Thursday, September 06, 2007

Knocked Up

I never really liked The 40 Year Old Virgin. So I wasn't really looking forward to watching Knocked Up since it involves a lot of the same people (Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan etc), which would mean it uses the same formula, ergo it would disinterest me.

But as George F. Will once said, the nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised. Knocked Up pleasantly surprised me, and I can safely say millions of others (I rotten-tomatoed it).

It's simply about a girl who had a one night stand with the most unattractive man (lest you believe in the inside beauty crap) only to find out 8 weeks later that she was pregnant. She was pretty, smart, and a host at E! channel while he was barbaric (as were his friends), broke and a co-founder of, a website focusing on celebrity on-screen nudity which had been under construction forever. It goes without saying that they were two very different people. How the hell did she get herself knocked up by the most philistine of men, you might wonder, but I'm not judging.

You might hate Ben (the ugly knocker) at first for not putting on a condom thus impregnating Allison (the knocked up) thus making him the bad guy. But as the movie unfolds (and the Stockholm Syndrome sinks in), you'll start to pity the guy because obviously he was a loser in all terms, and picking up girls at bars was not his forte. Let alone the hot ones. Getting a famous girl pregnant was the last thing he needed in his fucked up life.

At the hands of other directors, this movie would have focused only on the main character (think Steven Spielberg and War of The Worlds) or it would have been a bland movie peppered with lame one-liners but embellished by awesome CGI (think Michael Bay), due to its very simple premise. Luckily we have Judd Apatow to make sure that it's as funny as it is sweet and touching. And the one-liners are sure to make you laugh so hard you fall off your seat (or in my case, the bed).

One of my favourites are :

Ben : You're pregnant... with emotion?

Knocked Up also offers insight into married life. After watching this, all I can say about marriage is don't do it just because life catches you off-guard, do it when you're fully ready and can take responsibilities.

Given the fact that it was much, much better than I thought, I give Knocked Up 9/10.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Love And Honor (Bushi No Ichibun)

I've seen Takuya Kimura in 2046 before, and he wasn't that impressive.

In Bushi No Ichibun, it's the same thing. It's not that he's a bad actor, it's just that I expected more. Throughout the film, he seemed unreal and a little stiff. Maybe it's just me, but he failed to shine in the movie. He did win an award for his performance, but winning awards doesn't say a lot these days. After Erra Fazira was named Best Actress for FFM a few years back, I just stopped believing in film festivals altogether.

The good thing is, Takuya Kimura's acting is the only problem I have with Bushi No Ichibun.

Set in the Edo period, it's a story about a young samurai who worked as a poison taster for the king. After consuming a red tsubugai (a type of shellfish) caught off-season, he had a high fever and went blind.

Not being able to be of service to anyone and having to live on welfare for the rest of his life, he turned into a man of few words, cold and reserved. Things got even worse when he started hearing rumours about his wife's affair with a higher ranked samurai.

The most impressive thing about the movie is that you can freeze-frame any scene from the movie, and it will be picture perfect. The setting, the costume, the mood and the lighting are flawless. The camera work is especially outstanding.

I don't know if this is the best movie I've seen this year, but it sure does rank high on the list.

FYI, I watched it twice.

p/s : That Kayo is indeed a very beautiful creature. Flawless beauty, ain't she?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rat - A - Too - Ee

Again, I went to Midvalley. This time with one of my girlfriends. I'm getting super-duper ass bored with Midvalley but people just won't stop going there. I wonder why.

Since it was a Wednesday where a movie ticket was priced at RM6, all the cheap boyfriends were queuing up. Thus, the line was THIS long. It was so long that the people were queuing up right into the elevator and they kept going up and down but they didn't realise it.

We were appalled. I really, really wanted to watch Ratatouille for the second time, this time with a girlfriend. So what did I do?

I went to the Telephone Booking Counter which was surprisingly empty. There was this Indian lady smiling Julia Roberts-ly. I said, "Ma'am. I would like to collect my tickets."

"Reservation number please."


"Sorry sir. There's no reservation under that number."

"But I have reserved two tickets for Ratatouille 4.20 pm! How can there NOT be a reservation under this number!" I said this with a mildly annoyed look and a radiating confidence. I even tapped my finger on the counter for extra impact.

