussie bad boy crowe, has always challenged himself with

character complexities that he manages to create with all his underacting going on. sure i rooted for him

in gladiator, hated him beautiful mind though, and feared him in l.a. confidential. but i never knew that

he could make me feel a lump in my throat and go emotional and feeling sorry for him. i mean with all

that heft and weight he throws around, he is an imposing man. on and off screen. it makes it hard to

believe then, that mr. alpha male from the outback, is a washed up, down and out boxer living in the

projects. but this he does with amazing clarity. man im talking about tears about thrice in the movie.

you actually feel for him. and thats where i think crowe beat out the hollywood leading man-types. he

bit into this role and committed to it fully, full vanities aside.

so maybe now you ask, is the oscar race over? is a sweep? well, there are some stinkin flies in the

ointment for this one though. first, the all america thing going here. im not sure how americans would feel

about all the flag raising going on, with lines like that somewhat say that america takes care of its citizens matter what...blah...

i dont know much about u.s. politics, not that i care that much for it either, but what i know is that such

blatant praises to their government, even if it was in the context of crowes character and plot, could be

frowned upon by some of the more sensitive not-so-pro-uncle sam audience.even the references to the

depression era government werent even done in a wink-wink approach, sometimes it sounded like

something that came directly from spin doctors. i wonder how crowe felt while saying those lines? or he

probably didnt care much either. another thing that the director, howard, couldnt do was to shade his

hero up a bit. give more of an edge. the cinderella man does not have a mean bone in his body.

throughout the movie, hes a good man! he never falters, he just runs into some bad luck. i just wish there

was a little more to it than circumstance. but then again, i maybe just nit-picking on a great movie.

so there you go, my thoughts on the movie that made me, finally, cry at the movies.

but dont worry guys, its not a sissy movie. you are guaranteed a lot of action and girls a lot of drama.

in my opinion, probably not a good date movie. but instead a movie to watch when you have a typical

afternoon free and you want a non-boring drama.

i give it a rating of 3.5 out of a possible 4. and best seen only after seeing the million dollar baby.

no connection here, except boxing. only it'll prepare you for the twists, hehe.

--by cordy