"Oh I'm sorry sir. Usually you have to collect the tickets at least 45 minutes before the show (it was 4.15pm). If you don't show up, we'll release it for sale at the box-office counter. Now the 4.20 pm show is already sold out. Maybe that's why the reservation has been cancelled. But you can still catch the 4.55pm show. So how?"

I tried to look as irritated as I could. My girlfriend remained silent because she knew if she said anything, I would burst out laughing and this Oscar-worthy performance would be ruined.

"Okay-lah, okay-lah. I will take two tickets for the 4.55pm show," I said to the lady before turning to my girlfriend and babbled about how I had reserved the tickets 3 days ago, how cinema employees were more efficient in other countries and how sorry I was that we had to wait for half an hour before the show started.

"Okay sir. RM 12, please. Thank you and enjoy the show!"

Yes. Mission accomplished. I turned around with the most annoying grin on my face, facing those cheap boyfriends who were still queuing up. "Losers!"

Ratataouille is awesome. It's one of the best from Pixar. Not that I've watched all Pixar animated movies, but I know that this one is just one of the best, if not the best.

That's why I watched it twice.

I wanted to review it but, well, what's the point? You know it's good, everybody says it's good, it got 100% on RottenTomatoes, which obviously means no one can hate it.My girlfriend (who was keen on seeing Impak Maksima only to discover that it would only be premiered today thank God) said she was happy I made her watch Ratatouille.

One thing though. Why did the dead chef speak with the silly French accent but Linguini didn't?

(Soundtrack : Makes Me Wonder)

Monday, August 20, 2007

29 February

I hung out with some friends yesterday. They said I've changed a lot, and that I looked more and more like a Frenchman. Boo-fucking-hoo. Guess who said that in which movie?

The thing is, all of them were busy looking for super skinny jeans. It's a stupid fad actually, not because I can never wear skinny jeans, but because they're ugly. I know Mika looks super fine when wearing it, but it takes a lot more than just a pair of Topman jeans to make it work. First, you need the height (which, apparently, we Asians lack). When you're as tall as the Topman mannequins, then maybe we can talk. Then you need the right shoes and hair (and looks).

As one of my friends said, if you wear skinny jeans with the ugly regular Converse low-cut white shoes, you'll look no more than a samseng kampung.

Lastly, you need the charisma to carry the look. Like Pete Doherty. He's on crack 24/7, he has ugly teeth (see also Chris Martin, Hugh Grant or simply, all Brits), he dates Kate "I live on cocaine" Moss, and he's an asshole. But he has the charisma of James Bond (he's a rocker) and the face of an angel. That's why he can wear super skinny jeans that show exactly how his wiener is positioned when flaccid.

And of course, you need to be skinny. If you have meat clinging to your bones, then no skinny jeans for you.

Anyways, my friends left early because they needed to go somewhere else. I then rushed to GSC and bought a ticket for February 29 on a whim (as per usual). I thought it was the latest Thai horror flick, and ever since Shutter (2005), I've fallen in love with Thai movies. However, I discovered February 29 was actually Korean.

All my life, I've watched a lot of Korean horror movies. I never understood any of them. They're confusing, the plots are raunchy, the actors scream like hyenas (see also Jaclyn Victor, Regine Velasquez).

The same can be said of February 29. Although I was fashionably late, I know exactly that Jiyeon was the killer. Sorry for spoiling the ending but I don't think you'll want to watch it after reading my review anyway.

The only thing original about the movie is that it's about late-night tollgate workers. The killer is choosy when it comes to the victims. Only tollgate workers are eligible because that way, the camera can focus on the bloody toll tickets. Plus, toll booths are located on dark, deserted highways. Bingo!

There aren't many shocking scenes. It's a slow movie. And there are only 5 characters (so the producers can save a lot).

All in all, I hated the movie. It was a Saturday, so again I couldn't use my student card, so the RM 11 I spent was a total waste.

If only I had chosen Perfect Stranger.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Transformers : A Movie Without a Soul

Finally I got the chance to watch Transformers. I was actually lazying around at Midvalley, shopping and chick-spotting when I decided to watch a movie. And I had four choices : Kayangan, Haru-Biru, See How They Run and Transformers. So it was a no-brainer. The thing was, the show was at exactly 6:00 pm so I was no longer entitled to use my well-beloved student card.

I didn't realize that the movie was two and a half hours long.

Now I know why the reviews have been a mixed bag. You can either love it or hate it. I decide to love the CG (it's definitely ground-breaking and the human-machine interaction was seamless) but I hate the plot and the script. Oh and Shia LaBoeuf was again, great as hell.

I hate the plot. It's kinda illogical. Like when Shia was selling stuff during History class, to me that was a pathetic attempt at humour. And the movie was full of crappy one-liners that were supposed to light up the mood. Some did, some were just lame. Well, a lot were just lame.

And the movie only kicked in after an hour or so. I thought the tragic moment where Bumblebee was captured by the FBI was the climax, but I couldn't be more wrong as it was actually the beginning of the human-autobots-decepticons war. And it all went downhill from there. The dialogues started to get really crappy, the subtitles were confusing (yes, I read the subtitles because it's there), and the transformations from vehicles to robots were unreal. How can a car this big transform into a robot THIS big?

And since when do robots speak like niggas? They said they learned to speak American from the world wide web. Yeah right. Because every alien, robot, talking animal, jungle people, ghost, and ape can pick up American accent just like that.

After an hour and a half, I started to get restless. It was just too long and, although the CG was awesome, after a while it just became old news. Just like Megan Fox. She's hot all right, but her acting was unconvincing. She has this weird look that screams "i'm so hot look at me" plastered on her face. And she looks too old to play a high school girl.

Dialogues like "Optimus Prime, we meet again" or "It's you or me, Megatron" or "At the end of this day, one should stand and one should fall" were sooooo fucking lame. And at the very end, after they destroyed the cube, Optimus Prime said something like "We've lost a comrade but we've gained friends" before looking at all the humans around him. It was so cheesy that I threw up in my mouth a little. Who even uses that line, ever?

Plus, if the cube could actually be destroyed, why didn't they just destroy it from the very beginning? Wouldn't it be a lot easier? And I didn't really understand the story behind the glasses either. I know I wasn't paying attention, but hey, I was holding my bladder in there for 2 1/2 hours and my phone didn't stop ringing.

All in all, I'm happy because now I know for sure that Transformers is just like all those superhero movies : not my cup of tea. Oh yeah, and Harry Potter too.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Yasmin Ahmad held a special private screening of Muallaf for me on Monday night at her office.

Muallaf might be her best effort to date. Her producer didn't intend to release it in Malaysia for fear of getting slagged off by the society as per usual. Plus, this latest film deals with religions, sociology (understanding humanity) and everything that's never been discussed overtly by the Malaysian cinema.

Fortunately, they decided to release it at last. But beware! It's 95% in English, so as to encourage all Malaysians to improve their command of the language. As Yasmin said, 40 000 fresh graduates won't be able to secure any jobs due to their poor command of English.

I'm not going to give any reviews. I'm just going to say that it's better than Mukhsin, it has more drama than Gubra, and it's as witty as Sepet.

Thank you Miss Yasmin for the screening. She even made Nasi Beriyani for everybody who came. It was delicious.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Children Of Heaven

I was watching the French channel ARTE the other day, when I came across this awesome Afghan film "Osama". I fell in love with the channel (notorious among French younger generation for its serious foreign movies and all the boring old-sy stuff). So, from time to time, when none of my friends is looking, I'd just flip ARTE on and wait for some great Italian movies, or just a documentary on Madagascar.

One cold summer night, I abused the remote control and jumped from channel to channel until, of course, I landed on ARTE and there was this Iranian film "Les Enfants du Paradis" (Children Of Heaven). I was lucky because it was just starting.

And for the first time in a long, long time, tears ended up welling in my eyes although I didn't actually cry. It was a really beautiful film. Really beautiful.

Then I went upstairs, rammed on my keyboard, and got myself the original version of Children Of Heaven. The French television dubbing sucked! I prefer reading the subtitles.

After watching it, all I could think about was how I spend hundreds on shoes, while there are people for whom buying a pair of shoes equals months of hard labour.

I don't want to tell the story here, because telling it will never do it justice. You just have to either see it, or see it. If it doesn't move you, I don't know what will.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Before Sunrise & Before Sunset

I've seen a couple of Woody Allen movies. They're really wordy, funny, clever and thought-provoking.

But with Before Sunrise/Sunset, you would have to add "enchanting" to that list of adjectives. I'm going to review both films simultaneously.

Guy and girl meets on a train across Europe. Guy is a typical dumb American who doesn't speak any foreign languages, and girl is a typical tough but sexy French with ambitions and who knows what she wants. Guy asks girl to get down in Vienna with him. She does. They don't have enough money, so the streets of Vienna become their free hotel room for the night. They talk, and talk, and talk some more, meet a palm reader, a street poet, a dancer, go to a club and watch a gig, all the while talking about everything from monkeys to feminism to sex. Morning comes, and they part ways, knowing they might never see each other again despite the chemistry they think they have. They promise they will meet again in Vienna in six months, but the girl never shows up.

Nine years later, guy publishes a book about that one night in Vienna. Girl reads it, knows he is coming to Paris for a book-signing session, meets him for the second time, and hop! All the talking starts up again. They talk in a little Parisian café, on the street, on a Seine River boat, in the car. This time, the conversations are more mature and more real, about marriage, about kids, about satisfaction, about liberating from desire, and about Nina Simone.

Sounds boring? Well, if this was what's written at the back of the DVD, I would have thrown it away faster than you could say "Fucking European love story". Luckily, they didn't write that crap. And i didn't throw the DVD away (yeah, right... like I actually would waste my hard-earned money on a DVD these days, if you know what I mean.)

Anywayyy... The essence of the movie is the conversations. Some might call them pseudo-intellectual, and I'd partially agree with that. In Sunrise, they were young people who thought they knew everything, but as they talked, they realised how little the depth of their knowledge actually was. Thus the strings of unanswered questions, the illogical reasoning etc.. And I loved them. In Sunset, they were not exactly young, they knew a lot more (after all, it had been nine years), and they had finally understood that some questions were meant to be unanswered because the answers could be really painful.. And I still loved them.

The questions may be a little blah (because not a lot of people ask these questions anymore), but they're not stupid. I enjoyed listening to their discussions, and 40 minutes into the first movie, I was lusting over Celine (Julie Delpy) because her character was just reeking of beauty and intelligence, which is a deadly combination. Sometimes when Jesse (Ethan Hawke) didn't respond to her the way I would've, I got mad and felt like shoving him away from the screen so she would talk to me instead. That, of course, never happened.

Listening to people is not one of my best qualities. I get bored so easily, especially when they start talking about the dreams they had the night before. Everybody dreams, you know? So what, your dreams are the weirdest dreams of all the dreams people ever had? Dreams are all equally weird, SO GET OVER IT MOTHERFUCKER! If everybody started telling how weird their dreams were, wouldn't that be as stupid as stupid can get? However, when Jesse and Celine talk about their dreams, I was all ears. Why? I don't know. You just have to watch the movie to really feel it. This movie takes talking and listening to a whole new level.

I don't know, it's hard to review these two cinematic gems. I don't know where the climax is in each movie, and the characters don't develop that much. It's just beautifully weird. And DON'T watch this movie with silly friends who don't listen to the dialogues and are just waiting for the sex scenes. Firstly, because they're noisy and they make it hard to listen to what's being said (and the dialogues are extremely important). Secondly, because there's no sex scenes.

I give both movies a prefect ten.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

City of God

Welcome to the City of God, where children smoke pot, bullets are the currency and the law is a joke. Hoodlums become leaders, guns are a necessity and robbery is the way of life although, apparently, the notion of life itself doesn't mean much in this city. Living here, you're as good as dead.

Paradoxically, in the City of God, evil prevails.

Narrated by Rocket, an aspiring hood whose dreams get him out of the ghetto and a job in photojournalism, the story draws the downfall of humanity through the lives of thugs and drug lords hungry for power and notoriety in this deadly favela of Rio de Janeiro. The evolution of the characters in this movie is always the same : young kids fascinated by small-time gangsters, start out as drug messengers, learn how to handle guns, and climb the ladder by committing murders, executing robberies and dealing drugs.

This movie is all about the truth. Of course, the idea of the world no longer being safe is not a novelty. Like any Hong Kong action movies, the City of God depicts a crime-infested world, a morbid culture of violence, and how poverty and corruption spawn destruction. However, the directors, Katia Lund and Fernando Meirelles know how to make this movie stand out by incorporating an almost flawless visual technique and a storytelling so graphic that watching this movie is a troubling experience.

Another thing that makes it special is that it puts the viewers inside every situation. It's like we're standing in the middle, watching every gunshot, every scream and every master psychopath at work. It makes us want to run for our lives, it makes us helpless, it creates a wanting to get the hell out of there and be as far away as we could. In the end, it makes us realise that violence is pointless and that we're lucky to only have seen all that on screen.

A hemophobic since I was a kid, I took four hours to finish watching this movie as the images of blood and death are peppered in every single scene. It's a powerful drama, but I'm not going to watch it again. Not in the near future, at least.

For those of you with a strong heart and a liking for sadism, this movie is going to be one of your favourites, I swear.

Oh and one more thing, it's in Brazilian Portuguese. Unless you speak the language, you'll be doing some reading for 124 minutes.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What's Eating Gilbert Grape

I have to admit that Leonardo DiCaprio has never been my favourite actor, no matter how highly Scorsese spoke of him, no matter how violently his films smashed the box office records, no matter how many young girls almost died from drooling over him. He just never made me want to watch any movies he was in, aside from Titanic (it's a good storyline after all, so it wasn't because of Leo).

I've never been a fan of Johnny Depp either. To cut it short, pretty actors don't fool me. Up until last night, I believed that Depp and Leo were just innit for the big moolah, and that their looks were the only reason why Hollywood didn't slam the door in their faces.

Enters What's Eating Gilbert Grape, a movie about philadelphia i.e. brotherly love (please go learn some Greek will ya?). Well, actually, it's not really that. It's more about the life of Gilbert Grape, a young man who becomes the sole breadwinner of his family after his father's death. Wait, I'm still not entirely sure. Is it actually about the difficulties of raising a retarded brother while also caring for a morbidly obese mother who can barely move a bone?

Come to think of it, that's the beauty of the film. You can't sum everything up in one sentence, as it won't do justice to it. For a start, I'll say I really loved it.

It's set in a tiny town called Endora, practically a no man's land where people probably don't move much, but they sure are nosy. Gilbert (Depp) works at Lamson, a little grocery store (everything is a "store" in the USA) suffering from sales decline due to the opening of Food Land, a new, flashy hypermarket where everybody goes. Having to constantly supervise Arnie (Leo), his retarded brother who's soon turning 18, everything becomes complicated with the presence of a new hottie in town, Becky ((Juliette Lewis). She's a well-travelled girl, the result of having lived in a camper with his mother all her life. They settle in Endora since their big, silver camper is in need of a repair.

However, Becky is not Gilbert's only problem (if you call falling in love a problem). Gilbert - despite being a good-hearted young man who puts his family above everything else - has long started an affair with Mrs. Carver, the wife of the local insurance salesman. He knows he must stop the dangerous liaison in order to start something up with Becky. All this while, through no fault of his own, he's been abandoning his own dreams. Through Becky, he sees what he needs. Someone to talk to, someone to listen to, someone to share everything with, and someone who accepts him, his retarded brother and his whale of a mother just the way they are. Becky makes him realise he has been sloughing off his desires for years, and she is his reward.

Of course, with his responsibilities towards his own large family, it's impossible to think that he can make room for another person in his life. Plus, he has a secret affair with someone's wife which obviously doesn't make things easier.

In this movie, Depp is amazing. He knows how to make his eyes speak, loud. It's not easy playing a guy who's holding back a lot of emotions, at the point of breaking down. He doesn't have a lot of dialogues to work with, but he pulls it off with a brilliant acting.

However, Leo DiCaprio is the true star in this movie. He doesn't act like a retarded 18 year-old, he is a retarded 18 year-old in this movie. He perfectly embodies a troublesome but lovable child and he completely captures the soul of Arnie. And to think that he was only 19 when he played Arnie! Wow, as much as I hate to say it, he's put himself in my A-list (which, up until now, only has Sean Penn and Reese Witherspoon in it).

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a marvellous drama, and if you expect something sappy and overwhelmingly over-the-top, it's everything but that. Although it runs at too slow a pace, the movie will still enchant you from the beginning right to the end. Please, I beg of you, watch it.

Post-scriptum : Watching this, I'm constantly reminded of Adik, a 1990 Malay film with Mustafa Kamal as the overprotective big brother of a retarded and also troublesome Mr. Os, and Noralbaniah as the hottie. The only difference is that Noralbaniah, while also being a striking beauty, never liked Mr. Os. She ridiculed him for being retarded and she even made Mustafa Kamal choose between her and his retarded brother. Come to think of it, old Malay films actually had the substance, only that the studios were lacking in funds.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Life As A House

Ever wondered what would you do if you only had a month left to live? To each his own way of spending the last moments of his life, and George Monroe (Kevin Kline), who has been diagnosed with cancer and is terminally ill, decides to patch things up with his son whose custody had been given to his ex-wife long ago.

The thing is, Sam Monroe (Hayden Christensen) is no saint. He's pierced all over the place, he paints his eyes black and he dresses up in black. He's ultra-rebellious, emotionally inaccessible thus making him a loner, a drug user since he was twelve and he hates everybody. It doesn't stop there, because Sam also does small-time prostitution to pay for his drugs. His mother has long given up hope of any changes in Sam's attitude but George is certain that after the summer that they are going to spend together building a house, Sam will change. Maybe not completely, but at least he'll get Sam to love him, which is what he wants. George's magic words still linger in my mind, "Build this house with me."

So Sam is forced to spend the summer with his father against his will, not knowing why and not knowing how. To make things worse, they'll be spending it in a shack adjacent to the future house, with no proper plumbing and of course, no Internet connection. The only thing that makes it bearable is the fact that the house is built on a rock facing the sea and that the neighbour's daughter, Alyssa (Jena Malone), is a gorgeous girl, prompting Sam to stay put.

And for the next couple of months, George and Sam don't only build a house together. They also re-build the father and son relationship which has long been damaged by the divorce, they build love, and they build respect in Sam. Something he never had.

It's amazing what the house represents. George compares the house with his life. It doesn't need to be big, it doesn't need to be beautiful, it just needs to be his, and he is what he wants to be. The house witnesses how George's health deteriorates by the second, how his ex-wife falls in love with him all over again, how the bad guy (in this case, it's Sam's friend Josh, the one who lured him into drugs and prostitution at the first place) got the bad luck he deserved, and how even the most rebellious can change into a decent human being who loves what he has and what he'll soon lose.

Although the whole house metaphor is so slammin'-in-your-face obvious, I mean, the tearing down of the old house, the building of a new one, everything... still, the execution of this movie is beautiful. So beautiful you feel the need to freeze frame it in your mind. I've never seen a better use of the Californian coast and sunset, and I've never seen a better place to build a house. I've never seen a movie like this, that pushes me and pulls me and moves me around. Hayden is so much better in this movie than he is in Star Wars. I'm not a Star Wars fan, so I don't know much, but from the few bits of Star Wars that I've seen, I know for a fact that he sucks as Darth whatever-his-name-is.

I'm a nit-picker, and it's so easy for me to find faults in every movie I watch. But with "Life As A House", I, too, change in a wonderful way. I didn't nit-pick, and I think I like it. Everybody who's anybody needs to see this beautiful piece of art, because well... it's simply amazing (mind you, I watched this right after The Green Mile, and I surprisingly find it to be way way better, better by a mile haha).

Kahuna-o-meter : 9/10

Sam : You knew you were dying from the start?
George : We're all dying from the start. I just got moved to the head of the line.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

An Officer And A Gentleman

The year is 1982, when my parents were newlyweds, the Berlin wall was still erect, I was still far from born, and Richard Gere was still young and heartbreakingly handsome. Well, I'm a guy, but when someone of the same sex looks good, like it or not you just have to admit it.

Gere plays Zack Mayo, a troubled young man who had been raised (and often neglected) by his whore-chasing father, and decided to join the U.S. Navy in the hope of having a better future. His life was not made easy with the existence of Sergeant Foley at the barracks who had his eyes on Mayo all the damn time, and whose blood was "as red as his".

Enters Paula, a young and beautiful seductress with whom he fooled around on off-days, who fell in love with him the moment their eyes met. She knew that once they graduate, Navy guys would forget the girls they fool around with, and throw them away the way they throw their berets in the air. But Paula stayed with him to see if she would be proven wrong.

When I read the synopsis of this film, I thought it was going to be every bit as cheesy as all the other love stories. Two people meet, hate each other, one thing brings them back together, starts to fall in love, all the way to happy ending. The ingredients of all Bollywood films, with beautiful actors and great songs for aesthetic values (and to make people forget they have actually watched the same kind of film a zillion times before).

But this is not the case for "An Officer And A Gentleman". 15 minutes into the film, I knew I was wrong and I knew I was going to love it. And I did. Richard Gere was awesome as Mayo. I love his expressions. He started out slow, weak and indecisive. He ended up standing and walking tall, determined and composed, as a Navy officer should be. When he found his best friend, Sid, dead in the motel bathroom (Sid committed suicide after Lynette rejected his marriage proposal), he cried and said "you shoulda told me, you shoulda told me.." It touched me so deeply and I was really close to tears but I ended up smiling. You know, I'm that guy who laughs in the cinema when everybody else is sobbing. Not that I'm not moved, it's just that that's the most effective way to not let the sad scenes get to you.

And in the training weeks, during which time Mayo endured a hell, Sergeant Foley threatened to kick him out of the program, and he screamed "I have nowhere else to go, I have nowhere else. I have nothing." It was heartbreaking, and I could really feel his pain. See, it was that powerful.

I guess there's no harm giving away the ending, as I'm like one of the few people who haven't watched the movie until just now. When Mayo came to the paper factory, kissed Paula on the neck, lifted her up and took her away, I thought it was a little soap opera-ish, but come to think of it, it's actually the perfect, beautiful ending. I couldn't come up with a better one. And the song "Up Where We Belong" was also as beautiful. I smiled all the way until the credits stopped rolling.

The final scene is in fact, a really popular one. I remember having seen it in one episode of Friends, but I had a hard time placing it. Then, I took a shot, and got it right. It was in "The One With The Chicken Pox", where Ross showed up at the coffee house in a Navy suit and lifted Rachel up, with the music of "Up Where We Belong" playing. It's good to finally know the origin of that particular scene which now I find so friggin' funny.

Zack Mayo lifting Paula up and took her out of the shabby factory into a bright future.

Ross lifting Rachel up in Friends, but just when he was taking her out, she forgot something and Ross' back was hurting, so he had to put her down. Nice parody.

All in all, this is a truly enjoyable film and it's arguably my best film of this week (it even beats "Dead Poets Society" and "Naked Gun".)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mar Adentro

I don't know why lately I'm drawn to Spanish movies. I believe that while Hollywood has the money, the best sets, the actors with million-dollar billings, Spain & Mexico have the best scriptwriters, the best actors and produce real movies. The actors are not plastic, they never seem like they're actually facing a bunch of cameras and a whole crew.

The latest Spanish movie I’ve seen is Mar Adentro, by Alejandro Amenabar who also did “Abre Los Ojos” (the original version of Vanilla Sky). The official English title is The Sea Inside, although in Spanish, that would actually become "El Mar Por Dentro". The title should actually be "Deep Under The Sea" but whatever. Meanings are always lost in translation.

At first, I thought I would watch the movie sans the English subtitles, to see if my Spanish is good enough. But, I could hardly understand a word, and the actors were speaking extremely fast I couldn't keep up. I could pluck out words and expressions here and there, and sometimes I'd just guess what the actors were saying, but it's hard to concentrate on a movie when we're busy guessing what's being said. So I gave up and downloaded the subtitles, which sucked big time but at least, the movie became pretty much comprehensible.

Now that I've roamed all over the Net, I know that the actors were speaking Galician, another Latin language that's older than Spanish itself. Well, at least now I know my Spanish doesn't suck.

It tells the story of Ramon Sampedro, a Galician who broke his neck as a young man and became a bedridden quadriplegic ever since, for more than a quarter of a century. Unwilling to spend more time lying in bed and depend on the help of others around him, he decided that it was best to stop living, so he considered euthanasia and petitioned the courts for permission.

Of course, his decision was not favoured by many, and it sent shock waves all around Spain. Ramon was however so determined that even a deep conversation with a priest failed to deter him. While waiting for the courts' decision, Ramon reflected on his past, reliving the unforgettable moments and in his dreams, he revisited the beach he'd last been to, he flew across the mountains and swam under the sea, and his dreams always ended with the diving accident that rendered him quadriplegic.

When asked if he was afraid of dying, he simply said "it's nothing to be scared of. it'll be like before we were born. nothing."

While many perceive this film as manipulative, with its own polemic and its tampering of la vaca sagrada (sacred crow), I think, with my aversion to its polemic set aside, it's a beautiful film that needs to be viewed with an open mind and a human heart. Although IF (that's a big if), IF I were in Ramon's shoes I wouldn't have done the same thing, but I think everyone should be able to understand his decision to take his own life. It's difficult to not be able to do anything, to no longer have privacy, to completely rely on everybody else, to feel completely useless and helpless, to live in pity and to live life waiting for the sweet release of death. Some might call Ramon a coward for taking the easy way out, but I personally feel that one should be able to do as he wishes. Ramon believed that life is not an obligation but a right, and that he had every right to end his.

The film wouldn't have been as effective if it wasn't for the genius that is Javier Bardem, the Spanish actor who played Ramon Sampedro. He didn't speak Galician, so he had to learn it but he didn't mind because the role was so great, "any actor would pay to play it". The director, Alejandro Amenabar, cleverly played with the subject of life and death, all the while conveying his own ideas and at the same time letting the viewers form their own opinions.

This is not the best film ever made, but it makes us reflect on life and what we have done so far to enjoy it. The Rolling Stone wrote, "What could have been a preachy biopic becomes poetry in the hands of the gifted director and writer and editor and composer Alejandro Amenabar."

Mar Adentro is, indeed, a poetry that once recited, will linger in our minds for a long time.

p/s : Where was Dr. Kervokian when all of this happened? He would have been the perfect deux ex machina.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Amores Perros

Imagine a teenager running away from home, unable to stand his parents any longer. And he took a bus, despite not knowing where it was going.

Then imagine a hopeful young girl, aspiring to be a movie star, on her way to an audition. She was in the bus that was supposed to be her first step to stardom.

Now imagine a bus driver, who got drunk after a long quarrel with his wife but still decided to go to work and drive the bus. The bus crashed, and all three people died. Each had a dream, a hope for a better life, a longing for something. But everything they had planned, everything that had happened, everything in the hours that had passed, led them to be on that bus which was only supposed to be the meeting point but ended up being the final destination of all three.

So how do you tell stories of different individuals, happening in the same time interval? How do you connect them without one story overlapping the other, without eliminating the essentials, with a time constrain and on the same silver screen?

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu did it, and he didn’t only tell the stories well, he weaved them almost flawlessly in his 2000 film, Amores Perros. I may be a little late, well… 6 years too late, but a masterpiece is to be enjoyed and appreciated for a long time. So, does it matter?

I’m not going to write a synopsis because I don’t want to. But I’ll write the raw gist.

It revolves around the lives of a man who is madly in love with her own sister-in-law; a top model who’s also a mistress of a businessman; and an old ex-bandit who is terrified by the idea of finally meeting his own daughter. These people are totally unrelated, but each has a dream of his/her own. It’s amazing how the story of each person unfolds like a silk scarf, and the viewers don’t even realize how the people have nothing to do with each other.

And then the gruesome accident that brought all three together, the accident that proves how dreams don’t always come true, that love is not the be all and end all, and that life loves to play cruel jokes on you when you least expect it.

These people’s lives may be sad and dark, but the film is exceptionally beautiful. And, like every other great films of our time, the good finally prevails over evil.

Please watch this fantastic film if you haven’t. Trust me; your life will never be the same.